How to choose your incense?
Definition of incense
Extract from Wikipedia
The word incense refers to a material that is burned as a sacrifice, an offering. From time immemorial, societies have used incense, whether in religious rites, to purify liturgical places such as the church or during private prayer. The art of incense has long been considered sacred and its origins go back a long way:
- from ancient Egypt where it was used in the process of mummification;
- in China and India where doctors used the psycho-somatic effects of the subtle fragrances of incense to relieve and heal;
- in ancient Greece and in the Christian churches, incense was used in many rituals and prayers.
Incense was mainly in the form of a powder and was considered a luxury product. It was only much later that its stick form was created, and only very recently that it entered the everyday life of Westerners.
The various shaped versions of these "burning perfumes" include: sticks, cones, pellets, cords, spirals and pressed incense.
Sticks, cones and pressed incense are made from aromatic powders, sometimes reinforced with scented oils such as champa, water and a powder that facilitates combustion such as taboo, coal or saltpetre. The resulting mixture can be rolled around a bamboo stick (Indian incense), extruded into a stick (Japanese incense or senkoh), moulded into a cone shape or various other shapes. These versions can be used by simply lighting the end of the stick or cone and allowing the material to burn without flame. The quantity of smoke released varies greatly: from very abundant for Indian incense to absent for Japanese incense, without smoke.
Like any product resulting from combustion, incense generates certain gaseous pollutants, such as carbon monoxide (CO), nitrogen oxides (NOx), sulphur oxides (SOx), volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and absorbed toxic pollutants (polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and toxic metals).
It should be noted that the emission rate decreases in the row : Indian sandalwood> Japanese aloe wood> Taiwanese aloe wood> Smokeless sandalwood. The better the quality of the incense, the less polluting the smoke will be.
As in all things, let's use common sense.
In order to limit the risks of indoor pollution, let's air every day for at least 15 minutes all the rooms that have a window, without exception. Whether we burn incense or not!
The various origins of incense
OriginIndian incense has been used for medicinal purposes as well as to honour religious rituals for thousands of years. Indian incense has a very long history, finding mention as early as 5000 BC, when Vedic literature highlighted the importance of incense. Indian incense is known for its rich tradition, and was a precursor in establishing its preciousness very early in human history.
Initially, Indian incense was used to mask smells and create pleasant fragrant atmospheres. It was the Ayurvedic priest-physicians who played a key role in its perenniality by establishing a structured and organized procedure for making Indian incense. Indeed, it is the Ayurvedic medical system that provided the basis for the method of making Indian incense? And it is this same tradition that is still in force today.
Indian incense can be divided into two main categories, masala and charcoal.
Masala Indian incenseThe Indian incenses of the masala group are made from dry ingredients in order to preserve their quality over time. They are made by mixing several solid and highly fragrant ingredients into a paste which is then rolled around a stick.
Masala incense is often sub-divided into 3 categories:
- Durbar Indian incense: normally sweet and spicy. The sticks burn very slowly and produce very complex and exotic fragrances. Durbars contain solid and liquid fragrances mixed in a binder that does not quite dry out, making the incense rather soft to the touch.
- Champas Indian Incense: contains halmaddi, which is a resin from the Ailanthus Malabarica tree native to India. The Nag Champa incense is probably the most famous Indian incense of the Champa group. Nag Champa incense is made from high quality resins and natural sandalwood oil from Mysore, and produces a sweet and earthy fragrance that is perfect for creating a sacred and meditative state and for stimulating spiritual work.
- Dhoop Indian incense is not rolled into a stick shape and has a very concentrated fragrance. This type of Indian incense is shaped like tiny logs and has a rather gummy consistency. It burns for a long time and produces extremely powerful fragrances and a lot of smoke.
Charcoal Indian incense
The Indian incense known as charcoal Indian incense is made by dipping unscented sticks in a mixture of essential oils and fragrances. The sticks are made from binding resins, such as sandalwood, which are used to hold the ingredients together. These Indian incenses are usually black and generally lose their strength over time due to the large amounts of liquid fragrance used in their creation.
This Indian incense is usually very strong, spicy and sweet in nature, and you will be surprised at how quickly it will perfume a room, or an entire house, with its rich and earthy aromas.
How to choose your Indian incense?
If you are not sure what type of Indian incense you are looking for, you can try one of our Ayurvedic incenses.
