Incense Burning

Incense Burning

Incense burning and its history

It can be assumed that incense burning went hand in hand with the "discovery" of fire and was developed from the fact that different types of wood exuded different scents when burnt when sitting around the fire. Not only were the aromas different but they also had different effects on the mood. Once the nature of the wood and the medicinal herbs were better understood, the more one learnt about the healing properties and aromas. This quickly led to incense burning taking its place in certain rituals. Some were used for illnesses, some for relaxation and others for finding a connection to mortals and gods.

As early as ancient Rome, the appeal for health, rich harvest or offspring were sent "per fumum" (through smoke) to the gods. It is thus not surprising that the term "perfume" was developed from this. A flourishing and lucrative trade in smoked goods developed in North Africa, Greece and Rome. The precious resin was brought to Europe from Africa and the Arab region via the so-called ancient Incense Route.

There was a great demand for smoked goods, especially during the Middle Ages, after cities and settlements grew rapidly and the hygienic conditions prevailing there could be described as a catastrophe, to say the least. In order to offer protection against disease or to end already rampant epidemics, attempts were made to "fumigate" them. This so-called plague or fear incense was supposed to remove the disease from the air. Sandalwood and herbs, such as thyme, juniper, bay leaf, sage and rosemary were mainly used for this purpose because of their pleasant scent.

Even today, incense burning is used in a wide variety of cultures in order to establish contact with the ancestors, to meditate or in cleansing rituals for the home and psyche. There are special days or certain events set aside for such rituals to take place, such as solstice, full moon, birth, wedding or death. Incense burning is also extremely popular as a ritual during the so-called Twelfthtide, the twelve nights between Christmas Eve and Epiphany. But it is also used for love life in some cultures. The aromas should create a romantic ambience and increase an intimate mood.

The effect

Burning plants releases special fragrance molecules that enter the organism through the air we breathe. They are captured by the sensory cells which in turn send messages to the brain. Forwarded to the corresponding areas in the nervous system, this can even affect the hormonal balance. As a result, moods and feelings develop that affect the human being as a whole: the body, the subconscious and the spirit. Since burning incense also requires rest, it can lead to deep relaxation in connection with the inhalation of the smoke.

What exactly is incense?

The entirety of all materials that, together with smoke, also release fragrances during the combustion process is subsumed under the term incense: regardless of whether resins, woods or herbs are used. They are rich in essential oils and are available in the form of pure substances (resins, herbs, woods or parts of plants), as well as incense mixtures, incense sticks or cones.

Smoking methods

Smoking on charcoal

It is important to have the right embers. They should not be too hot, otherwise, the smoked products will burn on them. If a white layer of ash has formed in the stove, the embers are perfect. The order in which the incense is placed is also important: first, put the resin on the incense burner and then the herbs so that they do not burn too quickly. It is best to use hard, dry resin that has been allowed to dry for a number of years.

If a furnace is not available, special charcoal or prefabricated charcoal tabs should be used and placed in a fire-proof container. Sand or small stones are recommended as fire protection and placed underneath the charcoal tab. Ideally, resins are smoked in this way, which are particularly suitable for this type of burning, as they can only fully develop their characteristic aromas through the heat of the embers.

Teapot warmer and sieve

Smoking with a teapot warmer and sieve is not unlike the principle of fragrance lamps. Instead of an oil bowl, the strainer with the incense mixture is placed on the warmer, where it glows in a very gentle manner. A great advantage of this method is that the smoke development can be regulated particularly well via the distance between the sieve and the flame. It is also especially suitable for herbs and incense mixtures. These should not burn, but slowly "wither" and smoke gently.

Incense sticks & cones

The simplest and most practicable way of smoking is to use ready-made incense sticks or cones. All you need is a suitable holder in which the incense can safely smoulder. Simply light the tip, blow out the flame and let the stick smoulder. In this way, it disperses its aromatic scent evenly in the room until it is completely burned down.

At this point, it is important to pay special attention to the quality of the incense sticks used. Cheap goods with synthetic ingredients can sometimes be hazardous to your health. Therefore, it is better to opt for the more expensive products. Do your research before buying and purchase well-known brands. The country of origin can also provide information about the quality because experience shows that the highest quality products come from Japan, Nepal and Tibet. The quality of the Swiss brand farfalla guarantees that natural and certified raw materials are used that are Faircense approved and sourced strictly according to fairtrade guidelines.

Do not expose yourself to the scented smoke too often and for too long - less is more. Ventilation is also essential so that incense sticks do not become a health problem. Make sure there is good air circulation by opening windows and doors so that the smoke can dissipate. It is ideal to use incense sticks outdoors.

Find everything your need for incense burning here.


  • When burning incense, please make sure to use a fireproof base!
  • Never leave the incense unattended and do not smoke in the vicinity of flammable objects!
  • Do not smoke in the presence of children, pregnant women or animals!