Why do we burn incense sticks? Some use it for its ability to kill odour while in many cultures, it’s what you would need in worship. For several centuries, within different religious traditions have been claimed that burning incense is good for the soul. And now, scientists have found it has beneficial effects on the brain.
The Use of Incense is Essential in Buddhist Practice
Incense has been the part of different religious activities since time immemorial. Even today incense sticks and cones are widely used in temples, in homes and at many places for worship. It is steeped in symbolism. In Buddhism, it is a sacred offering, a way to honour the Triple Gem of the Buddha, his Dharma and the Sangha. The burning of an incense stick resulting in fragrant smoke teaches the necessity to burn away negative qualities within oneself in order to reveal the pure self within.
The calming effects of incense was discovered by ancient cultures. The natural fragrance of incense removes the stress and heals the spirit. Mesmerizing aromas create a sense of joy and uplift the mood. Recent study suggests that pleasant odour from burning incense may have antidepressant-like effect.
Science Supports Benefits of Incense
“An international team of scientists, including researchers from Johns Hopkins University and the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, describe how burning frankincense (resin from the Boswellia plant) activates poorly understood ion channels in the brain to alleviate anxiety or depression. This suggests that an entirely new class of depression and anxiety drugs might be right under our noses.”
Pleasant Odours Have Antidepressive-like Effect
It’s a reasonable hypothesis, and certainly supported by aromatherapy. This suggests that centuries of Ayurvedic and natural medicine are likely not wrong when they make fairly safe lists of benefits:
- Lavender, know to relieve stress and relax
- Sandalwood, removes tension, creates awareness
- Cinnamon, known for increasing focus
- Cedar or pine, well known to help with depression and sadness
- Dragon’s blood, soothes GI tract, helps with pain
- Jasmine, balancing hormones, increasing libido
- Amber: boosting immune system
- Frankincense: relieves depression; also known to increase creativity
Here is a word of caution though – before buying incense sticks, look for high-quality incense that isn’t toxic. Incense sticks made of cheap chemicals can have a harmful effect on your health. Poor quality incense is actually a pollutant, especially when burned indoors. Burning synthetic incense can even harm your lungs if you breathe it for a long period of time. It is also not wise to burn incense if you have asthma.
It is fair to say that any pleasant incense will affect mood positively. Using a different kind of incense burners and holders add a new dimension to your place. Apart from doing their job of burner, they can also act as a showpiece.
NOTE: No advice is offered or given in this article or this publication.