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An Introductory Guide to Incense

Updated on August 26, 2014
Incense sticks are available in a wide range of colours and fragrances.
Incense sticks are available in a wide range of colours and fragrances. | Source

Ever since ancient times people from many cultures and all across the world have been making incense using ingredients found in nature such as herbs, fruits, seeds, peels and spices.

Incense is used in traditional medicines and as part of the spiritual practices of many cultures. Incense can be burnt to inspire creative thought, set a certain mood, aid meditation or simply to create a pleasing fragrance and refreshing for your home, classroom, office or outdoor spaces. In fact incense can be used safely in almost any environment as long as appropriate holders are used and the safety of the surrounding area and occupants is taken into consideration.

Loose Incense

Loose incense can be made using a wide range of safe and natural materials such as herbs, spice, resins and berries.
Loose incense can be made using a wide range of safe and natural materials such as herbs, spice, resins and berries. | Source
An example of a loose incense blend made using natural materials.
An example of a loose incense blend made using natural materials. | Source

There are two types of incense you are used. These are known as combustible (sometimes called direct burning) and non-combustible (or indirect burning) incenses.

Non combustible incenses include loose incense as well as incense cones and pellets. These are heated without the heat source actually needing to touch the incense itself. The cones, pellets or loose material are placed above a heat source and this heating causes the materials aromas to be released into the air without them burning. One method of achieving this is by using an incense stove. An incense stove is very similar to an oil burner and can be used to burn loose, cone or pellet incense so is a versatile item to own. The incense is placed on the top section and a lit tealight candle is placed in the section directly underneath. The candle flame gently heats the incense without burning it or causing any smoke to be produced.
Care should be taken with using incense burners as the burner can become very hot during use and so should be placed out of the reach of children or animals. Incense burners should also not be placed anywhere where they could be knocked over, forgotten or close to any flammable items such as curtains or on book shelves. It is also possible to buy electric incense stoves which eliminate the need to have and possible danger of having lit candles burning around the house. Incense should always be burnt on a heatproof surface.

Burning charcoal disks can also be used to burn loose incense, cones and pellets but unlike the stove, these may produce smoke and burn your incense. One way to try to avoid htis is to place a layer of sand or salt directly on top of the burning charcoal and then to place the incense on top of that. The charcoal disks are lit and left until they turn white. The incense of your choice is then placed on top. Any container used for this purpose must be heat proof and placed on a heat proof surface for safely. Dishes may get very hot as the charcoal burns.

Incense burners can be as simple as a pot of soil or sand or highly decorative and ornate pieces of art.
Incense burners can be as simple as a pot of soil or sand or highly decorative and ornate pieces of art. | Source

Combustible incense is probably the form that most people are more familiar with. These come mainly comes in the form of incense sticks and cones. Combustible incense sticks and cones are lit directly with a flame , such as a lighter and then the flame is gently fanned out. The end of the incense will be glowing and will continue to burn down it's length, leaving only ash.

Many forms of incense holders and burners are available for these types of incense and range from simple wooden trays to intricate carved boxes and statues. Incense sticks can be bought in many shops and in a huge range of fragrances including fruit flavours, nag champa, flora scented, frankincense, mini sticks, dhoop sticks and also with themed aromas such as based on star signs, natural environments (sea, forest etc.) or feng shui.

One example of a simple incense holder than can be used safely with incense sticks and incense cones.
One example of a simple incense holder than can be used safely with incense sticks and incense cones. | Source

© 2012 Claire

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