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Incense for Headaches

Llewellyn Journal, Nov 6, 2005

The world of aromatherapy suggests many types of essential oils that are useful for healing. But incense can also be utilized as a remedy for certain conditions. Headaches are a common ailment many people face, but with the calming effects produced by certain aromas, symptoms can be relieved.

Incense and aromatherapy work because our sense of smell is a direct path to the brain. This process activates our Limbic System and is the reason why certain odors trigger an immediate response. Particular aromas are known to stimulate the brain to produce essential chemicals. We’re familiar with some of these such as serotonin and dopamine, which cause feelings of happiness, relaxation and contentment. In addition, many of the ingredients used in incense contain phytochemicals, which are chemicals found in plants that have protective, disease-preventing properties.

First, it’s necessary to pinpoint the reason for the headache. Is it stress, hormones, sinusitis? In this way you can target an appropriate remedy. Naturally, keep in mind that incense or aromatherapy is not a substitute for seeking medical attention. Once you have attempted to identify the cause of the discomfort, you can find the particular ingredient for your symptoms. Here are three types of incense recommended for headache relief:

Borneol (Drybalanops camphora), a resin derived from the camphor tree, is refreshing and cleansing. Its camphor-like aroma opens the nasal passages, so it’s especially beneficial for headaches brought on by sinus problems. Borneol smells wonderful even when it’s not burning. The Chinese call it “The Brain of the Dragon.” It kills bacteria, purifies the air, and stimulates the adrenal cortex of the brain. Borneol is a primary ingredient in Buddhist incense.

Spikenard (Nardostachys jatamansi), a woody herb found mainly in Nepal, is closely related to valerian. The dried roots are used, and have a musky aroma that helps enhance contemplation. Its sedative properties are useful for easing headaches, migraines, and relieving stress.

Star Anise (Illicium verum) comes from a small tree native to southwestern China that produces a fruit that ripens into the shape of a star. It is well-known for its licorice taste, of which an extract is used in making true licorice. Star Anise contains certain phytochemicals and ACE inhibitors, which lower blood pressure. This can produce a calming effect and help reduce pain.

For headache relief simply breathe in the smoke. If you’re using good quality incense the smoke will be light colored or white – it should never be black. This indicates the presence of impurities. Hold the incense burner if it’s not hot or set it in front of you on a table. As the smoke rises, cup your hand through the stream and slowly, gently beckon the smoke toward you. Breathe normally. Don’t inhale too deeply at first. You can gradually deepen your breathing, but never inhale so much that it makes you uncomfortable. Continue to do this for a few minutes then allow the incense to permeate the room. Lie down, cover your eyes, and relax. Use an herb-scented eye pillow if you have one. These can often be found scented with lavender, another herb that helps alleviate headaches.

Try to find these ingredients in stick incense form or look for the loose resins and wood and burn them on a bamboo charcoal to avoid toxic chemicals. If you can, grind the ingredients all together with mortar and pestle to make an all-purpose headache relief blend. Always remember to beware of the artificial joss-stick type of incense. These can actually cause a headache, along with respiratory problems.

The use of incense and other aromas can be beneficial for healing. But always consult a professional if the condition continues. Combined with other natural techniques for mind, body, and spirit, incense can add depth and dimension to holistic healing practices – in addition to producing a relaxing and fragrant environment.



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