The Benefits Of Incense & 12 Ideas For When To Use Them

mindbodygreen Editorial Assistant By Sarah Regan
mindbodygreen Editorial Assistant

Sarah Regan is a writer, registered yoga instructor, and Editorial Assistant at mindbodygreen. She received her bachelor's in broadcasting and mass communication from SUNY Oswego, and lives in Brooklyn, New York.

A ceramic plate on a cotton cloth with dried nature and Palo Santo ready to burn

Incense are plant materials that are burned to release their fragrant aromas. They come packaged in sticks, cones, and powders in fragrances from sandalwood to jasmine to palo santo. Incense has been around for centuries, and it still has a place in many spiritual and religious rituals in cultures around the world.

While the research on their health benefits is limited, there are still plenty of reasons to use incense. Here are 12 easy ways to incorporate the smell-good tool into your routine.

12 reasons to use incense:

1. To clear negative energy.

Anytime you're going to start a project, perform a ritual, or even do some yoga, burning incense beforehand can set the tone. "Burning sage or copal can be a ritual of purification, clearing out negative energy," spiritual life coach Barbara Biziou tells mindbodygreen.

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2. To deepen concentration while meditating.

There are a number of scents believed to help improve concentration and focus, like peppermint and lemon. "Frankincense is great for meditation," Biziou adds.

3. To connect to your memories.

Have a smell that makes you feel particularly sentimental or thoughtful? Burn that incense for a trip back in time. "Of all our senses, our sense of smell is the only one to go directly to the brain," Biziou notes. "Therefore, it also can evoke memories of the past."

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4. To open your heart center.

If you feel like your heart chakra is a little closed off, certain smells can do the trick to help you open up. Jasmine and rose, according to Biziou, are two that are great for connecting to love.

5. To help you relax and unwind.

Studies have shown that certain scents, particularly scents like Iavender, can have a calming effect on our nervous systems. "Use lavender or sandalwood to evoke a state of meditation and peace," Biziou suggests.

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6. To incorporate the fire element into your rituals.

In many traditions like ayurveda (India's ancient system of medicine) and traditional Chinese medicine, the natural elements need to be balanced before true healing can begin. Using incense as a source of fire alongside the other elements (water, earth, air, and space) during things like meditation can deepen and balance your practice.

7. To connect to your sense of spirituality or religion.

It's become pretty standard to see incense in religious and spiritual settings all over the world, from Catholic churches to Native American ceremonies. "Many indigenous cultures believe that burning incense sends our prayers directly up to Spirit," Biziou notes.

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8. To start a new routine.

If you're the kind of person who thrives on a sense of routine, lighting incense as you wind down for bed in the evening or as you get ready in the morning can help start or end your day on the right note.

9. To set a timer.

Stick incense typically take about 30 minutes to an hour to burn down completely. Light them as you start working, meditating, or journaling and continue until they burn out. Fragrance is a much more gentle timekeeper that a clock or phone.

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10. To practice mindfulness.

Stimulating the senses is a great way to engage in the present moment. Simply find a scent you enjoy and tune into the smell fully.

11. To boost your sex drive.

Yep, certain scents, like rose or jasmine, have a reputation for being natural aphrodisiacs. Try those out in your incense burner the next time you want to get in the mood.

12. To get grounded.

And lastly, Biziou notes that cedar and vetiver are excellent scents for grounding. Feeling overwhelmed or anxious? Light either of those scents and take some deep breaths for a greater sense of calm in the moment.

Safety do's & don'ts.

Of course, anytime you're using incense, it's important to keep safety in mind. Here are some do's and don'ts from Biziou.

Do:
  1. Open a window during or after burning.
  2. Burn one stick at a time. ("Too much smoke can be detrimental to your lungs," Biziou notes, "especially if you have asthma or any other lung condition.")
  3. Go for all-natural incense that were sustainably cultivated.
Don't:
  1. Leave incense burning unattended.
  2. Burn incense if you have pre-existing respiratory conditions.
  3. Use incense with synthetic or artificial properties.

Incense can be a great addition to any yoga or meditation practice, and burning them is a soothing ritual in itself. So, find an aroma (or four or five) that you really love, and burn away.

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