16 Benefits of Burning Incense
From mental health to air purification, burning incense has it’s many benefits. Burning incense isn’t just about pleasant aromas (although this is a pretty good benefit in itself!), fragrance has the power to transform our states of mind and aid us in everyday aspects of life.
1) Calms the Mind.
Recommended incense: Lavender
Burning incense is perfect for relaxation. Many incense lovers burn incense to relieve anxiety and it has been used all over the world for centuries (literally), for its power to affect our states of mind. There’s something about the way smoke floats through the air as the room fills with the luxurious scent of Jasmine, Rose and Sandalwood. The relaxing effect is almost instant!
And in our modern age, relaxation has become more important than ever. Our brains are not evolved for our fast pace of living. Anxiety and stress related illness is becoming more common in our day to day lives. Any moment of calm, even just a 20 minute incense burn is beneficial and there’s science to back it up…
I recently came across an article from ScienceDaily that suggests incense has a psychoactive effect on the brain and has the power to relieve anxiety and even work as a mild antidepressant:
‘An international team of scientists, including researchers from Johns Hopkins University and the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, describe how burning frankincense (resin from the Boswellia plant) activates poorly understood ion channels in the brain to alleviate anxiety or depression. This suggests that an entirely new class of depression and anxiety drugs might be right under our noses’
It's an interesting read and demonstrates there’s certainly more to burning incense than just pleasant aromas.
2) Aids Meditation
Recommended incense: Om
The spiritual and religious dimension to burning incense cannot be overlooked. Burning incense has and does play a major role in many religions, most notably in Buddhism, Hinduism, and Christianity. One use of incense is to aid in meditation.
Due to its calming effects, burning incense is most beneficial for aiding concentration practices. Shamatha (concentration) is all about distilling the chatter in our heads and quieting inner thoughts while focusing the minds on the breath.
For beginners, this can be quite difficult. The so called ‘monkey mind’ jumps from thought to thought to thought. Burning incense aids in relaxing a scattered mind, making meditation much easier for beginners or those prone to distraction. The scent itself can even be used as the point of focus (instead of the breath).
3) Boosts Creativity
Recommended incense: Creativity Bundle
Incense is incredibly beneficial for creatives. Artists, writers, musicians can all benefit from burning incense while they create. I’m burning a lovely sandalwood right now as I type!
One of the key aspects to creativity is getting into the flow of the activity. And this state of flow is a combination of concentration and relaxation. As a painter, I find incense (along with music) helps me tap into that creative space where ideas just flow. Sometimes, different scents have different effects on what I paint and the colours I use. I know many painters that like to burn incense or light a scented candle, as they find it helps them with the creative process.
It seems the smell of incense makes tapping into the creative state a whole lot easier artists and creatives alike.
4) Increases Focus
Recommended incense: Tokusen Kobunboku
As we discussed in the meditation section, burning incense is great for focusing the mind and it is believed that certain scents have a greater effect on concentration than others.
For example, enlivening and invigorating scents such as aloeswood and cinnamon are excellent to help with focus. Those that study, work or read may find that burning incense helps stay in that state of flow we spoke about earlier and limit distractions.
When I sit down to read a book, I love to burn incense - I find I get a lot less distracted than if I hadn’t used it. This benefit is similar to the use of incense as a meditation aid but is extended to include other everyday activities that require a focused mind.
5) Air Purification and Eliminating Bad Odours
Recommended incense: Pearl
High quality incense does have air purifying qualities. Especially low smoke types that contain specific ingredients.
There are several studies showing the antibacterial properties of incense smoke. One study showed that burning high quality incense caused a 94% reduction in airborne bacteria. The study demonstrates the ability of incense to completely eliminate harmful plant and human bacteria in a closed room.
Burning incense is also great for insect pest control (without needing to swat them!). Mosquitos and flies are naturally repelled by incense smoke and so burning incense in your room is a perfect way to get rid of pesky mosquitos. Most sticks also have powerful deodorising effects.
Of course, not all incense has this effect. It is important to burn high quality incense as this reduces some of the negative health effects of burning too much incense. Low quality incense that contains harmful oils and unnatural substances should be avoided. Here at Lotus Zen, we only supply high quality, health-conscious incense.
6) A Natural Aphrodisiac
Recommended incense: Rishi
Incense is known for its sensual nature…
Scents like vanilla and rose are known to be natural aphrodisiacs and can help get people into the mood. This interesting link between fragrance and sexuality that has been known about for centuries.
Several studies have explored this relationship, often focused on the use of essential oils to increase libido. While there is no direct relationship between aroma and sexual arousal, it has been found that certain scents increase blood flow, stimulate areas of the brain associated with arousal and relaxation.
Ultimately, it doesn’t hurt to burn a bit of incense on date night and sets the ambience for a romantic setting.
7) Developing a New Interest
There are so many benefits to starting a new interest in an of itself. Some people like tea. Others have a healthy obsession with wine. And some have a love for burning incense!
There is just so much to discover and uncover once you dive into this fragrant world. From modern, to traditional, complex, and simple - Incense comes in many forms, from all over the world.
Burning incense is also a very personal interest. One combination of fragrances may trigger a response in one person but not another. Our sense of smell is so deeply connected to memory.
Additionally, burning incense offers a way to reconnect and rediscover our most overlooked and underappreciated sense of smell. There are so many different types of incense, from Japanese, to Tibetan and Indian. And each have their unique cultural, historical, and spiritual contexts – the world of incense is vast and rich. A world worth exploring.
8) Aids sleep
Burning lavender or even white sage incense before bedtime can be a great way to improve sleep quality and reduce insomnia. Setting up a night time routine that includes burning incense can really help those who find it difficult to drift off at night.
9) Medicinal (boosts serotonin)
As burning incense lowers stress levels and creates a mood of calm and restoration, there can some medicinal benefits to burning incense especially when it comes to improving the quality of your mental health.
10) Triggers Memories
Our sense of smell is so closely related to memory. Perhaps the scent of rose reminds you of your grandma or a place you're now nostalgic for. Incense scents are a great way to evoke past memories and emotions with ease.
11) A Loyal Companion
In traditional Japanese incense culture, one of many benefits and uses of incense was its ability to offer companionship when alone. Sitting alone with burning incense not only sets a space for introspection, but also acts as a companion when in solitude.
Incense makes a great accompaniment to yoga sessions, especially when it comes to helping you to get into the flow. Incense has its spiritual benefits and so burning incense while doing yoga is a great way to set a mood of introspection.
13) Add to a Routine
Incense can really benefit when it comes to making and sticking to a morning or evening routine. Perhaps add burning incense to your nightly activities to help unwind before bed or even just to start the day with an uplifting fragrance. Many people all over the world use incense in this way to welcome each day or set a mood for night time before bed.
Some ambitious meditators use incense to actually time their meditation sessions. Incense offers a less abrupt and more natural method to timing meditation sessions compared to phone alarms and bells. Shoyeido's Zen Incense sticks are perfect for timing meditation sessions (or any other activity you can think of!)
15) Helps to Stay Grounded
As well as being invigorating, many incense scents can help ground us in the present moment. Scents like rose and Oudh can have a relaxing heaviness to them that has a calming, grounding effect.
16) Learn About Other Cultures
This is one of the most enriching benefits of burning incense. For some it is enough to just burn incense alone, but many like to dive into the history and culture that surrounds this artform, ranging from Europe to Asia to cultures all over the world
Thanks for reading,
Luke, Lotus Zen.