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What Does Incense Do? Sacred Smoke and Spirituality

By Maggie 30 August 2021
Reading works meditatively, relax 9 minuten with this article.
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Incense has been around for centuries! While beliefs surrounding its effects vary, throughout the ages and across cultures one idea remains constant: incense stimulates our spiritual brain. Whether you light incense based on religious beliefs or just for enjoyment, the smell of incense activates your brain and can influence your mood. Scents can transform the atmosphere and this is exactly what makes incense so fascinating! In this blog you can read everything about the spiritual and mood boosting effects of incense.

incense box holder cone

What is Incense?

Simply put, incense is a mixture of aromatic substances, which when lit, spreads a wonderful fragrance. Traditionally the base of this fragrant mix is actually dried tree resin or Frankincense. In the past, resin incense came from only two trees: the Boswellia Sacra from Arabia and the Boswellia Papyrifera from India. People likely discovered the aromatic resin after someone threw a piece of resin covered wood from the Boswellia on the fire and they noticed the special smell of the smoke. Obviously the word ‘incense’ does not come from the name of these trees! The English name for this resin, ‘Frankincense,’ is a combination of two words: the Old French word ‘Franc’ meaning ‘noble’ or ‘pure’ and the ecclesiastical Latin ‘incensum’ which means ‘something burnt.’

Incense is no longer only tree resin. It is also made from various scented ingredients, such as olibanum resin, pine resin, birch bark, and rose petals. Often essential oils are also an ingredient. While incense originated in the Middle East, it now almost always comes from India, Nepal or Japan.

traditional incense sticks burning

What Incense is Used For?

Incense and its effects can be used for different purposes. For centuries and across many cultures incense has burned during different ceremonial occasions. Archaeologists have found incense residue, burners and holders, as well as recipes, and descriptions of smoke rituals from the ancient Mediterranean, Asia, Mesopotamia, and Egypt dating back to at least 3300 BCE! We know from these artifacts and texts that people used incense as medicine as well as for religious ceremonies.

But this isn’t all ancient history! Incense still plays an important roll in the Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, and Anglican Churches, as well as in many other non-christian religions. In these rituals, usually a non-combustible incense is used, which is made of a plant based material combined with essential oils. Incense also remains popular to burn at home for purification, and in modern magic, practitioners use incense to help them reach meditative states. Many people across the world still use incense for its supposed purifying, protective, healing, and soothing qualities. When it comes to how to use incense, there is really no right or wrong answer, so just choose your incense carefully and think about what you personally want to achieve with it!

incense stick holder

Spiritual Meaning

As we’ve seen, for thousands of years many cultures and religions have been taking advantage of the effects of incense. Burning incense is even said to have an antiseptic effect! In addition, there is mounting evidence that the right fragrance could have a positive influence on your mood and relieve gloomy feelings. Because of the soothing herbs and oils that many varieties contain, a gentle and calming incense may also have these emotional benefit. A good incense consists of a mixture of tree resin, essential oils, wood powders and loose herbs that provide a soothing scent.

Incense stick holder round

Smokey Spirituality: How to Choose Incense

What does incense smell like, and do all of the scents have meanings? No not at all! Many fragrances have no spiritual purpose or meaning and are just for enjoyment. There are many nice smells that remind us of a certain event or that we simply just like. But if you want to know more about the specific scents and their common uses, below you will find a number of incense scents and their meanings:

  • Frankincense Incense: This fragrance was highly prized in the ancient world. It is still an essential fragrance for spiritual ceremonies.
  • Lavender Incense: Lavender is a wonderfully soothing scent. The scent could help you fall asleep and make you zen. Are you looking for romance? According to many, this purple flower helps to get you in the mood.
  • Musk Incense: Musk is a sensual, exotic fragrance that you may associate with the Middle East. It may help you with concentration problems.
  • Vanilla Incense: The vanilla scent may have a soothing and calming effect and ease frustration or anger. In addition, the scent could increase cheerfulness!
  • White Sage Incense: This well-known scent is said to have a purifying effect that could dispel negative energy.
  • Sandalwood Incense: Sandalwood is said to have a calming and relaxing effect and may help to deal with disappointments.
  • Cinnamon Incense: The spicy and sweet cinnamon scent could make you feel relaxed and warm your mind and heart.
  • Jasmine Incense: Jasmine is a wonderful floral scent that could help with headaches and to provide a feeling of familiarity.
  • Patchouli Incense: The scent of patchouli could be grounding and balance your emotions. You could use this incense for stress-related complaints.

