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What are incense sticks?

History of incense sticks

Incense has been used in human societies for thousands of years with some of the earliest examples dating back as far as 2500BC. Evidence is found in Egyptian tomb paintings, the discovery of ancient burners, and even temples built for the purpose of making these “burnt offerings” in China with buildings during the Song dynasty specifically designed for incense ceremonies. Trade routes specialising in incense resins have been as important as the silk and spice roads, and trade in these precious gifts from nature continues today.

What are incense sticks and how are they made?

Most people are familiar with the traditional incense or “joss” stick. Available in many fragrances, these sticks are both easy and safe to use. The quality of these sticks can vary, and poor examples appear when a basic stick or “filler” is dipped into a fragrance oil, meaning the packets may smell appealing but the burning produces an unsatisfactory smoke with little or no fragrance and certainly no benefit to mind or body.

In contrast, the base of a good quality incense stick begins with a form of powdered resin. These tree and plant resins are where the “medicine” resides and are the reason we use incense in traditional ways to freshen our homes, to facilitate meditative states and to enhance or alter mood. The most well-known of these resins must be frankincense and myrrh, but there are many more besides, such as copal, dammar, gum arabicum, guggul, pine, to name but a few. These resins are the dried, sticky sap of trees and shrubs, and each has its own unique smell alongside particular properties associated with the plant. Research at the John Hopkins University has shown that frankincense, for example, contains a substance called incensole which can help alleviate depression and lift one’s mood.

wooden incense stick holder and incense sticks

Incense resins in this form are often combined with herbs, dried flowers, woods and oils to make incense blends which are then burned on charcoal discs in a suitable, heat-proof container. The resulting smoke can be used to “cleanse” your house or workspace, or to create a smoke bath to assist your relaxation, invigoration, meditation, whatever you require at the time. Some blends are created to align with certain astrological and planetary energies, religious festivals and various deities. Equally, some people just love the smell!


Incense sticks at Sunrise Direct

At Sunrise we pride ourselves on offering an extensive range of great quality incense sticks, incense cones, raw resins, resin blends and lovely, clean burning charcoal alongside many types of incense holders and burners.

The most recent trend in incense burning is to use the lovely backflow burners. These incense burners come in a variety of shapes, sizes and designs and, by using specially designed backflow cones, the smoke is drawn downwards to create “rivers” and “pools” of intriguing, fragrant smoke. Some backflow burners incorporate colour changing LED lights to give a mysterious glow from within the mists of smoke. The backflow works by drawing air like a chimney through the hole in the middle of the incense cone, allowing the smoke to pour through the bottom and down into the burner. There are many designs available and our customers seem to love them! We stock a good selection of Satya Backflow Incense Cones, offering great quality and pleasant fragrance.


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