Health and Environmental Implications of Natural vs Synthetic Incense

Health and Environmental Implications of Natural vs Synthetic Incense

Incense is a staple of religious ceremonies, but it can also be used to relax and focus. It can help improve mood and enhance meditation or yoga practice.

However, some studies claim that incense smoke contains carcinogens and can cause breathing problems. The toxicity of incense can be minimized by burning it with proper ventilation.

Environmental Implications

Natural incense is made with plant-based ingredients and uses sustainable, fair trade practices. Its benefits include purifying the air, elevating moods, and promoting relaxation and spiritual growth. It is often used in meditation or yoga practices as a way to enhance the experience.

However, burning incense can also cause harmful chemicals to be released into the air. One of these chemicals is carbon monoxide, which can be toxic if inhaled in high concentrations. CO readily combines with hemoglobin in the blood and deprives the brain, heart, and other vital organs of oxygen.

To reduce the risk of CO poisoning, it is important to use a safe method for burning incense. The research presented here demonstrates that it is possible to create an airtight box with openings for ambient air and incense burner. This box was fabricated from acrylic glass to make it easy to see smoke emissions visually. The study determined the particulate matter and carbon monoxide emission factors (EFs) from incense stick burning using this lab model.

Health Implications

Incense is a burning plant material that’s used for religious and spiritual purposes. It’s also used to scent rooms and perfume the air with pleasant fragrances. However, incense smoke is considered a type of air pollution and can have harmful health effects.

Burning incense emits a complex mixture of particulate matter, gas products and organic compounds. These substances are then inhaled by the people exposed to the fumes. Because people inhale the entire mixture of chemicals, it’s difficult to isolate the ill effects contributed by a specific component of the fumes.

Research has shown that the toxins in incense smoke can be detrimental to human health. For instance, studies have shown that incense smoke can trigger respiratory problems like coughing and sneezing. It also can cause lung cancer and affect heart and cardiovascular health. In addition, it’s been known to produce polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, which are carcinogenic. Also, it can induce morphological changes in alveolar pneumocytes in rats and lead to the production of Th2 cytokines that can aggravate allergic respiratory diseases.


If you love the scent of incense but are concerned about the negative effects it has on the environment and your health, try using a natural option instead. Look for handmade incense made with only organic ingredients like essential oils, resins and herbs. They are available in a variety of forms, including sticks and cones.

If shopping for natural incense, be sure to read the label carefully. It is easy to misread wording that could lead you to believe the incense is pure when it may actually contain chemicals and additives. A simple test is to smell the incense before buying it; if the scent is harsh or off, it’s likely not made with natural ingredients.

Avoid burning any type of incense near pets, as the smoke can be harmful to them. Inhaling incense smoke can also be unhealthy, even for adults. If you must use incense, be sure to burn it in a well-ventilated area and never leave it unattended.


Using natural incense is a great way to add a touch of elegance to any space while eliminating harmful chemicals from the air. It has also been known to have a variety of positive effects, from calming the mind and elevating moods to improving breathing and reducing stress levels.

However, it’s difficult to know if any incense is free from synthetic ingredients simply by looking at it. Unless the package explicitly states that it is, there’s no guarantee. This is why it’s important to look for incense that’s ethically made with pure ingredients from plants and trees. It’s also best to avoid incense made from low-quality materials or scented with synthetic fragrance oils. These chemicals can be extremely toxic when burned. They contribute to atmospheric particulate matter (PM2.5), increase respiratory complications, aggravate oxidative stress, and induce DNA damage in human alveolar epithelial cells. In addition, they can agglomerate with other pollutants to form smog and pose significant environmental hazards.