Burning Incense at Home

As you now know, there are different types of incense and  different uses. Many people simply burn incense in their home for a nice smell, without any elaborate rituals. It’s just a relaxing and pleasant atmosphere for your home! Depending on your sensitivity to smells, you may benefit psychologically and physiologically from burning incense and your mood could improve because of it. So make it a relaxing moment for yourself. Brew some Organic Tea, light some incense, and enjoy the soothing scents that come from the smoke. Or perhaps burn some Lavender incense for extra relaxation during your bedtime routine.

incense holder box singing bowl and candle

Burning Incense for Energetic Cleansing

In addition to the nice fragrance, you could also burn incense to purify your home’s energy. White Sage incense or Palo Santo incense are great choices for this. Similar to a White Sage Smudge Ritual, you could also tie several sticks together to disperse the smoke while cleansing negative energy. Of course, you could also burn white sage sticks individually. Move the sticks counterclockwise and from bottom to top. We bet that all negative energy will melt away like snow in the sun! Read more about cleansing negative energy Here.

What Kinds Of Incense Are There?

Incense Sticks

We’ve come a long way since burning balls of resin scraped from trees and there are now many forms of incense! Incense Sticks are one of the most popular and well known types. They are usually bamboo sticks wrapped in a resin and herbal incense mixtures. If you’re not sure how to burn incense sticks, it’s not a problem. They burn easily and evenly! You just light them and let them smolder to spread their scent.

There are also sticks without wood cores. These so-called Japanese Incense and Tibetan Incense, are perfect for a pure fragrance experience. According to true fans, these artisanal herbal scents surpass those of the more synthetic incense varieties, with no wood interfering with the scent. It is said that the delicate scent of Japanese sticks evokes memories and atmospheres, while the Tibetan incense is a staple of traditional medicine.

incense sticks package

Incense Cones

As the name suggests, incense cones have a cone shape. The incense cones do not contain bamboo and due to their shape, they do not burn evenly. You may experience little odor when they first begin to burn, and later when you get to the thicker part of the cone, the scent intensifies. Incense cones are perfect for the Incense Waterfall, also known as Incense Backflow. The smoke flows downwards and creates a special visual effect.

Check Out All of Our Backflow Waterfall Burners

backflow waterfall black

Resin Grain Incense

These are granular resin crystals. Each scent is a mixture of different natural ingredients that comes in a sachet or pot. Incense granules do not burn on their own, but rather they need to be placed on a charcoal tablet. This requires a little more experience and active attention than sticks or cones!

rose incense resin bottle

Loose Incense Herbs

Are you a bit intimidated by resin, but want a pure plant scent? Then you can buy loose incense herbs. Herbs and plant parts come in individual packages, that allows you to create your own mixtures! You can heat loose incense on charcoal or on a sieve over a tea light. Herbs are a nice option because they produce little smoke due to their slow indirect heating. If you have a nose for aroma, make your own incense with loose herbs!

loose incense herbs

How to Light Incense: Sticks, Cones and Resins

Actually, there are two different types of incense: direct-burning incense and indirect-burning incense. The direct burning incense has a flammable base that ignites, for example sticks and cones. As soon as the flame goes out, the incense smolders and gives off smoke. If this does not happen, light the stick or cone again. Make sure you put it in an Incense Holder that can catch the ashes.

With indirect burning types, it takes a little bit more know how to keep incense burning. This type needs a heat source like Coals, which keeps the incense burning. Place the coals in an incense holder or Abalone Shell with some sand, so that the ashes can be collected. Light the coals and when they are hot, put some resin grains or loose herbs on them.

How Long Does Incense Burn?

Most incense in any form burns for about 20 to 30 minutes. But what if you can’t finish burning a stick? Then it’s handy to know how to put out an incense stick. Extinguishing your incense is very easy: dip the tip of your incense stick in water. You can also extinguish your incense cone in water with a pair of pliers. Just check it carefully to make sure it’s really out!

Tips for Burning Incense

  • In all cases, ensure sufficient ventilation when burning incense!
  • Burn your incense on a heat-resistant, solid and flat surface.
  • Always be within sight of your smoldering incense.
  • Place a bowl or cup of water next to your incense.

plank incense stick holder

What is your favorite incense?

Last modification on 04 January, 2022 12:17 pm

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