The Top 8 Types of Incense for a More Tranquil Life
I grew up in a family steeped in Daoist-Buddhist traditions. The smoky, fragrant aroma of incense permeating our home usually meant one of two things.
- We would be eating soon.
- Someone was in need of prayer and that we should take some quiet time to send healing thoughts their way.
First, many Daoist traditions make offerings to their ancestors—which often consists of a table laden with wine, fresh fruits, meats, and other traditional dishes. All this would be offered to our ancestors along with incense and a prayer of thanks. After the offering was complete, my family would gather around the table and eat.
Secondly, incense was often lit in conjunction with prayer. If someone was in need of prayer, we would light incense and offer it to our family's patron Guan Yin. Then, holding the lit incense in our palms, we would bow before the icon and offer up a prayer to her, asking for compassion and aid.
In either case, the aroma of incense always brought with it feelings of warmth, peace, quiet contemplation, and home.
But in spite of incense's popularity in yoga studios, meditation retreats, and 21st century homes, it actually has quite a long history.
History of Incense
The Incense Trade Route, as it is now known, was a vast network of land and sea trade routes that forged strong ties between Mediterranean countries, India, and Arabia. Lasting from roughly the seventh century B.C. to about the second century A.D., it spanned India, Arabia, Egypt, and other regions of northeastern Africa.
While frankincense, myrrh, cinnamon, and casia—which were all key components in ancient Egyptian incense—were traded through these routes, other spices, gemstones, feathers, gold, and silver were also highly-prized commodities. Pearls, various types of textiles, ebony, cedar, and silk were also traded.
The first trade routes were established along the Red Sea. Navigating along its waters, ancient Egyptian merchants traded with the land of Punt, which lies somewhere along the coast of modern Djibouti, Somalia, northeast Ethiopia, Eritrea, and along the Red Sea.
Near the end of the Incense Trade Route's existence, Greek and Roman merchants would trade directly with Arabia and India to obtain spices, textiles, and incense.
Long after these routes have faded into the annals of history, much of the world's incense still comes from India, China, Japan, Tibet, and Southeast Asia.
Just as in the civilizations of ancient Egypt and Asia, many people now use incense as part of their religious ceremonies or an aromatherapy regimen.
But what is aromatherapy? Which fragrances are best? Read on to learn more about the benefits of aromatherapy and the top eight fragrances to use for the most soothing and meditative experience.
What Is Aromatherapy?
In short, aromatherapy is a holistic health approach that strives to promote overall wellness through mostly plant-based essential oils. Aromatherapy practitioners believe that the aromatic compounds released by these essential oils have medicinal benefits.
And science has now come to agree.
Olfaction, or the sense of smell, has the unique ability to trigger both the amygdala and hippocampus. While the amygdala is responsible for processing emotional stimuli, the hippocampus creates new memories.
This is precisely why incense reminds me of home and family and why the aroma of pine needles may remind many of us of the holiday season. Smells have the ability to elevate our moods, reduce anxiety, and help us focus.
But which aromas are best? Here are the top eight fragrances you should look for.
With both spicy and sweet notes, cinnamon is perhaps the most recognizable fragrance on this list.
Derived from the bark or leaves of either the cinnamomum verum or cinnamomum cassia trees, cinnamon is classified as either cassia or ceylon cinnamon. Cassia, which is the most common, is spicy and bold. Ceylon, on the other hand, is milder and sweeter.
Regardless of which one you use, both essential oils make great additions to your pantry, diffuser, or incense collection.
Cinnamon is great for:
- Lowers levels of anxiety
- Reduces depression
- And may help improve the quality of your sleep.
Walk down the cleaning aisle of your local grocery store, and you'll almost certainly find at least one lemon-scented cleaner or disinfecting wipe.
Lemon oil has a ton of applications and benefits. Its bright, citrus aroma is great for:
- Boosting your energy levels
- Opening your airways
- Reducing levels of anxiety
- And balancing your mood.
Though many of us associate sage with turkey, apples, and fall, clary sage is sage's milder, more subtle cousin.
But despite its mild, subtle peppery aroma, clary sage is one of the most potent oils in aromatherapy. It is great for:
- Combatting depression
- Lowering blood pressure
- Alleviating anxiety
- Relieving stress
- Improving memory
- And increasing mental sharpness.
Tea Tree Oil
Extracted from the leaves of the Melaleuca alternifolia plant, tea tree oil has long been used in aromatherapy.
Native to Australia, tea tree oil has been used for everything from halting tooth decay to cleaning. But its aromatic, woody fragrance is great for:
- Boosting your immune system
- Relieving stress
- Fighting off infections
- Reducing congestion
- And improving your quality of sleep.
Native to Australia, eucalyptus oil is derived from the leaves of the eucalyptus tree.
As a natural disinfectant and antiseptic, eucalyptus oil has been used to sterilize surgical equipment, hela minor wounds, and to freshen breath.
In aromatherapy, it can be used to:
- Alleviate congestion
- Boost energy levels
- Relieve stress
- Create a calm environment
- And repel pests.
Extracted from the resin of the myrrh tree, myrrh has a sweet and slightly smoky fragrance.
Prized for its fragrance and health benefits since the time of the pharaohs, myrrh is fairly popular in aromatherapy circles. But more scientific studies still need to be conducted to verify its purported benefits.
With that being said, many people have used myrrh essential oil to:
- Alleviate congestion
- Reduce coughing
- And ease the symptoms of insomnia.
Did you know Peppermint is actually derived from a cross between the spearmint and watermint plants?
Found in everything from lozenges to incense, peppermint's fragrance is cooling and refreshing. In aromatherapy applications, it's most often used for:
- Relieving pain
- Relaxing sore muscles
- Reducing coughing and respiratory irritation
- Increasing concentration
- And lifting your mood.
Distinct from bitter orange, sweet orange oil is extracted from the peel of the blood orange.
Sweet, bright, and citrusy, this oil has many of the same aromatic compounds that are found in lemons. As such, this oil is great for:
- Soothing coughs
- Alleviating anxiety
- Reducing stress
- Eliminating exhaustion
- And increasing focus.
The Bottom Line
With so many fragrances to choose from, why limit yourself to one scent? With our set of mixed fragrance backflow incense cones, you won't have to choose just one.
Made from pure essential oils, you can rest assured that our incense cones are safe for you and yours.
And with awesome fragrances, like rose and lavender, you can't go wrong.
So, we'll hand this off to you. Which are your favorite fragrances, and why? Let us know in the comments below.