Incense has been used for centuries for its mood-altering and uplifting properties. While many people purchase store-bought incense, it’s easy to make your own for a fraction of the price.
To begin, you’ll need to powder your ingredients. Use a mortar and pestle or a clean coffee grinder to grind the herbs into a fine powder.
1. Use a Mortar and Pestle
A mortar and pestle is the perfect tool for crushing ingredients into a fine paste or powder. This can include gums, resins, woods, herbs, spices, flowers and fragrant hydrosols.
It is also ideal for crushing citrus peels to make zest powder. This can be used in a variety of recipes for loose incense, kneaded pellets, trails or sticks.
Using a mortar and pestle is easy, but it’s important to use it correctly. Otherwise your ingredients will fly all over the countertop and be smashed into uneven pieces, rather than becoming a fine powder.
2. Freeze Resins
Many of the resins used in incense making are sticky and difficult to grind into a fine powder. Freezing them makes them much easier to grind and can result in a better end product.
Grind the rosemary and pine into a powder using the mortar and pestle. Add the myrrh and dragon’s blood and grind again until all three ingredients are in a fine powder form.
Bind the ingredients to make incense sticks, cones or molds with a choice of wood or resin. Some recipes use labdanum, which is pliable and permits molding into pellets known as neriko.
3. Use a Fine Strainer
Some incense ingredients have a strong scent of their own, and these should be considered when making an aromatic blend. This includes sandalwood, frankincense, and other woods. Oftentimes incense makers will start with one or more of these and then look for an aromatic to compliment them.
To make the most out of your ingredients, consider using a fine strainer. This is a kitchen tool designed with wired fine-woven netting that can do wonders when it comes to sifting powdered ingredients and straining certain foods. It can also be used to filter out seeds and bits of dried fruits.
4. Measure Out Your Ingredients
Using a mortar and pestle (or a clean coffee grinder) grind your ingredients to a fine powder. This will ensure the incense burns evenly and doesn’t clump together when lit.
For non-combustible incense, a cup, bowl or saucer shaped vessel filled with sand or ash works well. For combustible incense sticks, one of the many specialty holders designed for this type of incense is ideal.
Your homemade incense will not burn well until it dries out. Place them in a sunny spot and wait for 1-2 days. This will vary depending on your environment.
5. Mix Your Ingredients
Whether you are making loose incense trails, sticks, cones or molds, all ingredients should be ground into a fine powder. This allows them to bind together more reliably and to burn cleaner.
When using a woody resin like labdanum, or a pliable gum such as elemi or jiggit, you can also form the incense into pellets. This is a process called neriko, and it’s quite easy.
Combine the gummy resin with your other powdered ingredients, adding water slowly until you achieve a dough-like consistency that can be shaped by hand. Then mold into your desired shape.
6. Dry Your Ingredients
If you want to make incense sticks from powdered ingredients, it’s best to dry them first. This reduces water vapor, which makes them burn more quickly and more evenly.
In Japan, the incense-dough is mixed with makko to create a uniform paste called “tama.” Then it’s molded into cones or sticks and dried slowly.
Making your own incense allows you to experiment with herbs and resins from local plants. And chances are that many of them grow nearby! Using herbs you can harvest yourself is an empowering and ethical way to enjoy the aromatic power of nature.
7. Light Your Incense
Using incense ingredients that you grow yourself is an empowering way to make your own mood-enhancing and air-purifying scents. It’s also an excellent way to learn more about your local plants and to ensure that they are harvested sustainably.
When making your incense, use a gum binder like guar or xanthan to keep it from drying out before it burns. These binders don’t add a scent of their own and do not interfere with the aromatic ingredients.
When you’re ready to burn your incense, light it on a charcoal disk meant for incense burning. Make sure you do this in a well-ventilated area away from children and pets!