The use of incense dates back
thousands of years. Nearly every religion in the world has used the smoke from
incense to worship its Gods and send man's prayers, whether a king or a commoner,
Smell is the most powerful
and primitive of our senses. A scent can instantly transport one to a time and
place in his or her memory. Incense can be used to raise the spiritual
vibrations of an area and to open the portals to physic states and
In addition to the familiar
stick and cone incense, there are other types of traditional incenses including
dhoops, resins, woods, plant materials, and "loose" blends that combine two or
more of these natural materials.
Dhoop incenses are often gummy
(though not always) log types of incense. The ingredients (ground herbs,
spices, and powdered woods such as sandalwood) are held together with gums or
gummy resins or ghee (milk fat) and do not have a stick to hold them in a
burner. They are best burned on a bed of sand in an appropriate burner.
Resins incense is usually hard, brittle, odorless (until
burned) and tasteless and is obtained either as fossil (such as amber), as a distillation
product of oleoresins (sticky, semi-solids that contain essential oils), or as
gum resins that contain gums or tree saps. Some classic examples of resin
incense include dragon's blood, copal, frankincense, myrrh, and benzoin.
Wood incenses are pieces of an actual plant or tree. Although
usually available as chips or pieces, some woods are also ground to a fine
powder. They include sandalwood, aloeswood, red sandalwood and cedarwood.
Grasses, leaves and flowers are pieces of a plant that can
be used for or in incense. Some examples include white and desert sage, sweetgrass,
eucalyptus, lavender, lemongrass and patchouli herb.
Stick and cone incense are the easiest to use but are often
made by soaking a "punk" or a powdered wood base with perfume oil. Those made with cheap, synthetic oils can often cause headaches. Higher
quality products or natural ingredients seldom cause this type of headache. To
use either stick or cone incense, light the tip and allow the incense to burn
for a moment. Gently blow out the flame. The tip should continue to glow (be
careful, it is very hot) and smoke should rise from the tip. Should you need
to extinguish the incense, push the glowing end into a bed of sand until it
goes out. You may then relight the incense at a later time.
Dhoop is burned in much the same way as sticks or cones by
lighting the end and gently blowing out the flame a moment later. For the gummy
types we recommend burning a small piece at a time which is easily done by pinching
a piece off the larger "log".
To use resin, "loose" or wood incenses you will
need a proper, safe incense burner (brass, stone, or ceramic) with about
2" of sand in the bottom, charcoal (the quick-starting type for incense
burning), and a small piece of aluminum foil. Place the charcoal on the sand,
light the edge, and let it ignite (It will spark so be sure to keep it away
from flammable materials). You may need to blow gently on the charcoal to get
the entire coal started. It is very hot, so do not touch it. Let the charcoal
burn until it is glowing across its surface (or until surface is coated with
grey-white ash, about 6 to 10 minutes). Place a piece of aluminum foil about
the size of a half-dollar on top of it, but don't cover the entire surface of
the charcoal (it needs room for air circulation at the top). Place your resin
or wood incense on the foil and let it heat to give off its scent. You will
only need a few small grains at a time. The resin can be placed directly on
the charcoal, but this will cause the incense to burn faster and give off a harsher
scent. We always encourage the use of foil with woods otherwise they will burn
off quickly leaving very little time to enjoy the scent.