The History of Incense Fragrances

Written by Leanna Serras

Incense has a long history, dating back to ancient times. Incense had great value, and people used to give it as gifts. The word "incense" has Latin origins from the word "incendere," which means "to burn." Use of incense has an important role in many different religions, including Catholicism and Buddhism. Biblical passages in the Old Testament depict God requiring the burning of incense as a part of worship.

Incense History

Ritualistic Use of Incense

Burning incense involves powerful olfactory sensations as the strong scents fill a room. The ritual of incense can involve burning it to achieve specific purposes. Native Americans engage in smoke and smudging ceremonies, and these rituals have similarities to burning incense. Some people burn incense during meditation to assist with achieving a level of calm and focus. Buddhists burn incense with the purpose of purifying an area. During Buddhist ceremonies, people burn bundles of incense while bowing to plaques or statues in the temple. Buddhists also burn sticks of incense near plaques and statues. Incense can also assist with increasing or adjusting the energy in an area. Finally, some people use incense to attract supernatural entities or to dispel them from an area.

Spiritual Use of Incense

Frankincense history has a strong connection with spirituality and using incense in church. Burning incense in a Mass has been used in conjunction with preparing a congregation for prayer and the rituals associated with a religious service. Catholics use incense as a type of offering to God and an expression of devotion. The Catholic church, with its strong history of ritualistic rites, believes in the power of incense to increase the austerity of church services and the devotion of worshipers.

Healing Use of Incense

Incense and fragrance also have a connection with healing. Incense blends can have a positive impact for people suffering from depression, suicidal tendencies, and anxiety. The scents of frankincense can have a strong sedative effect, bringing peace and relaxation to those who breathe it in. Frankincense has a citrus scent. Sandalwood incense has sacred properties, and it may help relieve insomnia and depression. Eucalyptus incense has properties that may help respiratory ailments.

Burning Incense

The method of burning incense depends on the type of incense. Incense sticks and cones are two of the most common types of incense. A stick is narrow and straight, while a cone typically has a spiral shape. Burn times vary, but cones usually burn longer than sticks. Incense powders or loose incense are simply ground resins that burn in containers with a combustible source such as special charcoal pieces. Loose incense could include resins such as sandalwood, cloves, and cinnamon. Incense oil does not require burning. Rather, this type of incense emits scents into the air simply by being placed in small containers. Japanese incense is called "koh," and it resembles short strands of dried spaghetti. Common resins for koh include sandalwood and aloeswood.

To burn incense sticks or cones, place them in a special holder designed to support them during burning. Light the tip of the incense with a flame, and then blow out the flame to allow the smoke to emit from the incense. This smoldering is the process that fills the air with scent. Although incense-burning does not involve an open flame, the source of the smoldering is exceedingly hot and will cause burns if touched. When burning loose incense, the container must be able to withstand high temperatures from the combustible source. The container should be designed for incense-burning, and it should have insulation around it to protect against fire and heat damage. When burning incense, always supervise the process. Never leave burning incense unattended, especially when children and pets are present.