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The history and uses of incense

Sniff your way to a good day!

We love our incense here at Suzie K – there's nothing like it for lifting your mood, so here’s a little more about its manufacture, history and uses.

A range of Essence of Ceylon incense sticks available from Suzie K

What is incense?

Incense is any number and combinations of natural materials that give off an aromatic smoke when burned. This can often be plant materials such as dried petals, resins or leaves, sometimes combined with essential oils.

There are two main types of incense – direct burning and indirect burning. Direct burning incense is the type that you light, then blow out the flame to leave it smoking, such as dhoop cones or incense sticks, both of which are made from a paste formed into a cone shape or around a bamboo stick. Indirect burning incense will not light on its own and will need a separate heat source, such as when you burn frankincense resin on a charcoal tablet.

Incense sticks are also sometimes referred to as joss sticks, which are a type of incense stick traditionally burned at Chinese temples or in front of a home or business as an offering to a deity or spirit in the hope it will bring good fortune.


The history of incense

The word ‘incense’ comes from the Latin ‘incendere’ which means ‘to burn.’

Incense has been around for more than 6000 years, used in numerous different cultures, for many differing reasons.

The people of Ancient Egypt burned flowers and resins, for both ritual and practical reasons. The scented smoke was believed to not only please the gods, ward off demons and purify spaces, but it also covered up bad smells in buildings and repelled insects.

Incense was also used for religious reasons in ancient India, Greece, Rome, China and Japan. It was (and continues to be) an important Buddhist ceremonial component.

A range of smudging sticks and feathers

What is incense used for?

There are a multitude of uses for incense!

  • Covering up undesired smells – such as cigarette smoke.

  • Perfuming a room – even if there’s no unwanted smell to cover up, incense smells lovely and can create a great vibe.

  • Insect repellent – incense smoke deters mosquitos and other biting insects.

  • Religious or spiritual purposes – as offerings, to purify a space, create a certain atmosphere, or aid in meditation. Fragrant, rising smoke is considered to carry prayers up to those listening.

  • Magical purposes – similarly to spiritual usage, incense can be used in spellwork as offerings, purification, or as a timekeeper allowing the incense to burn out in order for the working to take effect.

  • Cleansing – certain incenses, such as those used for smudging, are great for cleansing negative energy from spaces, things or people, or for cleansing crystals. You can read our detailed how-to on how to cleanse crystals here on our blog.

  • Mood enhancing – sweet, fragrant scents can help you to relax and unwind, create a chill atmosphere and lift your mood. But as with most things – don’t overdo it, and take care not to directly breathe in the smoke as this can damage your lungs!


Suzie K incense

Here at Suzie K we offer a wide range of sticks and cones, along with oils, wax melts and smudging sticks such as sage, lavender, dragon’s blood or mugwort, and the burners, diffusers and smudging fans to go with them. There’s a fragrance and price to match everyone’s needs!

If you’re more hands-on, we also have a lovely range of herbs and resins available in the shop that you can use to blend your own incense, and we frequently offer classes to teach you how to do this – just drop us a line if you’re interested in knowing more.

And if you can’t make it into the shop, our online shop carries a range of gorgeous natural incense as well!

Jars full of herbs in the Suzie K shop

Do you have an incense scent that you just can't get enough of? Tell us at Twitter, Facebook or Instagram.

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