What is Incense?
Incense is a combination of aromatic plant material and essential oils. When it is burned it releases a fragrant smoke. The word incense derives from the Latin incendere which means "to burn," although "incense" means the material itself and not the smoke it produces.
A Short History
The practice of burning incense has been in use for millenniums; first by ancient civilizations like Egypt and India, then later by China and Japan:
- The Ancient Egyptians used it to worship their gods and for medicinal purposes as far back as 1500 BCE. Kapet was a popular incense, used to treat snake bites, bad breath and asthma.
- In India it became a sacred art, where it was discovered that combining the fragrances (known as masala) created soothing aromas for meditation, to ward off illness and to create a happy and harmonious environment.
- The Chinese burned incense for ancestor veneration, religious ceremonies and medicinal uses often in a vessel called a censer.
- Buddhist monks brought incense to Japan in the sixth century. Incense appreciation, known as kodo (koh doh) in Japan, includes games and ceremonies and is considered a fine art. In Japan, burning incense is used to send prayers to heaven, for religious ceremonies and sacred places, and for purity.
Forms of Incense
Incense comes in the form of sticks, cones, coils, rope or string incense, and even a powdered form. The type of incense you choose to burn depends on the size of the room you're burning incense in and the intensity of fragrance you're looking for.
- Cones have a more intense aroma, so can be used in larger rooms.
- Coils burn longer and thus release their scent more steadily.
- Sticks release a milder fragrance.
How To Burn Incense
Burning incense requires an incense holder or plate to catch the ash. Light the stick, cone, coil or string and blow out the flame; this produces smoke which releases the fragrance.
10 Common Incense Scents
Depending on the culture and use, burning incense has varying benefits. Here are some of the most common uses.
- Cinnamon: used to attract power and wealth, also for lust.
- Eucalyptus: the smoke has antiseptic qualities and is used for respiratory ailments.
- Frankincense: used since Biblical times for healing and ritual, frankincense is good as a sleep aid, and as a mood enhancer. The sweet, earthy aroma is great for meditation and even indigestion.
- Jasmine: helps to balance hormones, stimulate sexual activity and is associated with inner peace, health and good fortune.
- Lavender: besides its pleasant scent, lavender induces relaxation, peace and sleep, and can be used as an insect repellent.
- Lotus: opens the mind's eye and aids in healing.
- Myrrh: used since Biblical times, represents the feminine and healing powers. Myrrh is known for blocking the energies of the external, allowing the internal to heal.
- Rose: creates balance and focus, thus allowing you to meditate on a deeper level.
- Sandalwood: a woody aroma used for thousands of years by the Buddhists, sandalwood is known for its ability to treat anxiety and depression, for its sedative effect and opening of the third eye.
- Vanilla: relieves depression, stimulates mental alertness, enhances memory.
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