Many people use incense in prayer, worship, and healing. Burning good incense can have surprisingly powerful benefits for your mind and spirit! Heres how different types of incense – frankincense, white sage, myrrh – can reduce stress and calm anxiety.
An important thing to remember is that burning low-quality incense can be harmful to your health. Poor quality incense is actually a pollutant, especially if it’s burned indoors or in contained places. Burning synthetic incense can even harm your lungs if you breathe it in over a long period of time. If you burn incense for its pleasant aroma and meditative properties, make sure you use high-quality incense that isn’t toxic.
Below, I share safe and healthy ways to burn different types of incense. I also describe the powerful spiritual and meditative benefits of aromatherapy, and how essential oils can be used as an alternative to burning incense.
“We use pieces of frankincense on hot coals,” says health blogger Vidya Sury, who often burns incense for meditation and relaxation. “We cover the burning frankincense with a large bamboo basket and spread babies’ clothes on the basket to dry, so the smoke permeates the clothes. After a bath, there’s frankincense in the room to soothe the baby with its gentle wisps of smoke. We dry our long freshly washed hair, holding it over the smoke of frankincense.”
The Powerful Benefits of the Best Types of Incense
Burning incense for meditation decreases stress, and some people believe that different types of incense – frankincense, sandalwood, and sage – have the power to cleanse negative energy, ease tension, and elevate your meditative state. Incense for meditation and prayer is an ancient tradition.
Before we get into the benefits of different types of incense, here’s a brief summary of the research on incense burning and health. Incense burning is a traditional and common practice in many families and in most temples in Asia. The religious and meditative benefits are widely accepted, as is the belief that the pleasant aroma of incense improves mood and relieves stress.
However, during the burning process of all types of incense, particle matter is released into the air. This can be breathed in and trapped in the lungs, and is known to cause an inflammatory reaction. Not much research has been done on incense as a source of pollution, although it has been linked to different types of ill health effects. If you’re burning incense, make sure you get high-quality sticks or other types of incense. Also, consider the benefits of essential oils as an alternative to the smoke of incense.
Frankincense for sanctification and cleansing
The Senari’s Incense Assortment – 12 Pure Scents Herbal, Myrrh, and Frankincense is made of 100% pure, natural ingredients. This is aromatherapy for relaxation, stress release, and meditation.
Different types of incense affect people differently. Many people like the more traditional scents, such as Frankincense, Sandalwood, Patchouli, Amber, Cedar, and Sage.
“I also love the many temple masala blends from India, especially some of the durbars and champas,” says Daniel on How to Manage Stress and Depression. “In fact my most favorite incense of all time is a champa incense that my sister bought for me at a small temple in India 12 years ago. I have been searching for it ever since, and it has inspired my quest to produce scents that move people.”
Raw incense is the best type of incense to burn; it consists of fresh or dried plant parts that are used for smoldering. Some incense even contains minerals, feathers, shells, or other natural materials.
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Burning incense for meditation and prayer
Vidya adds that incense sticks are a traditional part of her religious rituals. “In my home, we burn incense sticks (or joss sticks) of different fragrances. Our favorite flavors of incense are frankincense, sandalwood, roses, lavender, Michelia Champaka and jasmine. In fact, we make pot pourri from champaka petals.”
“Sometimes, if the atmosphere of the house feels ‘heavy’ and I can’t sleep, I’ll burn incense,’” says Tracy on 9 Natural Sleep Remedies for Sleepless Nights. “I will use a purifying incense – usually Frankincense and/or Myrrh, both of which have ancient origins and are believed to purify and sanctify a space. The Fred Soll company has a pure resin stick incense which combines them both, and that’s my preference.”
Frankincense is the original incense; in fact that’s where the word “incense” comes from. The effects of burning Frankincense are uplifting, centering and purifying with a warm sweet aroma. It’s one of the best scents for creating a meditative space.
Both Frankincense and Myrrh are types of incense that have been burned throughout the ages. The type of incense you prefer to use as a meditation for sleep depends on what scents relax and calm you.
