The Ultimate Guide to Incense SticksJanuary 2023
From scenting your home to reducing anxiety and its use in ceremony, the ancient aromatic material of incense holds rich, cultural significance, along with many remarkable benefits that are valuable to contemporary living. If you want to know more about what incense is good for, we are here to take you on a guide through its history, material, and best uses.
What are incense sticks?
Incense sticks are aromatic biotic material (combustible material coated in aromatic essential oils) that allow fragrant smoke to fill a room when burned. You can choose incense for simple scent pleasure, or seek out specific incense scents that can aid meditative practice and relaxation.
How to Use Incense Sticks
In order to release the fragrance of the incense stick, you simply light the stick and place it in an incense stick holder to keep it away from surfaces. Gently blowing out the flame when lit, encourages the stick to produce glowing ash-like embers that release the soothing scent.
Where did incense originate?
The history of incense dates back to ancient times, and the burning of incense has long been connected with spiritual practice and religion. The word ‘Incense’ derives from the Latin verb ‘incendere’ meaning ‘to burn’, and since the invention of fire, there is evidence that people would burn natural materials such as barks, berries and resins to release their pleasant aroma, with more sophisticated evidence used in Ancient Egypt, later spreading to Greece and Rome. Frankincense was popular with the Egyptians who would burn incense as a religious offering during worship as well as protection for the deceased. Because of these ancient uses, spirituality, peace and ritualism have remained intrinsic to burning incense.
What are incense sticks used for?
Although still used for spiritual practice in many cultures, the peaceful connotations and influence of incense sticks have been adopted by the western world to create a calming atmosphere and a relaxing environment at home. Smell is one of the most powerful of all the senses and has the ability to alter emotions and perceptions in seconds. For this reason, burning incense is a simple but powerful way to enhance the surroundings.
Incense may also be used whilst practicing yoga and meditation, as the incense aromas provide help with relaxation and focus. The clever fragrance is able to create a sense of comfort and homeliness within minutes. An ideal way to ease yourself into the ritual of burning incense is with a starter kit. Traditional incense scents like Frankincense and Myrrh are perfect for those who haven’t experienced incense before, as burning them reveals exotic scents that have been enjoyed by many cultures for thousands of years.
What is incense made of?
Incense is a substance, often made from natural material (which would indicate better quality), that is burned for the purpose of the scent it produces. Depending on the desired scent, the plant-based material can come from resins, barks, seeds, flowers, roots, leaves and spices. Different cultures developed various forms but the most common way to make incense involves coating a thin bamboo stick with combustible paste made from coal, fibres of bamboo and binding agent, which is then either rolled in the ground up scent material or infused in the extracted essential oil, which is the method we use. You can smell the perfume of an incense stick when burned because heat gives energy to the aromatic molecules, allowing them to move rapidly through the air, filling the space so that they reach your nose.
Types of Incense Sticks
Incense sticks and incense cones are the two most common forms of incense, each with their own properties. Here is some information on the different kinds of incense.
Incense Stick with Bamboo
The incense stick as we know it has been used in many ancient cultures, such as India and Egypt, for decades. The type we produce at Czech & Speake has its origins in China. This form of incense consists of a thin stick made from bamboo, coated in scent infused material. This would be our recommended choice as the even thickness of the material allows the aroma to be released gradually over an extended period.
The incense cone has no supporting centre, instead the fragrant material is pressed into a small cone shape so that it can sit upright. The dense area of fragrant material is good for producing a strong scent, although it doesn’t last as long as a stick.
Japanese incense is similar to the classic incense stick, except it has no bamboo centre. This means it needs to be held in a bowl filled with sand, or a heat resistant dish, to safely put out the embers when it reaches the end of burning. Removing the bamboo core makes the aroma much subtler.
Coil incense is a more unusual style, made by pressing the aromatic material into a flat, coil shape. It has no supporting core as it simply lies flat on sand or a specially designed heat proof dish. The coil shape provides more area for the incense to burn and for a longer duration, which means this type of incense is best for outdoor use or in large, ventilated spaces.
There are many good reasons to burn incense which is why the tradition has been around for so long. Fragrance has the remarkable power to stimulate the mind and trigger positive responses, with specific essential oils used for certain purposes. Discover the benefits day-to-day, uses for special occasions and spiritual benefits.
Relaxation is the most simple way to enjoy incense in your own home, both alone or among company. Frankincense incense in particular has been discovered to alleviate anxiety and depression, to help you feel soothed after a long day.
Incense is good for meditation as the burning scent heightens your senses and deepens attention, to allow you to practice the ritual with a focused and positive piece of mind. Its calming properties also help the body to relax into the practice.
Alternatively for a more lively affair, you can choose deep, exotic incense stick smells to set the atmosphere or mood for an event or an evening of entertainment. You could choose sensuous sandalwood or romantic rose…
Traditional Incense Scents
Below is a list of some of the most classic incense stick scents and their meaning.
Frankincense is an aromatic resin taken from the Boswellia tree, its smell is earthy, herbaceous, woody and citrusy – it can be compared to the scent of rosemary. The frankincense scent has deep connections with incense history, with great benefits to the psyche. Scientific research has shown that burning frankincense reduces anxiety through awakening brain pathways. Czech & Speake paired frankincense with its iconic partner, myrrh, in our Frankincense & Myrrh Incense Sticks.
