There are lots of incense varieties - each variety fosters unique benefits that can support your wants and needs. That being said, there are also some varieties much kinder to our bodies than others.
In this article, we will discuss the most popular types of incense and scents, and what we at Burnt Beech deem to be the best!
What is Incense?
Incense is an ancient tool commonly used to cleanse a space and rid of bad odours. It involves the burning of an (or more) aromatic substance, usually plant life, to create a fragrant and healing smoke. Incense can come in many forms, the most popular being: sticks, cones and coils. Our favourite is natural incense - a combination of burning natural substances such as aromatic resins, botanicals, and essential oils. However, more on this below.
Incense was first founded around 6000 years ago (4000 BC) by civilisations within ancient Mesopotamia and Egypt. Then it was commonly used by religious and spiritual beings to fumigate temples, heal energy, and promote spiritual connection. Incense was deemed sacred and a true representation of wealth and stature. The ancient Egyptians enjoyed scents such as Frankincense, Myrrh, Ginger, and Chamomile. We now hear and see references to many of these ancient scents, commonly in religious depictions and text, the most popular being the Bible.
Check out our Incense page for a whole host of how-to guides and deep dives into some of the wonderful fragrances.
How Could an Ancient Ritual Tool Benefit Us Today?
Biologically, we are the same as our ancestors.
While our modern lives are very different from those of early homo sapiens, the biology that makes us human has not evolved significantly in the last 10,000 years (around the time we became the world's apex predator). That means that as far as our genetics are concerned, we're still hunter-gatherers spending our days in the great outdoors. It's no surprise then, that sitting in an artificially-lit room and staring at screens all day isn't compatible with our biology.
So, Why is Incense Experiencing a Renaissance Now?
The good news? All-natural incense has one excellent healing element in common: the ability to reduce symptoms of anxiety.
We have listed the most popular types of incense and scents below so you can find your fantastically fragrant match.
Incense Stick, Cone or Natural?
Incense today comes in three main forms: incense sticks, cones, and loose. However, as time persists, people are looking for more natural and healing solutions. Thankfully 'Natural Incense' may just be that. Read on the learn more about each incense type...
The most popular incense today is incense sticks. Originating in Ming Dynasty China, they are a form of ancient incense that is also sometimes referred to as "joss sticks".
The most common incense sticks found in the West today are the 'Nag Champa' variety, which is of Indian Origin. Nag Champa is made by dipping a thin bamboo stick into water, essential oils, highly fragrant rare gums, and incense powder in layers, which will result in an incense stick with a densely-layered upper two-thirds, and a bare bamboo bottom. These can be held or placed in an incense stick holder, which allows for the flame to burn down the body of the stick.
Another type of incense stick, which is popular in Japan and China, is essentially a combination of natural, fragrant ingredients and binding agents, which is rolled into a stick shape and allowed to dry. These incense sticks are made of pure powders, oils and binders. Which means no stick in the middle, offering a 'purer' scent. The bamboo cheaper incense sticks can have an unpleasant aroma, while even the slightly more expensive incense sticks made with a Sandalwood base can overpower the surrounding scented powders.
Though incense sticks are an easy-burning type of incense, nowadays they commonly come with added chemicals which can be harmful to the body.
Cones are less popular than incense sticks, however, they provide a stronger and longer-lasting fragrance. Much like the incense sticks that are popular in China and Japan, incense cones offer a 'coreless' solution, or in other words, more bang for your buck!
They are also formed by very tightly compressed incense ingredients making a cone shape; they offer a wonderfully powerful, cleansing aroma, with lots of beautiful smoke. However, much like incense sticks, cones today tend to have added chemicals which can be harmful.
White Sage 'Smudge Sticks' are the most popular type of loose incense. They are used and burned to rid a space of evil spirits and negative energy. This may sound like an old wives' life hack, but 'smudging' is still widely practised in the West today.
However, there is so much more than just sage. Loose incense usually comes in a blend of different botanicals, each with healing properties of its own, and so offers a unique array of fragrances.
We love this type because it is a natural incense type, in an unadulterated form. Manufacturers of incense sticks and cones often use synthetic fillers and binding agents that taint the natural healing compounds within the oils, herbs, and spices. Whereas loose incense avoids any unnatural additives.
What is our Favourite Type of Incense?
Natural is the Burnt Beech way!
We believe that a blend of pure botanicals, resins, and essential oils, burnt in their natural form, is the kindest, most ancient form of incense burning. Natural incense can be a combination of your favourite earthly scents - we enjoy blending complementary herbs with resins, as well as burning scents separately or on their own. There really is so much variety.
Resin: Aromatic resin, or tree sap, is a natural substance extracted from the bark of certain tree species. This sap produces a potent fragrance - when burnt it exudes a powerful essence into your space. Aromatic resins were popular within ancient civilisations, for example, Frankincense and Myrrh were sacred to the ancient Egyptians. They would burn resin during spiritual ceremonies and mummifications.
Essential Oil: Essential oil is simply the liquid/oil extracted from plant matter. There are thousands of essential oil varieties, the most popular ones are extracted from herbs, flowers, fruits, nuts, seeds, spices, and resins. Essential oils have a long use: in aromatherapy, for medicinal purposes, in cosmetics, for culinary reasons, and as ancient incense.
Botanicals: Botanicals are simply dried plant matter, similar to what you find in loose incense, and you can't get any more natural than that. We usually use botanicals relating to the essential oils we burn, however, adding complementary botanicals can enhance the aroma of your natural incense, taking it to a new spiritual level.
