- How To Create Your Own Incense
- For centuries cultures around the world have used incense
to appease and honor the Divine being in their culture. It is
a practice seen in every religion and in every region of the
- Ancient writings provide insight
into how religions and cultures of old used the aroma of burning
herbs, flowers, tree leaves and other natural sources in their
spiritual practices. We can learn from the Hebrew and Christian,
Buddhist, Hindu, Pagan, Native American cultures and more about
these types of ritualistic observances. All these cultures from
around the world had access to various plants from which to develop
a recipe for pleasing the nose and mind.
- Today you can find thousands of books and resources giving
guidance and direction for the use of herbs and oils to make
soaps and creams for holistic purposes. You can find resources
for using leaves of various plants to create medicinal teas.
And countless how to reference books for creating your own incense
or for use in aromatherapy practices.
- According to Kylie Thompson (2006), one of the oldest surviving
texts, (the Ebers Papyrus 2000 BC), defines a list of medicinal
herbs in use around 1800 BC. From ancient texts like these, and
Egyptian Hieroglyphs we know that burning incense was a big part
of this early cultures spiritual life. Priests are depicted burning
incense on street corners during festivals to appease the Gods.
Writings from Egypt and Rome indicate that a healer would burn
incense to cast out demons from an ill patent. Incense was always
kept burning within temples to honor the gods and goddesses.
- Gather Together:
- Dried Herbs, Flowers, Plants
Mortar and Pestle
- Step 1:
- Harvesting Herbs, Flowers & Plants:
There are various rules of thumb
for harvesting materials to create incense. Ellen Evert Hopman
(1995) provides an excellent guideline in her book "A Druid's
Herbal". Such as picking tree leaves before midsummer to
avoid the high concentration of natures own insecticide in the
trees. Picking leaves and flower pedals on a dry day.
- For flowers the pedals should be taken just as the bloom
begins to open. Small amounts of roots are gathered in the early
spring when they can do little damage to a plant that has started
to show signs of coming out of it's winter sleep. Or in late
fall, just as the plant is about to enter it's sleep for the
cold snowy months. And tree bark is harvested in small amounts
during the summer and late fall, so as not to cause infestation
and disease to the tree. The medicinal component of the bark
is held in the soft cambium layer between the sap and the dead
hard outer shell. My Cherokee teachers always taught me that
herbs, such as sage, must be gathered in late afternoon when
they have dried under the Sun from the evening mist or morning
- Step 2:
- Drying Your Harvest:
Drying your harvest of herbs and plants is the second key step.
To ensure bacteria does not develop on your stash, they should
be laid out on a cotton cloth, old newspaper, an old window screen
that has been laid flat and raised on boards, or a crossed wooden
lattice or fence that will allow air to pass through the plants
and leaves. And of course this area should be kept in a dry,
lightly shaded place.
- Each plant has its own length of drying time.
- Flower pedals and leaves do not require the same long periods
of drying time as cambium will require, as an example. Once an
item has been dried, it can be used for burning in the creation
of an incense and smudge stick or it can be used as a non-burning
incense in various types of sachets.
- Step 3:
- Choosing Plants For Your Incense:
Choosing the mixtures to use is up to the individual. What smells
great to one person may not be appealing to someone else. Sage
and Cedar are a common mixture that complements each other. Lavender
and chamomile is another complementary mixture. Smell each one
in it's raw form to ensure it will compliment any other plants
chosen to use in the mixture.
- Once the ingredients have been selected, they can be twisted
into a smudge stick, crushed by hand for a sachet or ground into
a fine powder for combustible or non-combustible incense. Some
people believe that simply crushing a leaf and gluing it to a
stick with resin will create burning incense. That's not the
case. Scott Cunningham (1998) has one of the best descriptions
about combustible or non-combustible incense in The Complete
Book Of Incense, Oils and Brews.
- Step 4:
- Making Incense Sticks:
Once you have selected the mixture you want to use, crush them
by hand into a mortar. Use a pestle to crush the mixture further
until it becomes a fine powder. Any pieces that don't seem to
crush, should be removed.
- There are many types of sticks
to use as a base for an incense stick. But the most common base
is a sliver of bamboo. Drive around your neighborhood and find
someone who has bamboo growing in the yard. You're bound to find
it. Knock on the door and ask your neighbor if you can take a
stake or two that have fallen on the ground. These must be dried
just like the other components of incense. But once dried they
can be easily cut into small thin sticks.
- Additionally there are many resins that can be used to glue
the incense powder to the bamboo sticks. Mucilage or gum tragacanth
glue are the common basic ingredients of all molded incense.
But other natural resins can be used. The stick is coated with
the resin, and then rolled into the chosen powder mix.
- Or you can mix the resin and powder together and fashion
it into a small mold to create a solid incense piece. In either
case, the newly molded incense is set aside and allowed to dry
for at least 24 hours before use.
- Step 5:
- Making Smudge Sticks:
Smudge Sticks are probably the easiest way to make an incense.
Once you have selected the mixture you desire, choose a few dried
sticks that when held make about a 1-inch diameter stash. Use
a cotton string and tightly tie the stash into a stick.
- For More Information:
History Of Incense (PDF)
- Making Incense
- Additional Tips:
- · Once you have ignited your incense, allow the flame
to burn for about 30-seconds. Then blow out the flames and allow
the incense to smolder.
- · Incense sticks will burn until they have been completely
- · Smudge sticks will burn for 2 to 3 hours. The burning
time depends on the type of plants used to make the smudge.
- · To extinguish an incense or smudge stick, turn it
upside down and tap the smoldering end on a non-flammable surface.
- Be Careful:
- · NEVER use water to extinguish a incense or smudge
- · When choosing a cotton string for tying your smudge
stuck, make sure any dyes used are not toxic when burned. Natural
dyes, such as soaking white cotton string in raspberry juice
is an excellent choice.