Incense sticks are used for several purposes- religious, spiritual, aesthetic and therapeutic. Today, incense is also used to create a pleasant atmosphere and enhance the ambience. Over the years, incense has evolved into many different forms and types- be it the scent, the shape and also to the way it burns.
The different forms of incense are as follows:
- Stick Incense: The most common form of incense is stick incense. The stick is made from gum or resin. This gum (resin) covers a long thin stick that burns slowly, releasing the particular fragrance that it contains. Stick incense can also be solid so there is no stick center or core, only a solid chunk of incense material.
- Spiral Incense: Spiral incense is similar to stick incense- only it is shaped in a coil. The advantage of spiral incense is that it burns very slowly, lasting for hours and sometimes even days. This is very beneficial as spiral incense not only offers fragrance but also lasts long.
- Cone Incense: Cone incense is a chunk of the same gum or resin used in the types described above, but it stands alone in the form of a cone. It is lit at the tip and burns down, releasing more smoke and fragrance as it nears the base. Cone incense is lit and extinguished, leaving a burning ember which continuously releases smoke and fragrance.
- Powdered Incense: this type of incense is usually reserved for religious ceremonies. The amount of preparation required to burn it is often inconvenient for someone who only wishes to enhance their surroundings.
- Powdered incense is burned in a censer- a container for burning incense. Powdered incense is made purely of resins and requires a direct heat source to burn. These are often burned directly on hot ash, coal, or specially made heated plates.
Incense comes in a medley of different colors and fragrances. These fragrances are created from different organic plant materials, animal derivations such as musk and essential oils that are extracts of either or both. The fragrance can be a single scent found naturally or a combination of two or more ingredients. The combinations of incense scents are endless, as is the variety of burners and paraphernalia that hold them.
The different scents or fragrances of incenses can be seen as follows:
- From woods and barks: Agarwood, Cedar, Sandalwood, Cypress, Juniper, Cassia
- From seeds and fruits: Coriander, Harmala, Juniper, Nutmeg, Star anise, Vanilla.
- From leaves: Patchouli, Sage, Bay, Tea, Balsam,
- From roots and rhizomes: Vetiver, Orris, Calamus, Spikenard, Galangal, Couch Grass,
- From Flowers and buds: Clove, Lavender, Saffron, Rose, and Jasmine etc.
- From Animal-derived materials: Ambergris, Musk, Operculum
The kind of incenses available and their types of fragrances are endless. Incenses are definitely one of the easiest ways available to create the right ambience and set the mood.