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Frankincense,the plant treasure given to the newborn Jesus in the New Testament story, has a long history that goes back thousands of years. Although this substance is best known for its use in ancient rituals, the precious resin – with proven antiseptic and inflammatory properties – was once considered an effective remedy for everything from toothache to leprosy.

“Wehave textual and archaeological evidence that the incense plant was used in antiquity as a medicinal substance,”confirms Alain Touwaide, a medical historian at the Institute for the Preservation of Medical Traditions and the Smithsonian Institution. Today, researchers are using this centuries-old knowledge to develop modern therapies for a variety of diseases.

What is incense?

Since incense resin of 3 Boswellia species (especially Boswellia Serrata; also known as incense plant) can be obtained, 3 different varieties are available. The shrubby trees they produce are native to the Arabian Peninsula, India and regions of northeast Africa. In southern China, the plant has been a staple of traditional Chinese medicine since 1500 BC.


Origin of incense Origin Properties
Indian plant,Latin: Boswellia Serrata / Olibanum occurs only in India already extensively scientifically examined
African plant, Latin: Boswelia Carterii comes mainly from East Africa (Ethiopia, Somalia) Effect not yet sufficiently proven
Arabic plant,Latin: Boswelia Sacra comes from Yemen and Oman Scientifically still insufficiently studied


The incense essence is extracted from the rubber juice that seeps out of the Boswelia trees when their bark is cut. The milky-white resin (lat. Olibanum) dries in “tears” that turn yellowish or reddish during drying. After curing, the resin is scraped off the trunk in droplets. After the tree has been milked, the plant needs 1 – 2 years of recovery before the resin can be tapped again.

The substance is edible and can be chewed like rubber. The resin is mainly used for burning as incense in religious or ceremonial practices, in perfumery as well as in pharmaceutical and fumigating preparations.

gdp infografic Incense

How does incense work?

Originally, the incense extract was used due to the effects of its smell on human emotions. The molecules produced during burning act on the neurovegetative system and on the regulation of our hormones. The resulting smoke has an antibacterial effect and enters the blood through the lungs.

The smells affect humans and there is evidence that these scents alter brain waves. The brain responds by sending electrical or hormonal messages to the body, which significantly affects our mental and physical condition. When the incense extract unfolds, the odor molecules are moved and diffused by heat without burning. Arriving in the nasal cavity, they trigger a signal that the olfactory nerve transmits directly to the limbic brain, the seat of our emotions. Depending on the smell, we feel calm or full of energy.

Scientifically speaking, the incense effect arises both in a somatic way (direct effect at the level of metabolism via the molecules that enter the body and especially into the blood through the breath) and psychosomatically via the brain, thanks to the odour receptors.

Over the past few decades, research has gained a better understanding of how boswellia resin can promote our health and strengthen the immune system. The boswellic acid contained therein seems to lower the inflammatory markers and support immune function on several levels.

Now biologists have found that boswellic acid is good for our brains. An international team of scientists, including researchers from Johns Hopkins University and Hebrew University in Jerusalem, describes how burning olibanum activates little-studied ion channels in the brain to relieve anxiety or depression. “Despite information from ancient texts, the components of boswellia resin had not been studied for psychoactivity,” said Raphael Mechoulam, one of the study’s co-authors. He added: “We found that incense acetate, a boswellia resin component, reduces anxiety and causes antidepressant behavior when tested in mice.”

Nowadays, the healing benefits that incense extract provides for the brain and overall body health are a popular topic in alternative medicine. As an alternative to taking medications, non-pharmacological methods to increase serotonin levels in the brain can not only improve mood, they do so without side effects or addiction risks. Serotonin is considered a natural mood stabilizer and helps with sleeping, eating and digestion. Serotonin helps reduce depression, regulate anxiety and relieve headaches.

Incense scents trigger significant reactions in our brains and can immediately remind us of past events, people and emotions. It is “soothing fragrance”. It is ideal for general relaxation.

Which incense is best?

The resin of the Indian incense plant (Boswellia Serrata) is considered to be the best studied and is classified as a medicine by the Ministry of Consumer Protection.

In a “Product Comparison 2020”, the incense capsules of “three-kraut” have convinced by their quality and the price-performance ratio. If you want to buy incense, you will be excellently advised with the capsules of “dreikraut”. These have achieved excellent results compared to the product.

Buy frankincense – the benefits of “three weed” capsules:

  • High-dose: Content 100 Indian incense extract with 65 boswellic acid, equivalent to 1040 mg boswellic acid / daily dose.
  • The raw materials carefully selected by ‘three herb’ are encapsulated in Germany and checked for purity by an independent laboratory.
  • Vegetarian, vegan capsules, contents free of any additives and additives.
  • Free of gluten, lactose, fructose or animal ingredients.
  • Do not contain allergens.
  • Highest safety: Manufactured in Germany according to strict EU standards.
  • Only Indian Boswellia Serrata is described as a medicine in Pharmacopoea Europaea (European Pharmacopoeia).
  • Officially classified as a medicine by the Ministry of Consumer Protection.
  • On request, pharmacies can also produce medicines from Indian olibanum.