Not only does natural incense produce fresher and earthlier fragrances rather than say incense sticks and cones, but it also exudes natural healing properties.
The best way to burn a combination of resins, essential oils, and botanicals is on an oil warmer. For more information on Natural incense and how to burn it - Click Here.
Whatever incense you choose, make sure you burn responsibly
It is important to be safe and responsible with your incense! But enjoy the beautiful scents and healings they exude.
Ensure your incense is burning into an open space.
Place your incense on a heat-proof surface before lighting.
Don't leave your incense burning unnatended.
Avoid close proximity with your burning incense.
Avoid contact with your burning incense.
Do not burn your incense around children and pets.
Leave your incense at least 30 minutes before touching.
How To Burn Incense
We get into the weeds about how to burn each type of incense in the articles below:
What are the Different Fragrances and What Do They Do?
There is an infinite number of fragrance combinations that are used to create incense, and in turn, there are countless benefits. Incense is a powerful tool and so many cultures have told of its ability to enhance psychic awareness, increase sexual desire, cleanse negative energies, increase psychic powers, and even induce prophetic dreams. Not to mention the beautiful scents!
It's fair to say then that these ancient ritual tools have some serious clout. They were a feature of countless celebrations, spiritual events, and everyday lives in ancient times, but what are burning botanicals going to do to help you beat the chronic stress that is life in 2022?
Below we break down 16 of the most common fragrances and some of the powerful and complex benefits they can bring to you.
The Most Popular Types of Incense Scents And Their Benefits...
Natural insect repellent
Increase sexual desire in men
Promote mental clarity
Cedar, along with other wood-based incense, provides grounding and earthly connection. It has a strong complex, sweet, and woodsy aroma.
Increase sexual appetite
Increase self esteem
Attract joy and happiness
Cinnamon incense is spicy and sweet, with a subtle earthiness. Cinnamon can inspire feelings of lust, desire, and imagination. It also creates an uplifting atmosphere and spreads positive energy.
Promote mental and emotional clarity
Lower blood pressure
Lotus has a pleasant floral yet fruity aroma and is a symbol of enlightenment and uplifting spirits.
Foster a healing environment
Dragon's blood is a pleasant and sweet scent that is commonly used for spiritual awakening practices. Extracted from the 'dragon's blood flower', it also has antiseptic qualities also make it a sought-after ingredient in cosmetics.
Bring balance and order
Protect against harm
Remove negative energy
Egyptian Musk has a - you guessed it - musky aroma, however, it also has bright floral notes. Ancient communities have associated it with Saturn and the underworld, meaning it is great for protecting from harm.
Create calming energy
Reduce tense or stressful atmosphere
Promote spiritual connection
Frankincense is an aromatic resin, piney in fragrance with colourful notes of spice. It brings about serenity and joy, making for a sacred and warming atmosphere.
Heighten sensual passion
Ginger is a sweet, fragrant spice with a deeply warming, citrusy scent. It has natural, powerful antiseptic properties making it a popular medicinal herb.
Jasmine is enriched with a floral and sweet essence. Emotional feelings of love and joy are the main features of Jasmine incense.
Alleviate mood swings
Drive away negative influences
Provide clarity during meditation
This beautiful flower and its incense have a delicate, floral, herbaceous, and slightly sweet aroma. Lavender incense aids sleep and maintains a tranquil atmosphere.
Like Frankincense, Myrrh is an aromatic resin. It has a powerfully bitter aroma, however, with bright floral notes. It is a prized and ancient resin, wildly sacred thanks to its divine nature and history.
Induce dreams and visions
Promote inner peace
Opium incense mimics the fragrance of an 'opium poppy', although very few people have smelled one. It aids sleep and brings about visions during meditation.
Patchouli produces a warm and exotic fragrance. Known as the 'money-drawing incense'; for thousands of years, people have burnt Patchouli incense and prayed to Saturn to improve their finances.
Improve romantic connection
Rose incense creates a floral, sweet scent that promotes a sensual atmosphere, stimulating love, sex, and desire among other things. It is also another money-drawing incense.
Lower blood pressure
Sandalwood is a popular, healing fragrance. It is a great all-rounder that cleanses the spiritual body and offers some very powerful antibacterial properties.
Improve mental clarity
Vanilla incense is another great choice to burn at any time. It has an irresistible, sweet fragrance and specifically promotes mental clarity and intelligence, as well as stress reduction.
White sage was used in rituals by Native cultures in North and South America. The smoke of the burning White Sage was used to drive away evil spirits, purify sacred spaces and banish negative energy. Nowadays, you can buy white sage either as a smudge stick or in the form of incense sticks.
The Bottom Line
Incense has a whole host of wonderful healing and calming properties. Not to mention the beautiful smell they fill your home with! But one feature remains consistent across all of the types of incense - its ability to relieve anxiety. And that is something we could all benefit from.
What types of wood are used in incense?
Most commonly, bamboo or the bark of the sandalwood tree is used to make incense.
Is incense safe to use around dogs and cats?
No. We always take a 'better safe than sorry approach', and dogs and cats have very sensitive noses and lungs, so the powerful scents can cause them harm. Always protect your furry friends.
What is incense good for cleansing?
Incense is great for cleansing new crystals or crystals you need to recharge. But also, incense is great for cleansing a space of negative energies and some have antibacterial properties which cleanse the environment in which it is burned.
What is incense used for?
Incense is most commonly used for reducing stress, enhancing meditation and prayer, and cleansing environments.