Homemade resin incense is a fun and easy way to create kneaded incense sticks, pellets, cones or molds. It’s also an excellent way to experiment with different ingredients, especially those that don’t burn well on their own.
Resin incense is most commonly burned on special charcoal that is designed to withstand the heat of the resins. Most recipes call for a wood binder like joss powder or tabu no ki.
How to Make
The first step in making resin incense is to grind all ingredients to a very fine powder. This will make the sticks, cones and molds burn more reliably. To do this most grinders can be used, though the old fashioned mortar and pestle is preferred as they will not clog or destroy the resins like a regular coffee grinder can. A metal sifter/strainer is also useful. Very soft gum resins such as elemi and labdanum are best frozen prior to grinding for faster, easier and more even processing.
Once the dry ingredients are ground they can be combined with a wood binder such as tragacanth or makko (made from bark of tabu no ki trees). This is what will hold the dried herbs, flowers and resins together into a cohesive incense mix.
The final product can be burned directly on charcoal tablets. This is a ritual that has long been used and can be a nice way to connect with the earth while receiving the benefits of the resins.
Resin incense has existed since the beginning of time and is used for many reasons including healing, pleasure, ritual and meditation. The aromatic smoke created when resins are burned soothes and cleanses the spirit.
When making your own incense it is important to have high quality ingredients. The main ingredients needed are resins, woods and fragrant oils. A wide variety of herbs and berries are also often used. Using the mortar and pestle to grind or mash your aromatics will help them blend together.
A good binder will be able to hold the aromatics together without altering or taking away from their scent. A gum binder is a very effective choice because it is strong, yet doesn’t add any scent of its own to the mixture.
Once your mixture is kneaded and formed into trails, sticks or cones let it dry for 1-5 days. If you are in a humid environment it may take longer to dry than if you were in a drier climate.
For thousands of years people have used resins to create a unique experience during religious or cleansing rituals. Whether it’s Frankincense, Myrrh or Copal the strong, lingering fragrance of these oils stimulates tranquility and helps to focus thoughts on positive intentions.
Resin incense is usually burned on a special charcoal that’s designed for this purpose, but you can also use any heat safe vessel to burn your incense. It’s important to note that burning resin incense on charcoal produces a lot of smoke, which can be a problem for people with breathing problems or who live in apartments or places where sprinkler systems are used.
A safer option for those with concerns is using an electric incense burner that’s shaped like a heater. Plug the device in and wait for it to heat up. Once the plate is hot you can place your incense in a dish on the top of the heater. As the resin incense heats up it will start to melt, releasing it’s scent into the air.
Unlike stick and cone incense, which are typically infused with binder materials to hold their shape and burn evenly, resins naturally release their potent scent when burned on charcoal. For the most pleasant experience, burn your incense in a metal bowl on a stand or an urn made of a material that can withstand high heats (such as a brass censer).
Resins and other natural aromatics need to be kept away from moisture and airborne pollutants. A small, glass jar with a lid works well for this purpose. Alternatively, you could purchase Paulownia boxes from Japan which are made of wood that expands in humid conditions, creating an airtight seal to protect the incense from degradation and moisture.
The best way to store your incense is to place it in a dark cool space until it has had time to age. This will allow the scents to become more matured, blended and complex. This will result in your incense burning even better.