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Healing & Therapeutic Properties of Tibetan Incense a History & Overview

Updated on November 5, 2014

Tibetan Incense

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The Tibetan Incense

Tibetan incense is one of the gems of the Himalayan monastic tradition and combines several herbs, minerals, flowers and spices found in the region to create unique incense with medicinal and therapeutic properties. The incense is burned to release a very soothing and relaxing aroma that is good for the mind and body which has been used by Tibetan Buddhist monks in their meditation ans rituals for over 2000 years.

The Finest of these incenses are made in Tibet where workers in Monasteries and in the cottage industries handcraft ancient recipes based on the traditional Tibetan scriptural texts. It is important to be very wary of the commercialized variants which are mixed with chemicals or fillers and thus do not provide the purer and authentic fragrance of true Tibetan Incense. The original fragrances made according to the ancient spiritual and cultural traditions and which provide an excellent aroma and therapeutic effect during activities such as yoga and meditation are made of substances such as sandalwood, cedar bark, rose petals and jasmine flowers among other ingredients. From herbs and plants many of which are found locally in the higher altitudes of the Himalayas.

Nepal ad Bhutan

Kumbum of the Palcho Monastery, Gyantse, Tibet, China

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How to Use Tibetan Incense

The most common method of employing Tibetan Incense is by burning incense sticks. These are usually rolled nicely and can be readily used simply by lighting the tip of the stick with a match or a lighter. These sticks are pure herbal incense with no stick. These may be simply be lit on either end and set on a base and allowed to smolder.

Once you have lit the incense, blow on it gently so as to extinguish the flame. After this, you should see your incense glowing faintly at the tip and giving off a pale glow and wafts of healing fragrant smoke.

Medicinal Herbs

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The History of Tibetan Incense

The history of the Tibetan Incense dates back to some 2500 years of Tibetan monastic culture. During this era very specific and precise medicinal formulas were developed which were comprised of up to 30 or more ingredients, depending on the medicinal properties that were required or desired. These ingredients were typically plants, herbs, flowers, resins, barks and minerals that are found in the Himalayan region of Northern Tibet. These were blended to create specific recipes and formulas . The Tibetan monks, who were noted scholars, recorded and preserved these recipes in Tibetan medical books. Now days skilled Tibetan craftsmen are still able to duplicate these precise incense formulations redolent of ones employed during ancient times.

Some information on its ingredients and composition can even be found in ancient Tibetan texts These texts possess in them various spiritual and practical instructions that encompasses mysticism and medicine used in the creation of this therapeutic incense. It is for this reason that the authentic Tibetan Incense is highly respected and valued when it comes to use in meditation, yoga or simply to relax and soothe the mind. The purest and most authentic and effective brands today of this incense follows a lineage that goes back thousands of years passed down by generation to generation and is prepared by highly specialized workers in official Tibetan traditional medical and monastic colleges or Monistaries. It is said that some of these purer variants can even be traced as far back as to the original formulator who made the first recipes over 2500 years ago!

Incense Burning in Temple

Making Tibetan incense in Nepal

The Manufacturing Process of Tibetan Incense

Tibetan Incense is made through an entirely natural process based on the ancient Tantra medical texts and under very strict supervision of Tibetan Buddhist monks. This is the purest form of the incense that follows the 2500 year lineage of the incense processing in Northern Tibet. Beware of poorly made commercial varieties which do not use all the ingredients in the recipes and do not follow the ancient recipe as provided by the Tantras. There are numerous fair trade cooperatives in Tibet, Bhutan and Nepal which coordinate the making of the purest Tibetan Incense in various villages.

The process begins with the milling of cypress, sandalwood and/or other suitable base natural materials into mud like paste. This mud/paste is then mixed with a verity of flowers, resins barks, spices, herbs and other medicinal botanicals from the Himalayas. In the less recent times this this viscous mash is usually poured into ox-horns which have small holes bored on the sides. The ox-horns will extrude this mixture to form the strips that will eventually become incense sticks. This process has been slightly modernized these days. See the video above for an idea as how this process works these days, it is still quite basic. The extruded incense is then straightened and dried into the familiar form that most would recognize today. These individual sticks are then bundles and are twined with threads and are then packaged in small bundles and are ready for use.