What complaints does incense help against?

For hundreds of years, “Shallaki” (the Indian word for dried (Indian!) incense resin) is used in Ayurvedic medicine and appears to offer certain health benefits. Incense oil is used in food, cosmetics, soaps and beverages and is said to have a variety of positive effects on the body: from improved arthritis and digestion to reduced asthma and better oral health. It is also intended to help combat certain types of cancer. Taken as a preventive measure, the resin of the incense plant is a good helper for body and mind.

The main active ingredients in incense capsules are essential oils and various resin acids, while boswellic acids are the most important ingredients. These highly effective resin acids are the ones that develop their healing power in the event of throat infections, joint pain and intestinal diseases.

Incense resin is edible and is used in many Asian countries as a traditional medicine for curing bronchial and urinary tract infections. In China, it is used to relieve menstrual, gum, mouth and throat problems, and in India as a rejuvenating drug. It helps clean up the lungs and other mucus-related problems, facilitates severe periods in women and relieves postnatal depression. The healing of wounds, ulcers, carbuncles, hemorrhoids and inflammation is accelerated. Furthermore, it is used to strengthen the female hormonal system as well as to clean the air of undesirable germs. In addition, it has proven to be a cure for nausea, fever, high blood pressure and an excellent way to keep away harmful insects such as mosquitoes.

The essential incense oil contains monoterpine, sequiterpine, monoterpinole, sequiterpinols and ketones. Boswellic acid in vitro has been found to have antiproliferative effects on various tumor cell lines, melanomas, glioblastomas and liver cancer, based on apoptosis.

For the incense application there are different dosage forms. The resin of the Boswellia tree is not only available in capsules or pressed as a tablet. Externally, it can be applied as an oil or ointment. The essential oil of the ancient medicinal plant has antiseptic, astringent, carminating, digestive, diuretic, calming, uterine and therapeutic properties. Oil or cream develop its analgesic, skin-care properties, especially for skin diseases or scars, stretch marks and sunburn. Rheumatism or joint pain can also be treated with it. Dissolved one to two drops of the healing oil in a glass of water, are suitable as an antiseptic mouthwash against inflammation in the throat or bad breath. [1]

In herbal medicine, the olibanum oil is taken orally or applied to the skin to treat the following conditions:

  • Asthma
  • Collagen arthritis
  • Crohn’s disease
  • Menstrual
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Ulcerative colitis


Here is a look at the results of available research of incense application:


For a 2014 report published in the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, researchers analyzed previously published studies that tested the effects of herbal supplements on osteoarthritis. Your analysis

Studies with Boswelia showed evidence that they relieved pain (measured by a pain scale) and improved physical function compared to a placebo. [2]


A small 2015 study published in the European Review for Medical and Pharmacological Sciences, Boswelia, may help reduce the need for inhalation therapy in people with persistent asthma. The study participants (who had mild to severe asthma) received both inhalations therapy with oral boswellia supplementation or inhalation therapy alone. [3]

After four weeks of incense use, those who took the boswellia drug in addition to inhalation therapy had a lower number of inhalations than those who had only one inhalation therapy.

Chron’s disease and other inflammatory bowel diseases

The anti-inflammatory effects of Boswelia can be beneficial for people with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) such as ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease. A study in the World Journal of Gastroenterology examined the effects of these compounds. In animal models, boswellic acids improved the markers for IBD without adversely affecting the surrounding organs. They can prove to be a useful supportive treatment for these chronic diseases.

In a 2007 study involving 31 people with collagen colitis (a type of inflammatory bowel disease that causes chronic diarrhea), the researchers found that taking a Boswellia extract three times a week over six weeks was more effective than a placebo when comparing clinical remission and laboratory tests. [4]


A 2019 study found that boswellia resin can be a helpful tool in medical efforts to treat Parkinson’s disease.

In animal models, the resin had an anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effect that seemed to protect neurons in the brain and improve motor function in a rat model of Parkinson’s disease. [5]

The effect of boswellic acid in capsules or tablets is increasingly (recognized) in the Western world. Due to its effect on memory, it is now used as a psychoactive and antidepressant.

as a psychoactive antidepressant

Incense resin is mentioned in many different ancient texts, including the Old and New Testaments, and is said to have mystical abilities – a belief that has been transferred to the spiritual practices of today. It is believed that the resin of the boswellia tree emanates an aroma that is relaxed, spiritually expanding and uplifting, as well as increasing the ability to concentrate.

Recently, a team of researchers from Johns Hopkins University and Hebrew University in Jerusalem conducted a study to study the effects of this centuries-old practice. They studied incense resin to determine why it has psychoactive effects. “Despite information from ancient texts, the components of Boswellia had not been studied for psychoactivity,” said study co-author Raphael Mechoulam. “We found that incensolacetate, a boswellia resin component, lowered anxiety and caused antidepressant behavior when tested in mice.” To conduct the study and observe the effects of ancient incense on the mind, the researchers administered a primary boswellia resin inacetate to some mice. The team found that the incensolace tate affects those areas of the brain that regulate emotions.

