Benefits of Using Incense

Most people are familiar with agarbatti sticks used widely in South Asian regions, especially Nepal and India. They come in sticks, cones, or even powder form. Raw plant material like palo santo or sweetgrass can also be considered incense. It comes in many forms, but to define it simply, it is a plant matter that is burned to release an aromatic fragrance. Over the large history of incense, people have used it for several reasons, like:

  • Components of religious practices
  • Remove bad odour and kill bacteria
  • Repel evil spirit
  • Pleasant smell
  • Increase concentration while meditating

The popular forms of incense are sticks, coils or spirals, small cones, loose powders, raw plant materials (wood ships, leaves), etc.

What is incense made of?

It is generally made up of an aromatic material that produces a scent and a combustible material to bind it together in the desired form. The aromatic materials used are typically plant-based and include resins, barks, seeds, roots, and flowers. Although the ingredients may vary by region and manufacturer, some specific aromatic ingredients are cinnamon, frankincense, musk, myrrh, patchouli, sandalwood, etc.

The combustible binding ingredient ignites the incense to burn and produce smoke. Again, the materials vary largely but mostly include charcoal or wood powders. 

Read: How Are Incense Sticks Made?

A brief history

Incense plays a big role in religious and spiritual rituals all over the world. The word incense comes from the Latin verb ‘incendere’ which means ‘to burn’. It has been around since ancient times in ancient Egypt, Babylon, and Greece. It was used by priests to fumigate tombs and has a long history of being used in ceremonies and rituals during religious and spiritual occasions.

Over time it made its way to Southern and South-Eastern Asia around as early as 3300 BC. It was used alongside worship and prayer, and it is believed that burning incense wards off evil spirits and hence purifies the atmosphere.

Here are some benefits of using incense:

To relax and unwind:

Burning incense along with a candle is a great way to decompress. After a long hectic day, there is nothing quite like changing into your comfortable clothes, taking a nice warm (or cold, whichever you prefer) bath, enjoying a cup of tea, listening to soothing music, and just taking a breather. The fragrance can amplify this feeling of deep relaxation.

Reduces stress and anxiety:

Adding to the relaxation, incense actually helps to reduce your heart rate and breathing. The sweet, cosy aroma of Sandalwood, lavender, or rosemary helps you let go of your worries and irrational thoughts. 


Meditation is a beneficial tool for the mind and the body. The aroma of incense keeps us calm and the mind alert. Of all our senses, the smell is the only one to reach our brain directly. This is the reason why pleasant familiar scents can have a lasting impact on our nervous system. Incense helps us focus better and evokes deep emotions.

Stimulates creativity:

A relaxed and calm state of mind is productive. The smell of incense helps you become mindful and connect with yourself. It’s not surprising when artists in different areas recommend lighting up a candle and burning incense. Aloeswood-based, Lemongrass, citrus-scented, Geranium, and Ylang-Ylang incense are known best for this very purpose.

Increases focus:

Burning Aloeswood and citrus-scented incense while studying or working is useful to enhance concentration and increase focus, even better than playing music in the background as it is less intrusive. Fragrances have subtle effects on the mind and body, making them perfect for any task that requires your full attention to detail.

Helps with insomnia:

Incense aids sleep, especially among insomniacs. Lavender is especially associated with inducing sleep and deep relaxation. Furthermore, having an stick burning while sleeping is much safer than the open flames of a candle.

Medicinal purposes:

The pleasing aroma of incense is said to boost serotonin levels in our brains. Serotonin is considered a natural mood stabilizer and helps with sleeping, eating, digestion, reducing anxiety and depression, as well as reducing headaches. Incense is an alternative to taking medicines to improve serotonin levels and does so without any side effects or dangers of addiction. For your daily dose of serotonin, Rose and Aloeswood flavours work wonders.

Purifies air:

Certain floral-based ingredients have antibacterial properties, like the Nag Champa. Incense is also an easy way to cover foul smells in our houses, kitchens caused by cooking, pets, damp clothes, etc. Cedar, Myrrh, and Citrus scents are good for cleaning and freshening the air. In some religions, namely Hinduism, incense plays a big role to purify the atmosphere and ward off devils and demons. People burn one on auspicious occasions, initiations, and daily rites for this very reason. 

Incorporate fire element into rituals:

In South and South-East Asian cultures, rituals must include all the elements of nature like Earth, Water, Fire, Air, and Space. Prayers, ayurvedic healing sessions, and other practices are supposed successful when all of these elements are included. These elements are supposed as different forms of gods and deities and are worshipped. In this case, incense helps you incorporate fire in a less or non-hazardous way.

Read: Religious Use of Incense

Spiritual Purposes:

In all cultures and religions where incense is used religiously, one common intention to do so is to connect to one’s sense of spirituality and religion. People believe that burning it sends our prayers directly up to our gods and the spirits of our ancestors. Catholic churches burn frankincense to connect their communities to their founding fathers and patrons. It is also a way to pay respect to their legacy and devotion to culture.

Balance chakras (energy points):

In ancient Hindu and Buddhist traditions, a chakra refers to each of seven centres of spiritual power in the human body or the main energy centres of the body. When all chakras are ‘unblocked’, it means all chakras are open and energy can run through them freely. This creates harmony between the physical body, mind, and soul. People use incense to open up their chakras. Supposedly, the pleasant smell and mild smoke make it possible.

Burning incense 

To burn one, you need to first ignite it. For that, you can use a lighter stick or a matchstick. Hold the flame up to the tip of the material and let it catch fire. After a few seconds, extinguish the fire gently. You can blow on it. A smouldering ember will remain, which will slowly burn itself until it runs out. It will release aromatic compounds.

Clearly, burning incense is a fire hazard. Always remember these things when burning one:

  1. Place the burning incense on a holder.
  2. Do not burn too many at a time; too much smoke can be dangerous.
  3. Keep windows open while and after burning.
  4. Do not leave burning incense unattended.
  5. Place it away from inflammable objects like paper, dry herbs, and curtains.
  6. Do not touch the burning incense directly.


Scents/aromas/fragrances are used to trigger specific responses in our brains. As mentioned above, the smell is the only sense that reaches our brain directly. The many scents and ingredients of incense are used for a range of religious, aesthetic, and practical reasons. For instance, deep relaxation, inducing sleep, promoting concentration, stimulating creativity, etc. moreover, burning incense is also equally helpful for medicinal purposes. It also holds considerable religious and spiritual importance. It is an important part of religious rituals and prayers. There is a limited conclusion to how it affects our health; but when burned in a small amount, it does mostly good than bad.