Sandalwood for grounding and relaxing
“Sandalwood Incense has been used for at least 4000 years for good reason,” says Dan. “Its effects are both grounding and euphoric, promoting a sense of well being and relaxation with a woody, sweet and exotic scent that wraps you in peace and harmony.”
Mindfulness meditation has become an increasingly popular way for people to improve their mental and physical health, yet most research supporting its benefits has focused on lengthy, weeks-long training programs.
The good news for sleep meditation is that new research shows that even just 25 minutes of mindful meditation for three consecutive days alleviates psychological stress. You don’t need to burn incense or meditate every day…unless of course you find it’s the natural remedy for sleep you’ve been missing!
How to Use Incense for Sleep and Meditation
“For raw sage, just light it and let it smolder,” writes Kerry Hughes in The Incense Bible: Plant Scents That Transcend World Culture, Medicine, and Spirituality. “If you are using resins or some other dried materials, you’ll need to burn them on top of charcoal or some other hot surface, such as a hot rock from a campfire.”
Simply enjoy the scent or atmosphere that incense imparts, or use it to enhance your religious or spiritual experience.
Nag Champa, Sunrise, Sandalwood, Midnight, and Patchouli, and Celestial are forms of incense created by Satya. Many people burn incense to relieve stress and tension, because the scent of burning incense doesn’t just affect moods and spaces, it changes them.
Cinnamon for balancing emotions
“Supposedly the only substance whose scent arouses most males is that of cinnamon, which is often a component in mixed incenses,” says deTraci. “For women, jasmines and roses scents are supposed to enhance the romantic mood. And 60s hippie favorite patchouli is said to work on both!”
Patchouli to lift your spirits
“Patchouli has a satisfying earthy quality that is great to balance the emotions and help you relax,” says Dan. “At the same time it energizes and uplifts the spirits. As well as contributing to peace of mind, it is a great aphrodisiac. That must be why I like it so much!”
If you’d like to use incense to spice up your love life before meditation for sleep, you may like Nippon Kodo – Morning Star – Patchouli incense sticks.
Amber for elevation and letting go (helpful in sleep meditation)
“Amber is a sweet layered scent, with spicy, earthy rich undertones,” says Dan. “Known as the “King of Scents” it will help you let go of daily concerns and enter the world of sensual arousal or spiritual elevation, depending on the intention.”
Cedar and Sage for positive energy
“Cedar and Sage drive out negative energies, spirits and influences,” says Dan. “They have been traditionally used as a smudge to purify people and places before any sacred ceremony. They both help with creating a meditative and relaxing space.”
If you’re thinking about burning incense for meditation and prayer, heed Vidya’s advice: “The smoke can aggravate or irritate those with respiratory problems and COPD,” she says. “So it is better to avoid lighting an incense stick/cone near someone like that. Some people develop a headache from prolonged exposure to smoke.”
A different type of incense – essential oil
You might try Frankincense Essential Oil if you don’t have pieces of frankincense and hot coals. A candle and diffuser is a lovely way to avoid burning incense if you want to avoid smoke.
A Pretty Blue Essential Oil Diffuser and Mist Humidifier is a soothing, calming way to experiment with different types of aromatherapy – and the powerful benefits of incense – without burning incense smoke.
Incense can can become a ritual for relaxing, cleansing, and purifying your thoughts and energy. Meditation can help students focus while studying, decrease the stress medical students feel, and make you a more compassionate person.
If you burn incense to help you sleep, make sure you don’t leave it burning all night long. The last thing that’ll help with meditation for sleep practice is a fire. If you have trouble sleeping, read Acupuncture for Snoring – A Natural Remedy for Good Sleep.
There are powerful benefits to burning different types of incense, as long as you avoid the possible harmful side effects of prolonged smoke inhalation.
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Source of the mindfulness meditation for sleep: Just 25 minutes of mindfulness meditation alleviates stress – a Carnegie Mellon research study.