It is important to keep in mind that most Indian incense is very strongly scented and is therefore not intended for sensitive hearts. If you prefer incense with a mild and light scent, then it would be best to explore our wide variety of Japanese incense. If you are looking for even stronger fragrances, but perhaps not as sweet as Indian incense, then you may want to explore some of our Tibetan or Nepalese incenses.
Tibetan incense is a material burned as a sacrifice or offering. Our Tibetan incense is of very good quality and is made in India and Nepal by the Tibetan communities themselves. Products such as high quality Tibetan incense are made exclusively from plants, resins and natural products.
Tibetan society has always used incense, whether in religious rites, to purify liturgical places such as temples or during private prayers. The art of incense, whether Tibetan or otherwise, has long been considered sacred and its origins go back several millennia.
the-dharma-store.com offers you a wide range of Tibetan incense made only with 100% natural products and elaborated in a traditional way.
History of Tibetan incense
In Tibet, for many centuries, incense has been part of daily life. Widely used for relaxation, meditation and purification of the domestic environment, it has an aroma that often helps to calm and soothe restless minds. Incense is also widely used in Buddhist temples and monasteries.
What is Tibetan incense?
Made from natural ingredients, without harmful and carcinogenic glues, there are hundreds of different types of incense that have been used by monks and others for centuries. Compared to incense from other places in the world, Tibetan incense is unique. It is handmade, using only herbs, spices and flowers, and does not contain a central bamboo stem to hold it together.
How traditional Tibetan incense is made
Tibetan incense is composed of different types of herbs, spices and flowers and can contain up to 28 different ingredients. The main ingredient of Tibetan incense is wood. The wood is cut into small pieces and then ground into a very fine powder. The other ingredients are then added and the mixture is placed in a container and left to dry.
Ingredients of Tibetan incense
The main ingredients of most incense are: sandalwood, agarwood, pine or cedar; myrrh, amber, incense, snow lotus grass, hibiscus, saffron, red pine, cloves, etc. Incense always contains an essence of wood and many other ingredients. When the mixture is blended, it is extruded into thin strips by hand - traditionally a bull's horn with a hole in it is used - and left to dry in the open air.
Types of incense
Types of incense sticks
Incense stick with bamboo stems
Although this type of incense can be quite pleasant, it is also the most common type sold in large shopping centres. Most of these incense sticks found in a remote corner of the store have one main flaw: they are often of poor quality because the bamboo stems are often soaked in synthetic fragrance, and they often burn poorly or unevenly.
Nevertheless, in specialized shops, you can find high quality Indian stick incense that contains this famous bamboo stick, or even a sandalwood base in the case of very high quality stick incense.
Solid incense sticks (without bamboo stem)
Stick incense in cylinder form is made exclusively from natural materials reduced to powder and assembled into a cylinder ranging from the size of a pencil to the thickness of a toothpick. Stick incense of this type offers the best combustion, the most uniform and the most easily regulated spread of fragrance.
Solid stick incense is also easy to light and can be made in any length.
Basic component for stick incense
The stick is traditionally made of bamboo but for the most popular varieties it can be made of cedar, sandalwood, juniper, pine or other.
The herbs can be very varied as for Tibetan incense sticks but we often find lemongrass, sage, thyme, rosemary, patchouli, lavender, hibiscus, jasmine, etc..
If a resin is used in the composition of the incense, it can come from natural resins such as myrrh, copal, amber, olibanum or benzoin.
Method of making incense sticks
- The ingredients: the better the quality, the better the incense.
- The components are reduced to powder: all the ingredients that have been dried beforehand are reduced to dust traditionally using a mortar and pestle.
- The ingredients are mixed together for the first time.
- The binder is added to the mixture: it can be makko powder or various forms of resin.
- Water is added and the mixture is kneaded to obtain a ball of dough like a bread dough for Indian incense sticks. For Tibetan incense sticks, the consistency will be more liquid. Tibetans usually use a pierced horn in order to let a line of incense flow on a drying support. This line forms the stick.
- Pieces of pasta are cut, refined and then wrapped around the bamboo stick.
- The incense is left to dry for a few days.
Incense burners/ censers
A censer or incense burner is a container designed to burn incense or perfume in a solid form.
Incense burners are an ancient tradition and vary considerably in size, shape and material depending on the context of their use and the product to be consumed. They may consist of simple clay bowls, wooden plates, metalwork or finely carved ornaments. In many cultures, burning incense has a spiritual connotation, influencing the design and decoration of the incense burner.