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What Is Herbal Incense?

Whitney Segura

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What Is Herbal Incense?

First, let's be abundantly clear on what we're NOT talking about. We are not talking about K2, Spice, or the dozens of other synthetic marijuana products. Unfortunately, these herbal blends sprayed with intoxicating chemicals also go by the euphemism “herbal incense. " Sadly, when one mentions herbal incense today, most people automatically assume you are talking about these semi-legal drugs.

When we discuss herbal incense, what we ARE talking about is natural oils, herbs, and flowers that, when combined and burned, create a pleasant aroma. Traditional herbal incense is much more similar to potpourri than narcotics.

Herbal incense is basically a sub-category of incense. Specifically, it consists mainly of herbs-the leaves and flowers of plants, with perhaps some seeds and berries thrown in as well. Herbal incense creates light, airy floral or spiced aromas. Non-herbal incense ingredients, such as woods (cedar), bark (cinnamon), resins (frankincense), peels (citrus), and roots (ginger) generally create strong, heavy aromas that can drown out to more delicate scents of flowers and leaves. The herbal category of incense, therefore, produces more light, subtle, and complex aromas that many people find appealing.

Herbal incense aficionados also prefer the natural scents of herbal incense to cheap, mass produced commercial incense. Such incense often uses artificial chemicals as a cheaper way to imitate expensive to perfume oils, such as saffron or rose. Anyone who has even wrinkled their nose or gagged at the heavy, overpowering smoke of cheap incense understands the difference in quality, although they not understand the reason for it.

Given the fact that real herbal incense places a high value on all-natural, organic herbal ingredients, the synthetic chemicals in artificial marijuana products like K2 and Spice are the exact opposite of what true herbal incense is all about.


Herbal incense has a very long and distinguished history throughout the world, possibly even predating written history. The oldest evidence of herbal incense use was found on a stone tablet at the foot of the Great Sphinx of Egypt, originally placed there around 1500 B. C. E. Many different faiths throughout the world have a long tradition of burning herbal incense in religious ceremonies.

For example, Roman Catholics burn frankincense & myrrh (both made from tree sap) during important religious holidays. In China and the Far East, Taoists and Buddhists have burned sandalwood (among others) for hundreds of years in both religious ceremonies and for medicinal purposes. Some Native American nations burn sage as part of purification rituals.


Herbal incense continues to be used in religious rituals throughout the world, particularly in South and East Asia. In the last two centuries, however, it has slowly entered into common household use. Much like air fresheners and scented candles, today incense is frequently used to make the home smell pleasant.

The goal is to create a fragrant aroma that the homeowners and their guests pleasantly associate with a particular memory, mood, or atmosphere. Different herbal incense blends are used depending on the season, or to celebrate a specific holiday or occasion.

Floral and fruity incense are common in the spring and summer time. Cinnamon & spice herbal incense is popular during the autumn, particularly around Halloween. Pine and berry incense is frequently used around Christmas time. Floral incense is popular during Valentine's Day, especially rose incense.

Although true herbal incense may be more expensive, the difference in quality and aroma is noticeable and well worth the price.


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