The potential benefits of herbal incense have been known throughout history, largely in South America, where its main component – damiana – grows naturally. Mainstream medicine is beginning to unveil the benefits through objective research, but the progress is slow and lumbering. The Mayans and the Aztecs used the plant extensively, and its continuing use for a variety of conditions indicates that there is something more to our favorite, fragrant herb. Some of the fertile areas for research – and where some of the biggest potential benefits lie – are in the treatment of eating and sleeping disorders.
Sleeping disorders can be consequences of a variety of different issues. Depression, recent head injury and more serious things like Alzheimer’s are possible culprits, but it’s much more likely to be as a result of simple stress. Some people can handle stress absolutely fine, and even increase the amount they sleep during stressful periods, but people who focus on their anxieties and emotions in periods of stress often lose sleep. Treatment for stress or anxiety disorders is usually in the form of benzodiazepines, which in higher doses also aid sleep.
For sleeping disorders, damiana is almost certainly beneficial. Research conducted into its effects has supported its effect of depressing the central nervous system, making it a useful substance for the treatment of things like anxiety and stress – just like benzodiazepines. This research was done on mice, and the same researchers also tested its potential for use as a sedative, or sleep aid. In higher doses, it was shown to have sedative properties. The overwhelming calm that rushes over you in a room bathed in the aroma of incense isn’t psychosomatic; damiana genuinely relaxes you, and consequently helps you sleep.
Damiana also possesses potential benefits for weight loss. Importantly, stress is related to the consumption of fatty foods. When your body is under stress, it consumes a lot of energy. Stress is the response to perceived threats in the environment, and your body needs to have a lot of energy to stay on high alert. We are programmed to either fight stressors or run away, and either requires much higher levels of activity than normal. To compensate for this increased activity, prolonged periods of stress make you crave fatty food, essentially for a quick-fix of energy.
The damiana leaf in herbal incense has been proven to help fight stress, and thereby reduces the temptation to eat. In accordance with this, research (reliable, double-blind and placebo-controlled research, of course) has shown that it can induce significant weight loss, and that it also helps to regulate bowel movements. It does this by reducing the speed at which food leaves the stomach. This also helps you feel full after smaller meals, which helps to prevent over-eating.
Stress feeds into a wide range of problems, and research is increasingly showing that the main ingredient of herbal incense can help to tackle it. Taking time out of your day to absorb an incense-drenched atmosphere will help you relax, and in the process can also aid your sleep and help you lose weight. Damiana leaf has a wide range of benefits, and its chamomile-tinged aroma helps to lull you into a calm, contented sleep.