Incense has been used as an accompaniment to spiritual practice for thousands of years. It’s referenced in Sanskrit texts and is known to have been a favourite of the ancient Egyptians. It can lend a particular stillness to a space, one that’s conducive to relaxation and meditation. Equally, incense can be used as an effective (and cheap) room fragrance.
Try to stick to branded incense sticks that are made with natural ingredients. They’ll burn and smell better. As far as the actual fragrances are concerned, sandalwood, which is sweet and woody, tends to be the most common. Frankincense, musky and often used in churches, is the second most common. Also worth mentioning are “rose” which is light and sweet, and patchouli, a potent, earthy fragrance. You can also choose between blends and single notes, which give one specific fragrance.
Incense sticks are made by mixing together various ingredients, including oils, resins, herbs, flower petals and wood, and then making a paste by adding water. A slim wooden or bamboo stick is then dipped and rolled in the paste and left to dry.
Here’s my selection of the top 5 best incense products.
Top 5 Incences
When I was a student I lived for a while with a slightly unhinged former-Buddhist energy healer. It wasn’t a particularly enjoyable experience and I ended up moving out after six months. The one good thing that did happen, however, was that I was introduced to Nag Champa.
It’s a lovely incense, not too overpowering with a gentle but obvious smell. It’s quite popular and the brand Satya Sai is well-known. The base fragrance is sandalwood. Satya Sai also offer a range of other blends. I think this is their best. Price: $14.49 for pack of two.
Frankincense is a resin obtained from the Boswellia genus of trees. Most people are familiar with it because it was a gift (along with myrrh, another tree resin) from one of the three wise men. This incense is a mix of pure tree resins, frankincense being a prominent one. Whilst you can be certain of its quality, you will need charcoal to burn it.
If you’re used to going to church then you’ll know the smell. It’s not too overpowering and it doesn’t annoy the sinuses or throat like some other incenses. One of my favourites. May be difficult to get outside of the UK but you can always import it. It’s been made in Gloucestershire for over 100 years. Go with the “Abbey” blend. Price: £3.75 for 25 grams (doesn’t come with charcoal).
Esteban sell a variety of incense sticks specifically designed as home fragrances. It’s a luxury item, a tad on the pricey side, but perfect if you’re looking for something that’s soft and isn’t going to overpower your room.
Some people prefer to let the sticks sit (as opposed to burning them). These are well-suited to both functions.
This particular product is spicy and woody. Price $15 for 40 sticks.
Morning Star are welll-known for making softer-smelling products (Japanese incense on the whole is gentler). This is a light and refreshing incense. The sticks are a little shorter (around half an hour burning time) but you get 50 for only $5. Another benefit is that the smoke given off isn’t too thick.
If you’re going for a smell that isn’t too over-powering you might also want to try the Green Tea and Lavender variety. Price: $5 for a box of fifty.
Rope incense is made by placing plant material into rice paper and then twisting it to make a “rope.” You can burn it either on a bed of ash or using an incense rope burner (which you can pick up quite cheaply).
There tends to be less ingredients used in making rope incense and you’re more likely to have an original product that’s made in the east (Tibet or Nepal). Price: $7.99 for 30.