Health Tips: The Scent of Happiness

Relaxing with friends, chilling to an ambient groove, enjoying the sweet pungent odor of … incense? According to a recent study, incense can be a potent addition to our strategies for preventive mental health.

Researchers from Johns Hopkins and the Hebrew Universities found that burning incense activates channels in the brain that alleviate anxiety or depression. “We found that incense lowers anxiety and causes antidepressant behavior,” said Raphael Mechoulam, one of the authors of the study.

While many people are advocates of aromatherapy, there has been little scientific research conducted to date. “Despite aromatherapy’s popularity, efficacy data are scant, and potential mechanisms are controversial,” stated the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) in 2010. One of the few clinical trials that has been conducted was at Ohio State University, which found “robust evidence that lemon oil reliably enhances positive mood regardless of expectancies or previous use of aromatherapy.” A prior study published in 1995 in Lancet found that “following a long history in folklore, lavender has been used as a sleep aid, and one small study suggested that it can significantly enhance the amount of time asleep.”