November 21, 2019


A question we hear often is what is incense and how do I use it? It is a common question because although many people have heard the word, not many have seen incense. Even less people have used incense in their home. Quite simply, incense is a home fragrance product that you burn to release fragrance. The most common form of incense is incense sticks.

Incense sticks are thin cores of bamboo that are rolled in a resign. This resin contains a collection of woods, spices, and herbs to produce a desired fragrance. Sometimes this resin is dipped in fragrance oils to reinforce the scent profile. Dried for 24 hours, the final stick can be burned on the resin side for around 30 minutes, depending on the size. The great thing about incense is when the resin is finished, the incense will extinguish itself.  

Quite simply, incense is a home fragrance product that you burn to release fragrance.

Where Incense Does it Come From

Most incense found in the UK comes from either China or India. While the Chinese are credited with first using incense over 4,000 years ago. There is evidence that peoples from India and Egypt were using incense over 5,000 years ago. There are also recordings of people using it in other Ancient civilizations, including Assyria, Babylon and Persia.

While the exact origin of incense is debated, its usage is always the same. It was originally used in healing, rituals, and ceremonies. Each time incense was used by burning natural ingredients for their fragrance. In its purest form, incense is a collection of herbs, spices, and other natural ingredients to produce a desired fragrance. Some fragrances are simple such as Sage, Patchouli, or Lemon. Others are a blend of ingredients to produce unique fragrances. Many people believe that incense can have effects such as relaxation, energizing, or motivation on people who smell them.

What Types Are There

There are many types of incense and not all work the same way. Incense Sticks and Cones are the most common in the UK and US. Cone incense contain no bamboo core and only the fragranced resign that is formed into a cone shape. Other types include rope incense, where the rope is infused with fragrance that is released during burning. Resign incense, is roughly shaped stones of resin that are burned similar to cones.  Backflow, is becoming more and more popular as I resembles cone incense but the smoke released flows down rather than up into the air. Finally, there are smudge sticks. These are usually a collection of natural herbs, spices, or woods that are wrapped tightly and burned.

Each style of incense is slightly different and has its own fans. They are all burned and so all require the correct dish or stand to burn them in for safety. You should always check with the seller to identify the safest way to burn your chosen incense. They should also provide the dishes or stands for sale. There are also videos on youtube that can help you.  

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What are the Benefits

This is where things get tricky. There are no scientific benefits to burning incense. Some studies have suggested that ingredients used in incense could have health benefits. These studies did not include the incense themselves. There is however are large and supportive community of users who promote other benefits of incense.

The benefits that most people refer to are mindful benefits. Different incense fragrances can have an impact on your mood and mindset. Such as lavender incense can be soothing and relaxing. Beyond the mindful benefits, there are also home life benefits. Burning incense is a cheap and effective way to remove odours from your home. They will work in your bathroom, living room, or bedroom. Lighting an incense stick and walking around your home with it, will leave an lingering fragrance that can last up to an hour.

What are the Risks

The risks of burning incense come in the burning. Like all items that require heat, there is a risk of heat damage or fire. It is recommended that you only light incense in a special dish designed for your incense. Incense sticks will require an Ash Catcher. A cone, resin, or rope incense will require a special dish. When it comes to lighting your incense, the video below is helpful

There have been reports in some British newspapers about potential health risks to burning incense. However, the NHS researched these reports and discovered that they were funded by Tobacco companies. The research compared smoking a cigarette to inhaling incense smoke like a cigarette. This is not how you should use incense. You should light a single incense stick in a room and ensure there is good ventilation. This will encourage the smoke to leave and fresh air to enter.

Where Can I Buy Incense

When it comes to buying incense, first think of the type of incense you want. If you want entry level sticks or cones, then you can find them right here. You can also visit your local head shop or aromatherapy store. Giftware shops are also a great location to find incense. Any of these shop types will have incense sticks and possibly cones for you to try.

If you are more experience or want to try a smudge stick or incense rope, then you will need to find a specialist or you can contact us about sourcing some great incense for you. We have a relationship with the biggest importer of incense into the UK and can find the right style and fragrance to match your needs.

About the Author

I'm the Chief Candle Maker here at Penseth Company. I also write guides and updates for the blog.

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