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History and Uses of Incense

In our research and testing of incense products we received some interesting information from some very knowledgeable sources. Here is some of what they told us:


Some of the History of Incense

The use of incense is as old as recorded civilization. Its history is an incredible journey into the depths of time and the evolution of humankind. A tradition that dates back thousands of years, in practically all of earth’s civilizations, it has been used to accompany prayer, worship the Gods, purify the air, release negative vibrations, induce self-awareness, and to uplift the emotional state.

Incense is defined by Webster's Dictionary as:
material used to produce a fragrant odor when burned; the perfume exhaled from some spices and gums when burned; broadly: a pleasing scent.

This is true, but it only tells part of the story.

Much of what is known about the origins of incense comes to us in fragments related to the evolution of culture. Historically, the chief substances used as incense were such resins as frankincense and myrrh, along with aromatic woods and barks, seeds, roots, herbs, and flowers. However, it is difficult to trace the story of incense because it has largely been an esoteric and oral tradition evolving in relation to both religion and medicine. In other words, the ancient history of incense is shrouded in mystery, which seems to be the very nature of incense itself.

Everyone knows that when Jesus was born, frankincense, myrrh, and gold were presented as gifts to the newborn infant—clearly demonstrating that these items were the most valuable and precious possessions possible at that time. However, anthropologists speculate that uses of incense predate the gifts of the Magi to the first fires of humankind. Surely the cave dwellers of the prehistoric world would have noticed that certain woods had more pleasing aromas and indeed varying emotional effects.

Simply stated, incense has been a feature of ceremonies worldwide since ancient times and the world trade in incense has never declined since. The Egyptians used oil of myrrh for embalming and later discovered other ritual, medical, and cosmetic uses for incense. Hindus use it for all temple and domestic offerings, while Buddhists burn it at festivals, initiations, and daily rites. The Chinese use it to honor ancestors and household deities, and in Japan it is a mainstay of Shinto ritual. The early Christian church utilized it to symbolize the ascent of prayers of the faithful and to honor God and the saints. And in the Americas, the use of incense is documented from the very first encounters between the indigenous populations and the Europeans in the 15th and early 16th centuries

But it was not until the arrival of incense in Japan that its use became a fine art. Brought to Japan in the sixth century by Buddhist monks who used the mystical aromas in their purification rites, the delicate scents of Koh (Japanese high quality incense) became a source of amusement and entertainment with nobles in the Imperial Court during the Heian Era 200 years later. During the Shogunate period in the 14th century, samurai warriors would perfume their helmets and armor with incense to achieve a proud aura of invincibility as they prepared to meet their foe and their fate. But it wasn’t until the Muromachi Era during the 15th and 16th centuries that the elegant art of incense appreciation spread to the upper and middle classes of Japanese society.

What the Japanese call Koh-Do, or incense appreciation, has long been the spiritual nourishment of Japanese culture. Fast becoming a popular custom in the United States and all over the world for those seeking quiet reflection and peace of mind, this elegant art not only creates a feeling of tranquility and an added dimension in gracious living but also opens up a new world of temporal and spiritual awareness. Two companies, Nippon Kodo and Shoyeido, continue this proud tradition in Japan today.

Throughout history there has been a wide variety of materials used in making incense. Historically there was also a preference for using locally available ingredients. For example: sage and cedar used by the indigenous peoples of North America. This was a preference and ancient trading in incense materials from one area to another comprised a major part of commerce along the Silk Road and other trade routes, one notably called The Frankincense Trail.

The same could be said for the techniques used to make incense. Local knowledge and tools were extremely influential on the style, but methods were also influenced by migrations of foreigners, among them clergy and physicians who were both familiar with incense arts.

Some Popular Uses for Incense

Some popular incense scents are Patchouli, Nag Champa, Sandalwood, Lavender, Jasmine, Frankincense, Ylang Ylang, Amber, Musk, Cedar Wood, Cinnamon & Dragons Blood. But why stop There? You can use any Scent It fragrance oils, or mixture. Our knowledgeable friends give us the following information on the uses for incense:


• LOVE...Rose, Musk, Lavender, Jasmine, Vanilla, Thyme, Cinnamon
• MONEY...Cinnamon, Honeysuckle, Clove, Sage, Pine, Ginger, Basil
• PROTECTION...Sandalwood, Sage, Frankincense, Anise, Hyssop, Lilac
• PHYCHIC AWARENESS...Frankincense, Sage, Lemongrass, Nutmeg, Rose,
• PROPHETIC DREAMS...Jasmine, Marigold, Camphor, Rose
• PEACE... Lilac, Magnolia, Lavender
• PURIFICATION...Sandalwood, Thyme, Musk, Lavender, Lime, Anise

Incense is an art, the ancient art of blending together fragrant gifts of nature into forms conducive for transport and release. Resins, herbs, spices, oils, flowers, leaves, barks and more are gathered and combined (using specific formulas) to create stick incense; cone incense; spiral and coil incense ; joss and dhoop sticks (incense without the stick in the middle); loose as well as bundled - to name a few. Just light the tip, blow it out and be transported - unlock and release these treasures of nature into your atmosphere. Incense stimulates and heightens the senses. The many uses of incense?... to awaken and for pleasant dreams, to vitalize and to sooth, to heal and calm the emotions, to center the mind and enhance meditation, to uplift and energize, to clear scattered thoughts and be at peace.

