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. Whether you are new to incense or already burn it but want to know a bit more about it, we are here to take you on a guide through its history, material, and best uses.
Where did incense originate?
‘Incense’ derives from the Latin verb ‘incendere’ meaning ‘to burn’ and its use dates back to very early human existence. 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. The Egyptians would burn incense as a religious offering during worship as well as protection for the deceased. Frankincense resins were found to be particularly prominent in tombs. Because of these ancient uses, spirituality, peace and ritualism have remained intrinsic to burning incense.
How is incense made?
By definition, incense is a substance, often made from natural material, 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 construction 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 oils, which is the method we use.
Incense Stick – 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.
Incense Cone – The incense cone has no supporting centre, instead the fragrant material is pressed into a small cone shape. The dense area of fragrant material is good for producing strong scent, although it doesn’t last as long as a stick.
Japanese Incense – Japanese incense has a solid stick from but without a supporting centre. The aromatic material is pressed and fused into shape. These sticks release a refined, delicate aroma.
Tibetan Incense – Tibetan incense has the same structure as Japanese incense, but with a thicker, rougher construction, and the fragrant material used is generally more herbal and earthy.
There is a good reason why burning incense 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. Relaxation is a typical response that is ideal for your home space; Frankincense incense in particular has been discovered to alleviate anxiety and depression – our ancient Egyptian ancestors were onto something!
Incense is also great for meditation as the burning scent heightens your senses and deepens attention, to allow you to practice the ritual with a good piece of mind.
Alternatively for a more lively affair, you can choose deep, exotic scents to set the atmosphere or mood for an event or an evening of entertainment.
Where to buy incense
Incense can be bought from numerous independent retailers, online and instore, but it is important to look for natural ingredients, such as frankincense or rose, with the promise that the essential oils and resins used are pure. If you opt for a quality product from a trusted brand, you should be safe. Very cheap incense could be at risk of containing synthetic fragrances which are less pleasant and less healthy to burn. 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 holder if you wish to indulge further…