What Is Incense?

Stack of brown natural incense sticks

In a fragrance industry dominated by perfume, the production and use of incense is comparatively small. However, incense is the ancestor of products related to good smells and ambiance and has been around since ancient times. 

In this journal entry, we will consider: 

  1. What is incense? 
  2. What is incense made of? 

Continue reading to find out more!

1. What is incense? 

Physically, incense is a combination of aromatic substances, such as resins and oils, that produce a pleasing fragrance or scent when burnt. But it is more than that.  

Incense is a delicate product that has been used for centuries as part of religious ceremonies and spiritual practices. In addition to this, it can be used as a time-keeper, an aphrodisiac, or simply to inspire creativity. 

With the modern world becoming more and more hectic, incense continues to find its place amongst home fragrance products where its use may be purely aesthetic. It provides a valuable alternative for helping to find that much-needed moment of calm by allowing the user to be present, to appreciate its smell, or perhaps to enjoy the sight of the smoke gently curling into thin air. 

Burning a stick of incense can very quickly become a part of your everyday rituals, bringing with it many benefits such as reduced anxiety, better focus, and improved sleep. We talk more about these and other benefits here.

There are two main types of incense: 

Group of burning natural incense sticks with white smoke

Indirect Burning 🧨🧨🧨  this type of incense is also known as non-combustible incense. It consists of a combination of loose materials and requires a constant source of heat, often provide by charcoal or glowing embers.

Direct Burning 🔥🔥🔥 - this type of incense must initially be lit until a small flame glows, and then gently blown out. An incense stick will burn slowly, generally for 40-45 minutes, releasing its beautiful fragrance as it burns. 

      Whilst incense is available in many forms, the one thing that unites them all is the sweet, lingering aroma that it produces. 

      At In Sense, we offer the finest direct burning incense in the form of incense sticks made with all natural ingredients. You can browse our selection here.


      2. What is incense made of? 

      We are proud to say that all of the ingredients used in the In Sense range of incense sticks are derived from natural materials making our incense chemical and synthetic-free, and one of the best on the market. 

      Incense is typically made up of two categories of materials:

      • Aromatic materials 👃👃👃  that produce the fragrance and;
      • Base materials 🩹🩹🩹 to hold it all together on a natural bamboo stick. 

      Aromatic Materials 

      Glass jar with cork top of essential oil surrounded by resin

      The aromatic materials used in incense are generally plant-based natural materials and their primary purpose is to produce the exceptional fragrance that incense is so well known for. Aromatic materials may come in the form of resin, bark, flower petals, or essential oils. 

      What is resin? 

      Resin is the sticky gum that protects a tree or shrub. Its purpose is to seal cuts in the bark and prevent infection. In dry climates, this resin hardens quickly and can be easily harvested by cutting it from the tree with a knife. To be used in incense, these pieces of resin are crushed into powder form.

      What are essential oils? 

      Essential oils are natural compounds extracted from plants through a steam or water distillation process. It is important to note that not all essential oils are created equal and at In Sense, we use only the finest essential oils in our products. That means the oils are derived from only organic plants and flowers, and distilled at the correct temperatures. Our Deluxe range of incense sticks is made using AAA-grade oils. 

      Some common aromatic materials you may recognise include: 

        🌳 Frankincense (shop here) 
        🌼 Patchouli (shop here 
        🌿 Myrrh (shop here) 
        🍃 Sandalwood (shop here)  

          Base Materials 

          The base materials used in making incense act both as a binder, and as fuel to allow the incense to burn. 

          Base materials include charcoal and/or wood powders, amber resins, sandalwood, cedarwood, vanilla powder and a mix of gums, which act as a binding agent to hold all of the ingredients together.  

          At In Sense, you may notice that your incense stick has a slightly ‘glittery’ appearance – this is a natural product called camphor, a combustible ingredient that allows the incense stick to light, burn with a self-sustained ember, and generate a small emission of smoke. 


            Want to try it for yourself? 

            Now that you know what incense is and what it is made of, we would love for you to try our natural handmade incense for yourself. You can check out our shop here.

            To find out more about the benefits of incense or to see how incense is made, you can check out our journal here.