Restless sleep: Sandalwood, Frankincense, and Lavender are excellent for restless sleepers or troubled sleep. Often children who experience fearful thoughts or nightmares show great improvement if these fragrances are used in their room before they retire. (One at a time).

Stress: A few customers have reported how excellent Patchouli is in relieving stressful situations or moods around their home. Patchouli as an incense works on anger, anxiety, stress, depression & emotional instability, so use it anytime you have an unhappy child or feel particularly stressed yourself.

Lavender: Lavender is just amazing as it works on the emotional level as well. It helps with anxiety, grief, negative attitudes, depression, exhaustion, insomnia, moodiness, phobias, and hysteria & is emotionally healing.

Calming: Burning Lavender incense can noticeably alter the energy levels in your home. If there is too much excitable energy or anger present and you feel the need to calm the atmosphere down then Lavender is perfect. It is a very ethereal fragrance and often you cannot detect it unless you enter the room from another area but it works a charm for inducing peaceful moods in your home.

Loving mood: We have had many people comment on how they love our Nag Champa. It is brilliant for eliminating any bad odors because of it’s sweet, rich properties but mostly it seems to create a warm, loving mood and many people burn it for special occasions such as birthdays, anniversaries and large gatherings.

Grounding yourself: Nag Champa is especially good for a ‘grounding’ effect as is Sandalwood or Patchouli.If you’re feeling a little indecisive, unsure or have a large task looming, which you just can’t face, then either of these fragrances will help tremendously.

Celebrations: A friend of ours had her sons wedding recently and she chose Frankincense for it’s powerful uplifting scent. She commented that everyone thoroughly enjoyed the beautiful scent wafting around and it kept a happy, good-humored atmosphere all day.

Afternoon lifts: Frankincense,& Amber are wonderful for an afternoon ‘lift’. Instead of reaching for a coffee break to stimulate and get you going after lunch, burning any of these fragrances will give you the enthusiasm and energy to keep going.

Concentration: A customer recently reported that he uses our incense for deep concentration, as he daily works with fine jewelry, which requires a lot of concentration, and he finds our incense provides the right mood for him to successfully concentrate & focus for long periods at a time.

“I'm a jeweler and everyday I must go from the normal & macro world to my micro world under my loupe. Spiritual Sky incense is the link for me to do that, it puts me into that space that allows me to focus and concentrate. Thank you so much for providing me with the vehicle that carries me to my work." Jon

Meditation: Jasmine, being the Queen of all scents has the ability to provide confidence, creativity, happiness, reflection and self-awareness. It is also wonderful for long-held guilt and if used with meditation it can help bring awareness and healing.

Freshen your home: Most incense-lovers burn incense in the morning, to set the mood and freshen the home after a night of closed windows, etc. Also, after a meal, it relaxes and allows people to 'loosen-up' & 'lighten-up', 'unwind' and 'put your feet up' kind of feeling! We all need that at times!

Pure relaxation: For sheer relaxation you just can’t beat incense, it has been used for centuries for that purpose, it alters the moods in your home to bring peaceful, tranquil, refreshing, uplifting & inspiring feelings.

Recently one of our customers shared this about incense –

1) Incense burning opens the mind to divinity.
2) Incense burning cleanses the mind.
3) Incense burning clears the mind of worldly impurities.
4) Incense burning wakes up the mind.
5) Incense burning encourages the mind in solitude.
6) Incense burning affords the mind leisure when it is busy.
7) One cannot burn too much incense.
8) Yet, even a little incense is enough.
9) Age does not affect the efficacy of incense.
10) Habitual use of incense causes NO HARM.

The use of incense is as old as recorded civilization. Its history is an incredible journey into the depths of time and the evolution of humankind. A tradition that dates back thousands of years, in practically all of earth’s civilizations, it has been used to accompany prayer, worship the Gods, purify the air, release negative vibrations, induce self-awareness, and to uplift the emotional state.

For whichever of the above reasons - or just because it smell so good - visit our Incense Product Page and start making and enjoying incense.

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Scent It Company
2305 Monroe Street, Waynesboro, VA, 22980
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