What is incense?

Incense is a biological material that produces a pleasantly fragrant smoke when burned. Essential oils and plant based materials are used in the making of the incense. It is used for a few things to create an ambiance, produces a pleasant aroma, used for meditation and aromatherapy.

The word incense comes from the latin word incendere, which means burn. The use of incense dates back to ancient egypt , where priests used it for fumigation of tombs and funerals. Eygptians also used incense to keep demons away, and as a offering to their gods durning different rituals.

There are two main types of incense which are.

  • Indirect burning
  • Direct durning

Indirect burning incence is essentially loose resin that requires a separate source of heat constantly to keep it burning. This way is mostly used in contemporary settings.

Direct burning incense is lit once and blown out once it is glowing. It slowly burns releasing the fragrant smoke. These direct burning incense are formed in either sticks, cones, locks, or any other form that a stick can support. Incense comes in:

  • Sticks
  • Cones
  • Backflow cones
  • Coils
  • Powers & Resins

Incense sticks are a part of the traditions of many countries like China, Japan, Tibet, and India. Each region has its own recipe and crafting method.

Here are some types of incense you may find they are made differently with a few different products. Incense with bamboo core thses are the most common, it includes a central bamboo core with paste of incense material wrapped around it.

Cylinder incense sticks do not contain a bamboo core. They are made directly from dried paste. Some examples of this type of incense are simpoi and dhoop.

Joss sticks do not have a single definition, it is a term that originated in china it describes objects that have a religious nature, however, nowadays joss is used to refer to incense sticks, joss sticks are used in different traditions.

Hand dipped incense sticks as the name indicates are made using the hand dipped method. These are made by dipping either bamboo sticks or masala stick into come fragrant oil which can be either synthetic or natural. Most prefer natural fragrance

Dhoop incense sticks are common in india and tibet, these are soild incense that are available in many different sizes

Agarbatti – is one of the most common types of incense that is used in indian culture. The word agarbatti has been devided from two words – agar which comes from agarwood or aloeswood, and batti which means sticks. Agarbatti is made with a wooden core.

Masala sticks comes froms south india, where many kinds of wood, herbs, flowers, resins, gums , oils and other ingredients that are blended to form a paste thst is spead onto the surface of a bamboo core and dried.

Durbar sticks are very similar to masala sticks although the blend of materials used to make them is different. They are made mainly with liquids ingredients such as perfumes. They tend to smell sweet and spicy.

Champa incense are named because their fragrance is similar to that of the champa flower. Champa incense consists of natural ingredience, halmaddi – which is only found in india and some unique flowers, like nagkeshar and magnolia.

Simpoi sticks are thicker than other incense stricks – they are hand rolled, tibetan variety of incense stick.

Senko sticks so not contain a wooden or bamboo core. Other names that senko is known by include senkou, senkoo and sen-koh. Senko can be used to desribe any type of incense, either sticks or incense blend in japan.

Fluxo incense is quite popular in india but it ,may not suit well to the western palette. It contains a complex amd rich blend of scent along with a number of additional ingredients. The scent varies with all the ingredients used, the fragrance in fluxo is pungent.

Cone incenses are made from essential oils and powders. They release a aroma that enhances the scent of the entire room, which is great for meditiation and yoga practise.

Cone incense should be kept ina  suitable incense burner that can catch any ash thats falls while burning. The burner should be kept on a nonflammable surfaceand away from anything that could catch fire. How to light a cone – burn the tip of the coneand either blow the flame out or fan it ou. You will see a spiral of smoke rising from the tip of the cone, which indicates that the cone is now burning – occasonally it may require to be re-lit.

Coil incense are made from incense materials, thry are known as incense spirals. They are considered to be modified versions of the incense sticks. Coil incense do not contain a wooden or bamboo core in the centre instead of it being shaped into a stick the material is shaped to form a spiral.

The best thing about coil incense in that unlike the incense sticks coils can be made longer so it will increase burning time.

Backflow cones. These cones are different not with by what they are made from but how they are made and how they burn. These cones are made with a hole in the middle so when they burn they smoke burns down instead of up like most incense. This requires a different type of incence cone holder. It needs a stand that also has a hole in where the cone would sit for the smoke to travel downwards making it look like a waterfall but with smoke.

Powder incense are powdered incnese materials – they contain materials only, powder incense is added to an ignited charcoal disc in a fireproof bowl. The powder burns with the ignited charcoal and gives off a aroma.

Here is a list and decriptions of some aromas from powder incense.


Amber  corresponds to fire and air – it is used for truth – seeking and wisdom


Sandalwood is said to heal and consecreate. It helps in removing negative energy and brings about peace.


Frankincense is one of the most popular incnese fragrances. The attributes include riches, power, and purification. It also helps in balancing solar energy with healing myrrh.


Patchouil has a earthy aroma. Its attributes are attraction, money, and sex


Cinnamon incenses are used to bring feelings of personal protection and power.

Citrus (lemon)

Lemon incence is perfect for ectra energy, it is used to bring brightness it produces a burst of good luck and confidence.


Coconut is associated with the practice of chasity.

Dragon’s blood                                                                                                                                                                            

Dragon’s blood is a perfect balance between esrthy, sweet, and spicy. It is used to bring about the power to almost any working space.

Every incense material has a unique and characteristic fragrance. Different types of incense promotes different effects with different types of incense means you can experiment all you want there is a aroma for everyone. Happy searching for the perfect smelling incense for you J

Written by Sharron Kettle, Happy Buddha Poole