Floral incense sticks capture the natural aroma of flowers by using their extracted essential oils. Traditional scents include rose, lavender and jasmine. Lavender is known for its relaxing properties that aid sleep, which could be useful to burn when winding down in the evening. Alternatively the smell of rose is romantic and sensuous, which would be good for burning to set an atmosphere. Our Dark Rose incense sticks combine the rose scent with spices such as saffron, to create evocative and indulgent surroundings.
Sandalwood is another classic incense scent. It comes from an evergreen tree under the class of genus Santalum, native to India and Indonesia. Its aroma is exotic, deep and woody, often described as creamy, with sweet accents. Sandalwood is a highly traditional incense scent; in ancient times, the wood chips would have been burnt directly for their warming, fragrant scent for their cleansing benefits. As sandalwood burns so well in incense, it appears in most of our incense stick scent formulas. Discover No.88 Incense Sticks, Frankincense & Myrrh Incense Sticks, Perfecto Fino Incense Sticks and Spanish Cedar Incense Sticks.
Citrus based incense uses the essential oils from citrus fruits offering a clean smelling incense option. Lemon and orange are common fragrances, with bright, fresh aromas that inspire positivity. Lemon incense is energising, and can help you to feel motivated, while orange blossom is a traditional Chinese incense scent used for happiness in marriage.
Cinnamon is a common spicy incense scent which is both zingy and soft with notes of spice, vanilla and fruit. Particularly popular in the cold winter months, the smell of cinnamon provides comfort and warmth. The spicy nature of the scent can stimulate the brain which is great for productivity, and it usefully acts as a natural insect repellent.
Scentscaping with Incense
Consider the best time to burn incense, how often and in the best spaces for certain scents.
The Best Time to Burn Incense
The best time to burn incense depends on what works best for your lifestyle. The scent you choose can also fit the mood of different points in the day. It works well to burn incense in the evening, as you have time to relax and allow the soothing aroma to have positive effects on your mind and body. Choose sleepy lavender, or comforting woody or spicy incense to lull you into a calm head space before bed. Alternatively, if you like to give time to your morning ritual, burning an invigorating scent such as lemon, can help you wake up and feel optimistic for the day ahead.
Where to Burn Incense
Scentscaping has become a popular trend in recent years, in which specific scents are chosen for particular rooms of your home. Consider the purpose of each space when choosing incense. For example, try burning lemon incense in the kitchen or bathroom for a clean aroma, or rose incense in the bedroom for its nurturing and sensual properties.
How Many Times a Day Should I Burn Incense?
Incense sticks generally burn for about an hour, but the scent tends to linger in a room for a few hours afterwards. Burning 1-2 incense sticks a day in one space should be plenty, however if you choose to use different scents for different rooms, you may wish to burn more.
Incense by Czech & Speake
At Czech & Speake, we have been producing incense authentically with only natural materials for 30 years, to ensure the best quality. We also offer a fine bone china incense stick holder if you wish to indulge further…
What is the best incense scent?
With so many incense scents to choose from, it’s not possible to pick the ‘best’ scent. This will, of course, depend on personal preference, and often each home space and mood will suit a different scent. But if we must choose…No.88 incense is our best seller.
No.88 Incense Sticks
No.88 is an iconic fragrance and our signature scent. The first and most complex in the niche Czech & Speake Aromatics Collection, No.88 has a fresh, woody top note of reviving and uplifting bergamot, the richness and warmth of geranium, rose otto, cassie and exotic frangipani. Combined with dry base notes of vetiver and sandalwood, this modern classic has a full-bodied, sophisticated sensuality.
Dark Rose Incense Sticks
A Dark Rose scented incense stick offers a rich and intense smell that fills any room. The spicy note of saffron is combined with an elegant bouquet of Rose of Taif, making this a beautiful fragrance that is blended with agar wood, sandalwood and rose to create an indulgent, mysterious fragrance.
Spanish Cedar Incense Sticks
Spanish Cedar incense sticks are new to the range. These scented sticks offer a warm and sensuous aroma capturing the exoticism of woody and smoky notes perfectly balanced with citrus and piquant notes, including resinous cedarwood, blackberry and spicy clove.
Perfecto Fino Incense Sticks
Perfecto Fino incense is another new addition. Tantalising citric top notes of lemon and bergamot develops into complex middle notes of cinnamon, grass and clove. Intense, woody base notes of sandalwood, patchouli, and amber complete this powerful aroma.
Frankincense & Myrrh Giant Incense Sticks
With notes of orange basil, myrrh and pimento leaf, these incense sticks offer an exotic fragrance. The giant sticks are suited to being burnt outside, or in large rooms with good ventilation, making them perfect for summer gatherings or parties. Each of the 12 sticks will burn for approximately 2 hours, leaving a lasting aroma.
Porcelain Incense Dish
To hold your bamboo incense stick, our elegant, timeless porcelain dish is branded with a metallic punctured disk in a choice of gold or silver. The dish was designed to cross over with the ceramic pieces in Czech & Speake’s luxurious bathroom business, with a style that is classic in concept yet minimalist in design.