Many people by incense simply because they like the smell. For others it has a far deeper significance. The burning of incense has a long history of use in religious, mystical and occult ceremonies as well as for assistance in meditation.

As always when dealing with flame or burning substances, be extremely careful. Safety first!

What Is Incense?

Incense is essentially just an extract of fragrant plant materials intended to be burnt to release the smell. Many preparations are pure "single source" however some include multiple plant extracts and/or the addition of essential oils.

At its simplest, the definition of incense is just this preparation. It won't burn directly but is intended to be sprinkled over a flame or placed in a special burner such as a censer or thurible.

The more common form of incense available to buy in our Western stores is direct burning. Here the incense powder is combined with other materials such as charcoal to form a compound that when lit will smoulder slowly and release the perfume. The most common varieties are stick and cone incense. They are often used in conjunction with a special incense holder. You can also buy dhoop incense - "dhoop" is a highly compressed fragrant cylinder without a central core.

The significance and symbolism of different fragrances varies acccording to culture and tradition. The best incense depends on the purpose, your personal beliefs and ultimately taste.

For those who like the aroma but not the smokiness you can buy low smoke incense made with special charcoal.

Types of Incense

There are many, many varieties of incence on the market. Many of these will be familiar to most people (cedar, pine, sandalwood etc). Over recent years more exotic fragrances have become easier to buy and hence more popular.

Natural incense is usually a straw or brown colour, however you can also buy sticks that have been coloured.

Nag Champa

One of the most popular incenses is Nag Champa. The champas are based on halmaddi from the Alianthus tree. Nag Champa has a sandalwood smell and a "wet" feeling. The most well known brand is probably Satya Sai Baba Nag Champa from Shrinivas Sugandhalaya.

Dragon's Blood

Another exotic sounding incense is Dragon's Blood. Dracophiles need not fear - no dragons are harmed in the making of this product! "Dragon's Blood" is the romantic name for a red resin material obtained from plants, usually of the Dracaena genus.


There are a huge number of incence brands available to buy today. Well known names you're likely to find in the stores include :

  • India
    • Padmini
  • Japan
    • Nippon Kodo Morning Star
    • Shoyeido
  • USA
Each country and brand has its own fans who will argue it's the best on the market!