Burning incense is a common practice that is used as a natural sedative and for meditation. However, studies have found that frequent incense burning increases indoor air pollution with a potential to increase the risk of respiratory symptoms like cough, asthma and chronic bronchitis.
This is because smoke from incense contains gaseous and particulate compounds such as carbon monoxide, formaldehyde and nitrous oxide that can cause adverse reactions in sensitive individuals.
1. Reduces Stress
The use of incense can help you to feel calm and peaceful. It is often used during spiritual and religious ceremonies to help clear negative energy, it can also be used to purify the air in a room. It is great to light stick incense as you wind down for the day or even during meditation sessions and journaling. The aroma will slowly waft into the room and help you to calm down and concentrate.
Incense smoke contains irritants that can cause contact dermatitis in the eyes, nose and throat. In addition, the smoke can also contribute to oxidative stress which can cause several health problems such as carcinogenesis.
The main cause of these adverse health effects is the burning of natural ingredients which creates small, inhalable particulate matter that can be ingested by the body and potentially lead to health problems. In addition, the incense smoke can lead to a release of volatile organic compounds and polyaromatic hydrocarbons which are known carcinogens. However, it is important to note that the studies that link incense smoke with cancer, asthma and heart disease only show an association, not a direct cause.
2. Reduces Anxiety
The smell of incense can bring back memories of your childhood home or a serene vacation. These nostalgic associations are very helpful for those who struggle with anxiety because they can help reduce the stress associated with these negative emotions by allowing you to focus on something positive.
Regular incense use can also help you relax during meditation or other spiritual practices. It is important to make sure you are using high-quality incense sticks that contain natural ingredients so the smoke does not cause any irritation or other health problems.
However, it is important to note that studies have found that inhaling any kind of smoke can negatively impact your respiratory system. One study found that heavy incense users had a higher risk of developing cancers of the nasal and throat region. This is due to the fact that incense smoke contains compounds such as phenols and aldehydes, which can damage lung cells. It is recommended to only burn incense in well-ventilated rooms.
3. Reduces Depression
Burning incense containing essential oils like lavender or sandalwood can calm the nervous system, making it easier to find peace and relaxation. These oils travel to our olfactory nerves and enter the limbic system, where they have a direct impact on how we feel.
Past research has found that burning incense can release chemical carcinogens like formaldehyde, benzene and Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAH). These chemicals can irritate the respiratory tract and cause chronic bronchitis, coughing, wheezing, asthma and neoplasms.
However, a study following 61,000 Singapore Chinese men and women over 30 years did not show a link between incense use and cancer. This may be due to the small sample size, or because smokers are far less likely to be incense users.
Nonetheless, it is best to only burn incense in well-ventilated rooms. You can also open windows while using incense, and consider replacing traditional incense with aromatherapy sticks that are made from natural ingredients like sage, thyme, lavender or peppermint.
4. Increases Focus
Scents, aromas and fragrances can affect our mood and help us to engage in the moment. Certain fragrances, like lavender or sandalwood are known to have a calming effect on our nervous systems, while scents like vetiver and cedar are thought to increase focus.
Using incense as part of a daily ritual can be an empowering and grounding practice. Try lighting stick incense as you wind down in the evening or when you get up in the morning. Then let the fragrance set you on a new journey.
Inhaling incense smoke may irritate your respiratory tract. However, the risk is not yet considered to be as serious as that of smoking tobacco. One way to reduce the risks is by opening a window during and after burning incense.