Natural perfumes can contain animal products (musk, civet, ambergris) that some people find offensive and/or irritating. These ingredients are also more expensive than their synthetic counterparts.
Another issue with relying on natural scents is that they often don’t last as long as their synthetic counterparts. However, there are ways to prolong the longevity of a perfume.
Natural incense is made with raw ingredients such as herbs, woods, resins and essential oils. A skilled incense maker pulverizes these ingredients and then mixes them into a thick paste that they wrap around a bamboo stick. Then, they simply light the end of the stick and the incense smoke wafts up to your meditation space where you can enjoy its pleasant aromas.
On the other hand, synthetic incense is typically created with a blend of natural and artificial fragrances or is entirely composed of chemicals. Some of the harmful chemicals that can be found in synthetic incense include saltpeter, petroleum by-products and ground up sawdust from non-incense trees.
Inhaling these ingredients over a long period of time can be harmful to health. In order to avoid this, choose a quality brand of organic and natural incense that lists its ingredients clearly. It’s also important to check that the incense is free of extenders, which are essentially toxic accelerants.
For centuries, incense has played a role in religious and spiritual ceremonies. Its smoke purifies the air, promotes relaxation and enhances sensory experiences. It can also be used in aromatherapy to reduce stress and improve mood, as well as during meditation or yoga.
High-quality stick incense contains essential oils, gums and resins, flowers and spices that are blended and rolled onto sticks or cones. The finest incense is hand-rolled and usually made by conscious craftsmen. The popular Indian incense Nag Champa is a good example of this type of natural, high-quality incense.
Quality Japanese koho incense is another good choice and can be found online. A good brand to consider is Baieido, which has been producing incense since the 17th century. Their incense contains natural ingredients such as aloeswood and sandalwood.
The longevity of natural incense is much longer than synthetic because it lacks petrochemical fixatives. While it is not possible to directly study the health effects of incense smoke, epidemiological studies indicate that ingested particulate matter (which includes volatile organic compounds such as musk ketones and xylenes and aldehydes), polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, diethylphthalate and nasopharyngeal carcinomas from burning incense are associated with lung dysfunction.
Unfortunately, many popular brands of incense on the market today contain unhealthy chemicals. This is primarily because hand-blending incense requires a wide variety of high-quality resins, oils and flowers, which are too costly for the mass production of incense. Instead, manufacturers use synthetic fragrances and petrochemical-derived binders such as saltpeter and dipropylene glycol. These ingredients are used as a coating for incense “blanks” that are then dipped in essential oils or synthetic fragrances and dried. Many of these blanks are sourced from inferior pressed wood and glues that release harmful chemicals when burned.
Incense is often used in religious and spiritual ceremonies to create a more pleasing atmosphere, and it has also been found to promote relaxation and focus. When high quality botanical ingredients are used, it can be a delightful way to enjoy fragrance in the home.
Natural incense is made from a variety of herbs, oils, gum resins, and wood powders which can be combined together to produce a distinctive scent. A popular choice is frankincense, which has been shown to be an effective anti-inflammatory. Other important oils include sage, lavender, and jasmine.
It is important to avoid synthetic incense, which typically contains a large quantity of artificial fragrances and other man-made chemicals. Inhaling these pollutants can cause respiratory dysfunction and even asthma, especially in sensitive individuals. Additionally, these chemicals can be irritating to the eyes and skin. Look for products that list all of their ingredients, and make sure they are free from synthetic chemicals.