I’m sitting here writing another article for my blog and after a difficult week at the office (home) I’ve lit an incense stick to try to help me relax. Why did I do that though? What ARE the benefits of incense and relaxation?
Firstly – What is Incense?
so according to Wikipedia incense is an aromatic biotic material that releases fragrant smoke when burned.
It can be used for a number of reasons such as aromatherapy, meditation and also ceremonial. It can also be used as an insect repellent or even as a deodorant.
There appears to be two main types of incense. There is direct burning and indirect burning. The direct burning kind obviously can burn on its on and includes the cones and sticks.
The word incense comes from the Latin incendere meaning to burn.
Dates back to the ancient Egyptians (as early as 3000BC) who used it for both spiritual rituals and creating nice aromas.
There may of course be a more practical reason for using incense in rituals such as funerals given that they can mask some less desirable odours from either a corpse or from the congregation who may not have been the cleanest!
If you think of some religious ceremonies you can see the priest or dignatory being preceded by a boy swinging a smoking incense lamp – this would probably be to mask the smell of the unwashed pilgrims in the church. In the church it was also common to have incense such as frankincense burning prior to services so that when the church was crowded it smelt pleasant.
It was also used as a rudimentary clock as they would have taken a certain time for the incense to burn down and so were used to mark time. As an example, in Japan a geisha was paid a rate for the number of incense clocks that would have been consumed while she was present. This practice continued until as late as 1924!
So – What Can it Be Used For?
The burning of incense to relax has long been known and studies have shown that particular scents such as lavender and sandalwood are particularly good at having a calming effect on our nervous system.
Other scents that are good are cedar and vetiver which can evoke a sense of calm if you are feeling overwhelmed or anxious.
It is well-known that our sense of smell is one of our strongest, I know that sometimes smelling something familiar can take me right back to a childhood moment that I would have struggled to recollect otherwise. Our sense of smell goes directly to the brain and therefore is strong. Many religious groups have long used incense and many believe that its burning sends our prayers directly up to the Spirit.
As an Element
Many traditional medicinal remedies require a balance of all the elements to be present before the healing process can begin. Therefore, using incense as a source of fire can be used alongside the other elements of water, earth, air and space. Using all these elements during meditation could deepen the experience and bring balance.
For Time Keeping.
As we’ve already noted, historically, incense could be used to mark time and was sometimes used in very ornate time keeping clocks but, even for someone who is meditating or exercising burning an incense stick (typically take around thirty minutes to burn) today is a much more gentle way of marking time than setting an alarm.
In the Bedroom
Yes, among the many other uses of incense, certain aromas such as rose or Jasmine are thought to work as natural aphrodisiacs so it might be worth having an incense burner in the bedroom for that next romantic evening, its worth a try!
In the (Home) Office
So, for me I occasionally light an incense stick when I have been getting stressed out and it does seem to work. The aromatic tones have a calming effect and just taking a few deep breaths while one is burning seems to work wonders. I can certainly recommend.
In the Garden
I also frequently use citronella incense sticks in the garden when having a meal outside or entertaining as it seems to repel small flying insects. The citronella can also be found in candles which are also popular for using in the garden.
Safety and Incense
As with candles using incense can be a little dangerous but following some (simple) do’s and don’t can help make using incense as safe as possible.
Where possible keep a window open during and after burning.
Try to only burn one stick at a time – this is as much for your health as to avoid combustion as its similar to smoke from cigarettes just a more pleasant aroma!
Definitely keep this in mind if you suffer from any breathing condition such as asthma.
Go for the all-natural incense which were sustain ably cultivated.
Obviously do not leave incense burning unattended, similar to candles.
It’s easy to forget that, as there does not appear to be a flame its not going to be hot, but it still is so beware.
Avoid incense if you have a pre-existing respiratory problems and avoid the use of those incense products with synthetic or artificial properties.
Different Smells for Different Purposes
So what type of incense should I use and what properties do they have?
This is the best incense for refreshing the body, mind and home environment. It can be used in rites of healing and also for meditation.
first blended in India this is now the most popular incense fragrance in the world. Great for meditation with its blend of florals and sandalwood stimulate your spiritual side and keeping you grounded.
A classic lovers’ fragrance, perfect for those romantic nights in and also for sacred energy.
This is a holy wood renowned in India for its healing properties. Perfect for inner peace and for removing negativity – so useful to use after those zoom meetings. Certainly a positive smell.
Useful for calming and pleasing – it can provoke physical and mental arousal and for good luck. If you enjoy the smell of vanilla its perfect for meditation.
Ancient frankincense (reputedly given at the birth of Jesus by one of the wise men) – good for purification and power this will cleanse the soul and make you feel so much better afterwards.
Great for meditation and said to encourage prophetic dreams if you want to indulge in what your future holds.
Originally comes from the secretions of mammal reproductive glands (sounds lovely!) and has a strong odour
So there we have it – a quick run down on the use of incense and its various uses for relaxing and reducing stress levels. I know that I have found it very calming during those stressful days you can have now and again.
Working from home does tend to make these times even more stressful for some reason, however its much easier to find things to reduce stress at home. I know that HSE would go ballistic if I was to light an incense stick in the office – can you imagine – so long live working from home.
Do you use incense or a candle or two to make your home office environment an oasis of calm? What type of aromas do you prefer? Would you recommend any? Be sure to join in the conversation in the comments below. As ever, I would love to hear from you……..
In the meantime, take care.