Frankincense and mirth

I knew there was another reason to like incense. Well, besides the sheer look of great clouds of billowing smoke and the sound of the thurible swinging and the prayers and…

It turns out the incense is a bit like liturgical Prozac or something, helping to make the mind happy.

Researchers from Johns Hopkins University and Hebrew University administered incensole acetate, a component of frankincense, to lab mice and learned that it lit up areas of their little mouse brains that control emotion, including nerve circuits affecting anxiety and depression.

The findings suggest new avenues for developing medications to treat these conditions, which are the most common causes of psychiatric disability in the U.S.

The prospect of novel treatments for mood disorders is valuable and encouraging. But I was distracted from all of that by the notion that worshippers have, since time immemorial, been subject to subtle medicinal influence.

With frankincense proven to be a psychoactive agent, it’s possible that people have been expressing their faith in rites and rituals while ever-so-slightly under the influence of mind-altering substances.

Maybe that’s the answer to declining attendance in the church. Just use more incense and people will have a better time at church. By the count, a certain place in Spain must be the happiest place on earth.

Thanks, Empy, for the link!

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