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Is Incense an Antidepressant?

Inhaling the combustion products of frankincense - which is the resin of the Boswellia plant - may activate regions of the brain that can alleviate anxiety and depression, according to an international team of scientists, including researchers from Johns Hopkins University and the Hebrew University in Jerusalem.

The authors found that injecting incensole acetate, a Boswellia resin constituent, lowered anxiety in mice and led to behaviors typical of antidepressant drug administration, and they speculated that inhaling its combustion products may have a similar effect. The researchers also theorized that the burning of incense in religious ceremonies for millennia may not be a coincidence, since it does appear to have the effect of calming and cheering those who inhale it.

This is interesting news. The sense of smell is strongly linked to our limbic system, the part of the brain that regulates emotions and motivations. Depression and anxiety affect nearly 60 million Americans. Inhaling diffused incense in moderation is low-risk, and certainly worth a try for those who suffer from these difficult conditions.

Feeling Blue?
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Ginkgo for Computer-Related Stress, Lagging Concentration
Ginkgo biloba, known as an adaptogen that can help enhance brain function, also seems to improve concentration and reduce stress among people who spend their workdays at a computer. This conclusion comes from a study looking at the effects of a special ginkgo extract on a group of 104 healthy people age 45 or older. Researchers from the University of Osnabruck in Germany tested the reaction capacity, sustained attention, eyesight sensitivity, stress perception, and quality of life of their study volunteers, and then let them choose to be in the control group or in a group that took 120 mg of ginkgo extract twice a day for eight weeks, after which the tests were repeated. Results showed that the number of errors (a measure of long-term concentration) made by the volunteers in the ginkgo group decreased compared to those in the control group.  Perceived stress scores and the “vitality” portion of the quality of life evaluation also improved significantly in the ginkgo group. Based on their findings, the investigators suggested a larger, double-blind trial to see if the results hold up.

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Watch Your Waist
Do you know how big your waist is? The answer might tell you more than anything else about your health - and your risk of heart attack, cancer, diabetes and other diseases. In fact, it will tell you more than your body mass index - that is, your weight relative to your height. It’s not how heavy you are but how big you are around the middle that predicts health risks, according to a study published in March 2008 in the Journal of Clinical Epidemiology. If you’re female, your risks of high blood pressure, diabetes and high cholesterol begin to edge up if your waist is bigger than 31.5 inches and get a lot higher if your waist is more than 35 inches. For men, risks are highest when waist size reaches or passes 40 inches. The reason? A large waist indicates that you’re also likely to have fat around your heart, liver and even your muscles, all signs of potential health problems. Paring pounds is the only way to turn things around - and, according to a study published in the May, 2008 issue of Obesity, getting the weight off can make a significant difference: a 23 percent decrease in waist size translated to an average of a 32 percent decline in fat around the heart.

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Garlic Broth
Garlic is an herb with remarkable medicinal properties - and it tastes great, too. It acts as a cardiovascular tonic, lowering blood pressure and cholesterol levels and inhibiting blood clotting. It's also a powerful germicide and may even protect against some carcinogens. The smell of garlic cooking has extremely positive associations - it's comforting and homey. If you eat garlic regularly (and with a good attitude) you won't smell of it. It's better for you in its natural state - raw or lightly cooked - rather than dried as powder or in capsules. Enjoy the smell, taste and healthful effects of the whole, fresh herb. Sip a warm mug of this flavorful broth as is or use it as a base for other soups.
View Recipe

Healthy Aging Tip
Courtesy of Dr. Weil on Healthy Aging
Simple Way to Meet Others: Become a Volunteer. Look for local, upcoming events in your newspaper for some one-time volunteer opportunities and get your feet wet. Then, contact local non-profit organizations for information about ongoing volunteer opportunities. You will not only meet other volunteers, but can also make friends with those you are helping.


Featured Discussion
“How do you dump unused drugs?” asks delynne.
What is the proper way to dispose of medication that will not be taken? I have heard that putting them down the drain leads to a contaminated water system, but the landfill option doesn't sound any better.


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