Traditionally, powder incense is used to purify the air and create a peaceful and pleasant atmosphere. It is also said to help people sleep better and relieve stress and tension.
Typically, powder incense is made from a combination of different ingredients. These include wood powders, frankincense and myrrh. Some of these are known as fixatives. They serve to preserve the more delicate aspects of a blend’s scent.
1. Zu-Koh (Japanese Incense)
The most popular incense body powder is called mainichi-koh and contains selected fragrant materials. It has a gentle sandalwood scent with hints of clove, camphor and cinnamon. It’s easy to use, has a moderate sillage and is great for daily use or as an introduction to powder incense.
Introduced along with Buddhism, these incense powders are made of precious aromatic woods combined with Chinese medicinal or herbal ingredients. They are rubbed on the skin as an act of purification before Buddhist services, rituals or when handling religious/sacred materials.
Shoyeido’s Tokusen zu-koh in particular is light on the agarwood and heavy on the more affordable spices like cloves and camphor, but it’s still an excellent option for anyone wanting to try this intriguing style of incense perfume. It smells powdery and sweet, with a bit of benzoin to round out the mix. It’s a little too much of the “everyday” variety for me, but it’s still worth a try if you are a fan of this sort of thing.
2. Traditional Incense
Traditional incense, often referred to as masala, is made by combining different types of natural ingredients including flowers, spices, herbs and natural resins. These are mixed together with a fuel and an oxidizer such as gums or tragacanth that bind the incense and allows it to burn.
For example, nag champa is a popular traditional incense that contains sandalwood with floral scents of champa flower and ylang ylang. This incense can be used to help reduce anxiety and promote relaxation.
A dhoop is another type of traditional incense that lacks a bamboo stick core and is made by dipping an unscented incense “blank” into a mixture of perfumes and essential oils. Dhoops are popular in India and Nepal. They can also be used to purify a space or for spiritual matters such as meditation and enlightenment. Citrus scented incense, like orange or lemon, can offer a refreshing scent that is uplifting and inspiring for the mind while cinnamon based incense offers a soft aroma that soothes and comforts.
Benzoin resin has long been valued for its calming and soothing aroma. It is said to promote emotional balance and soothe away sadness, grief, anger and depression. It also helps to clear energy and boost the mood.
There is a reason that this resin is the main component of Russian Orthodox incense and many other blended types of incense. It has powerful expectorant properties that help to clear and open the lungs, as well as aid in healing respiratory issues. It is also the reason that it is found in 4 of my 7 Emotional Care Formulas – Calm, Clarity, Confidence and Recovery.
Styrax benzoin (benzoin) resin is harvested from a small tree in the tropical forests of Southeast Asia, Indonesia and China by making triangular cuts into the trees trunk and then collecting the natural gum that hardens over time. Benzoin has an earthy, sweet, vanilla-like scent that is uplifting and comforting. It is a great addition to incense blends and a popular ingredient for aromatherapy, perfume and skin care.
Sandalwood (Santalum album) has long been considered one of the most sacred incense ingredients in the world. Its oil has been used in traditional pharmacopoeias for centuries, and it adds allure, depth and richness to some of today’s most coveted perfumes like Blanche by Byredo or Guerlain’s Samsara.
Its sweet woody aroma can help to calm and relax the mind and body, making it perfect for meditation or prayer rituals. In fact, a study published in Planta Medica found that alpha-santalol, the main chemical component of sandalwood essential oil, increased levels of attentiveness and mood when used as a fragrance.
Sandalwood can also be paired with other traditional herbs, oils and incense to promote healing and well-being. Try blending it with Lavender to call on angels, or with Frankincense for consecrating ritual tools or to aid in spiritual guidance and healing.