Scent has a powerful effect on our mood, memories and creativity. Whether you’re relaxing, meditating or connecting spiritually, burning incense is an ancient ritual that can help calm the mind and enhance focus.
The process of making incense involves blending aromatic plant powders with wood powder and a binding agent. This is then formed into sticks or cones.
What is Incense?
Aromas, fragrances or Incense are a way of using a variety of natural materials to create a pleasant atmosphere. They can be used for many reasons, such as to encourage relaxation, aid meditation, improve concentration, boost creativity and motivation or stimulate sexual desire. They can also be used as a part of religious practice or ritual.
Making incense is a fairly simple process. A number of different ingredients are combined into a mixture such as natural plant-based binding powder, wood glue, charcoal powder and sawdust. A variety of resins, oils and spices can be added to the mix, including myrrh, hibiscus and amber as well as frankincense, cedar and sandalwood.
A cored stick or coil is prepared, and then dipped into the incense mixture to coat it. The incense is then allowed to dry. The process is repeated three or four times to build up a thick coating of incense material. The mucilage from the natural plant-based binder, usually makko (Mo Xiang Mo Xiang incense powder) holds the incense together and combusts to form an ember when lit.
How to Burn Incense
Stick incense is the easiest to use, simply hold a lighter or match flame to the coated end of the incense until it ignites. It should then begin to smolder with a red ember at the tip and release aromatic smoke into the air.
Resin and powder incense require a little more care and knowledge to use properly. Usually resins and powders are pulverised into a dust, then burned on charcoal that is held in a heat resistant container known as a thurible or metal dish on a stand. The charcoal disk generates a lot of heat so it is important to use tongs or pliers to hold the incense while lighting. Hold the incense over the charcoal for about twenty seconds or until it ignites, then put into your heat-resistant holder.
It is also recommended that you place the thurible or metal dish on sand or salt to disperse the heat and prevent it from touching anything else flammable. Burning incense can produce a lot of ash so it is important to keep the holder away from drafts and on a flat, heat-resistant surface.
How to Snuff Incense
People use incense sticks for a variety of reasons. Many worshipers burn it as offerings to the Buddha and bodhisattvas; others enjoy the scent for its reputed aromatherapy benefits. Whatever your reason for enjoying incense, it is important to know how to properly put it out when you’re finished.
The most effective way to put out incense is by dropping it in water. This method is easy and works for any type of stick, cone, or coil. Other methods such as licking the tip or pinching aren’t as effective, and can leave your incense stick smoldering (and prone to reignition) once you leave the room.
If you don’t have a metal bowl, an ashtray or concrete dish works just as well. Alternatively, you can push the tip of the incense into hard, inflammable object, such as sand or spent ash from your incense burner. Be sure to cover the tip with a layer of material before driving it in, to avoid damaging the surface.
What are the Benefits of Burning Incense?
Incense is a traditional ritual across many cultures for spiritual and health benefits. It can help with mental clarity, focus, and mood enhancement. Additionally, incense can help purify the air by killing bacteria and microorganisms.
Some herbs and essential oils in incense, such as lavender, are known to reduce anxiety and stress levels. It can also be used to promote sleep and fight insomnia. It’s a great companion to your yoga or meditation routine and can elevate the experience by providing a pleasant fragrance to your space.
Other scents, like rose or jasmine, have a reputation for being natural aphrodisiacs while cedar and vetiver are good for grounding and centering. Aromatherapy is a common practice that uses essential oils to treat physical and mental health. While you’re shopping for incense, look for ones that list their ingredients to ensure they’re free of synthetic compounds. You should also open a window before and during burning to avoid overpowering your space with smoke.