Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Incense

Incense, that beautiful room scenting aroma. Whether you use it for ritual, cleansing or to just scent your home, it has many uses and comes in many forms. In Today’s post we will explore the many forms available. In the coming few weeks we will explore the uses of different specific scents.

Let’s start with an explanation of what incense is.

In general, it is a material whether natural or synthetic, that creates a scented smoke when burned. The word itself is derived from the Latin “incendere”, which means “burn”. It’s use dates back to ancient Egypt where it was used for religious and funerary purposes as well as offerings to the Gods and to keep demons away.

There are two main categories of incense; direct and indirect burning. Direct burning is lit directly. These are usually in the form of cones, sticks and blocks. Indirect burning needs a secondary heat source such as a candle or charcoal. These take the forms of loose herbs, powders or resins.

Each of the two types of incense comes in many different forms.

Sticksincense stick

The most common of stick incenses are the ones with the bamboo stick core with the material wrapped around it. These are generally scented with essential oils or a fragrance oil. Sometimes you may find handmade ones that are created from a paste of the actual plant or resin material that has been powdered. Some sticks are made with a wood core, these are called Agarbatti.

Joss sticks look almost the same as the common stick incense, except that they do not have a bamboo core. These can also take the form of cylinder sticks such as dhoop and simpoi, that are also made from a paste of the actual resin or plant materials.

Durbar sticks are made of liquid and solid natural ingredients and create a soft stick that smells sweet and spicy.

incense coneCones

Cones are another commonly seen form of incense. They are made from a combination of essential oils and powdered materials, both natural and synthetic. Cones should only be burned in proper heat proof containers that will catch the ash.

Coil/Spiralincense coil

Coils are made similar to sticks without a core, just in a spiral form. This form of incense burns much longer. A coil with a four inch diameter can burn up to 24 hrs.


This is any incense material that has been made into a powder. This type is generally burned on a charcoal disk on salt or sand in a heat proof container.

Kneaded Incense

A Japanese incense generally used in tea ceremonies. It is formed into a dough and kneaded, then left to set for up to five years. It has a sweet and cream scent, and is burned on a charcoal disk.


Created with a dough made of base ingredients and pressed into molds. In-koh is burned on charcoal disks.


Loose incense is made from roughly ground plant materials and often includes resins. This is burned on charcoal disks.


Resin is hardened tree/plant sap. This type of incense has been used for thousands of years and is most common in religious ceremonies and for the medicinal properties they are thought to have.

This is just the basics of incense forms. It seems many ancient cultures had their own forms and uses. Today some of those traditions carry on, have evolved and new ones adopted. Regardless of your reasons for using incense, or what forms or scents are your favourites, incense continues to be a very popular addition to many homes.

We would love to hear your thoughts on incense. What is your favourite kind and what do you use it for?

0 Replies on “Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Incense

  1. Neato! I had no idea incense were so diverse. My experience is mostly with ojibwe smudging and stick incense as a Cover for my teenage weed habit
    Scent hallucinations intrigue me and I wonder if this divine experience is what our incense are trying to mimic…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.*

Follow by Email