There are many varieties of the incense used in treating numerous conditions. The incense products are therefore not standardized and you can choose a unique product for specific applications. Consumers can also choose their preferred scents based on the formulations such as sandalwood-based scents, juniper-based scents, chamomile-based scents, cedarwood-based scents among many others. It is very important that you carefully study each of the incense products on offer and their specific benefits before you make a purchase.


Small Tibetan refugee Incense factory in India

Healing Chinese Herbs

The Healing Components of Tibetan Incense

The healing components of Tibetan Incense, like in many aromatherapy blends, are found in its pure essential oils. Almost all the ingredients used in the blends for Tibetan incense such as the sandalwood or rose petals are very rich sources of essential oils. Some of the main substances used in hand rolling Tibetan Incense include Himalayan herbs such as juniper berries, jasmine, Tibetan cedarwood, cinnamon, kusum flowers from the high altitudes of the Himalayas, cloves, galmus, jattamasi, liquorice, cardamom, and many other aromatic herbs, spices and other plant matter that grow in high altitudes in the Himalayas.

Each of the healing components of the Tibetan Incense brings with it some very unique therapeutic properties. For example, juniper offers purification of the air and also strengthens and tones the body's nerves. It provides a general calming effect on one's mind. Cedar provides one of the most excellent aromas and has been used since ancient times. Sandalwood is good for meditation as it soothes the nerves and has a general calming effect. Jasmine is good at calming the nerves and relieving depression, as well as helping in the improvement and uplfiting of one's overall mood.

Traditional Tibetan Incense Sticks

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The Healing Properties of Tibetan Incense

The healing properties of the Tibetan Incense are quite numerous. Among the blends that are used to roll the incense is the juniper herb which provides healing for many of the contagious diseases. The most important function of the fragrances of the Tibetan Incense is their effects on the mind. The fragrances yielded by true Tibetan Incense are good for aromatherapy, which provides a refreshing feeling on the mind. You can use it to relieve stress and tension, and to reach a harmonious state of consciousness. They also help in achieving high levels of mental concentration or clarity. This is particularly important for those who are taking part in yoga or meditation. These blends of aromatic compounds, when inhaled, are believed to remove impurities from your mind and contribute to your overall wellbeing.

The aroma from the Tibetan Incense contain essential oils that when inhaled communicate with the brain and trigger feelings of relaxation, relief, calmness and harmony, improving your overall state of mind and can be beneficial for your mental and emotional health. These are not only inhaled to relieve stress but they are also absorbed into the skin where they provide very effective healing and conditioning effects. The aroma from the incense contains some of the purest and most natural essential oils and can be used on a variety of skin conditions such as acne, burns or broken skin, or treat topical infectious diseases like gangrene, among many others. The healing properties of the Tibetan Incense derived from the essential oils are at the heart of the cosmetic industry and their fatty acids extracts are used in making numerous skin care and hair care products.

Tibetan Incense Use

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In Closing

The production techniques and ingredients vary for each type of incense produced. Some of the incense is made using secret formulas that have been passed down from one generation to another for over a thousand years thus adding to their mystery and appeal. If you are buying your incense online, ensure that you use trusted Fair Trade merchants with a reputation for delivering top quality authentic products. The majority of the incense products that are made inside Tibet and parts of India made by Tibetan refugees will usually offer superior quality and are produced in the traditional method with the accepted formulations that follow the recipes of the Ancient Tibetan Text. It is most important, find a reliable and trustworthy source for Traditional Tibetan Incense. Enjoy Namaste"

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      Roger Marlow 3 years ago from Alpine, USA

      Just make sure you are dealing with a reputable reseller, they do their research. I know I do....

    • Colleen Swan profile image

      Colleen Swan 3 years ago from County Durham

      Interesting information here. As you point out, the difficulty lies in distinguishing between the real and the bogus products on the market.