In particular, the resinous substance activated the protein TRPV3, which is present in all mammalian brains. It is known that this protein plays a role in the perception of heat in our skin. When mice bred without this protein were exposed to insolecal acetate, the compound had no effect on their brains.

“Perhaps Marx was not wrong when he called religion the opium of the people: morphine comes from poppies, cannabinoids from marijuana and LSD from fungi; each of them was used in one or the other religious ceremony,” said Gerald Weissmann, M.D., editor-in-chief of the FASEB Journal. “Studies of how these psychoactive drugs work have helped us understand modern neurobiology. The discovery of incense extract purified incensolace tate on certain targets in the brain should help us understand diseases of the nervous system. This study provides a biological explanation for millennia-old spiritual practices that have persisted over time, distance, culture, language and religion – burning, dried incense resin really makes you warm and sparkling everywhere!”

On the mind incense has a strong antidepressant and anxiolytic effect, which can cause people to feel open and relaxed. It helps the mind to rest and perceive the world around it more calmly and more relaxedly.

Today, the precious incense is recognized not only for its spiritual role, but as a practical form of treatment for people suffering from depression and anxiety. According to the National Institutes of Health (USA), severe depression is the most common cause of the disease in people between the ages of 15 and 44, a group that includes 15 million people.

3 million people in the U.S. suffer from a dysthymic disorder, which is a less severe type of depression. More than 40 million people report suffering from some form of severe anxiety. Depression and anxiety are linked and overlap in many cases. Our sense of smell is strongly linked to the limbic system in the brain, in which we regulate motivation and emotions. Anxiety and depression affect nearly 60 million people in the United States. When used in moderation, inhaling diffuse incense does not pose a significant risk and can be worthwhile for those who suffer from their stressful conditions.

Finally, the psyche of these people suffers from the continuing stubborn attempt to return to a balanced state of spiritual peace. [6]

In order to combat this imbalance, it is not necessary to resort directly to the side-effects of pharmaceutical companies’ medicines. These often cause the same problems that they deal with. Instead, we can turn to Mother Earth and use natural products to return to a balanced state of health.

How is incense taken or how to dose it?

Incense products may be used as an effective means in the treatment of diseases such as headaches, inflammation and depression before resorting to prescription drugs. Due to all the benefits for body and mind, it is advisable to regularly consume incense supplements to maintain or establish health and well-being. Quite a few consumers of incense products are unaware of the many other effects they can have on body and mind. Depending on the application, incense products are available in different dosage forms:

  • Incense. Inhaling and inhaling these compounds is only one way to feed them to the body and in terms of incense effects are no different than bringing them into pill form and taking them.
  • Taken as capsules or tablets, the body can better absorb the active ingredients in combination with fats. Oral use is best done immediately before or during meals. Ingested as an incense capsule is the most commonly used method.
  • Incense oil or incense ointment. Incense oil can be used for both external and internal use (oral). Incense ointment is only applied externally.
  • Pure essential oil of the medicinal plant also releases active ingredients to the body. By diluting this essential oil in a carrier oil and applying it to the body, the compounds can be absorbed through the skin.


The incense effect can be used for many health conditions as well as for numerous diseases and provide relief, support the treatment and positively influence the healing process.


Type of complaints Formulation Dosage
Skin problems and joint problems Incense ointment Apply a thin layer to the affected area and massage gently. Use up to 3 times a day.
Gout, rheumatism, osteoarthritis Incense Capsules / Incense Tablets 2 x 2 capsules daily, unchewed with liquid with meals.
Diarrhea, also chronic Incense Capsules / Incense Tablets 1 capsule each, 3 times daily with meals
Asthma Incense Capsules / Incense Tablets 1 capsule each, 3 times daily with meals
Bad breath, toothache, tooth decay, also preventative Incense oil Dissolve 3 x daily 1-2 drops of incense oil in a glass of water, use as mouthwash
Restlessness, lack of concentration Incense Light incense sticks and put them in a small container of sand or soil until an incense aroma fills the whole room


The Arthritis Foundation recommends taking 300 to 400 milligrams (mg) of incense extract three times a day to feed the body boswellic acid. They recommend incense capsules containing at least 60 boswellic acid, as this is the active substance.

Conclusion: Why is incense so healthy?

Modern research is in agreement. Incense extract, extracted from the Indian incense tree, in its various dosage forms, offers a variety of health benefits, including alleviating chronic stress and anxiety, as well as reducing pain and inflammation. It strengthens immunity and may help in the fight against cancer.

The versatile applications include: the stress-reducing bath, natural household cleaner, natural hygiene product, anti-aging and wrinkle control, relief of symptoms of indigestion, scar, wound, stretch marks or acne agents, natural cold or flu medicine and relief of inflammation and pain. Without any significant concerns about oil safety, it is a versatile oil that can be combined with several other essential oils and carrier oils that are also not known to cause adverse side effects.

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