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The Science Behind the Smell of Incense


Incense has been around for years and has been used for religious rituals in Babylon, Greece, and Ancient Egypt.


Some of the reasons for using incense include:

  • Thought to repel bad energy, evil spirits, or demons

  • To counteract bad odors

  • Use in various religious practices (most common Catholic churches)

What is incense?

Incense is a substance burned that produces a fragrant smell. It is made up of aromatic material, typically plant based, from sources such as bark, flowers, seeds, resin, and roots with a combustible substance that binds to hold the incense together. Some of the most recognizable aromas are:

  • Patchouli

  • Sandalwood

  • Myrrh

  • Frankincense (my favorite)

  • Cinnamon

How is incense burned?

There are various forms that include:

  • Sticks (the most common and my favorite)

  • Coils

  • Cones

  • Powder

When you light it up, smudge the flame so that it still burns without the flame. Just like a candle you want to be cautious.

Why should you try it?

Smells can be magical...and most smells stimulate an emotional response. Pleasant odors elicit anti-depressive like behaviors and incense has been shown to reduce stress.

The olfactory (smell) neurons that are in contact with the limbic system of the brain, elicit our happiness, motivation, and focus chemicals.

Most people report improved mood or focus when exposed to specific scents, smells and particularly incense. Think about how the smell of your favorite flowers makes you feel, your favorite perfume, or essential oil.

Resources:

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29414121/

https://www.jstage.jst.go.jp/article/jos/66/8/66_ess16149/_pdf/-char/en