Buddha statue with smoke from incense

The Art of Incense: Purification, Relaxation, and More

Chances are you’ve smelled it, whether passing an Asian temple, at the spa, or in someone’s home. But where does the practice of burning incense come from and what does it all mean?

Uses of incense

Called xiang, which translates as “fragrance,” incense has been used in China for thousands of years for a variety of purposes, including religious ceremonies, ancestor worship, and traditional medicine.

In the practice of Buddhism, Taoism, and Shinto, incense is burned to purify the surroundings in order to better connect with gods and spirits. In Hinduism, it’s used as a celestial offering. In traditional Chinese medicine, incense is said to have physiological and psychological benefits, with different scents nourishing both the body and spirit.

In Japanese culture, kodo, Japanese for “way of incense,” is the art of appreciating incense. Like kado (“the way of flowers”), the art of flower arranging, and chado (“the way of tea”), the art of tea, kodo is a classical Japanese art of refinement that involves a ceremony.

You can practice in kodo in two ways. Monko, literally “listening to incense,” is appreciating the fragrance. Kumiko are the games played during the kodo ceremony, in which one guesses the incense fragrance. However, the point of kumiko isn't to guess correctly but to appreciate the atmosphere and the meaning of each scent.

Incense scents

Speaking of which, Incense comes in a multitude of scents that have a variety of possible benefits. Here are just a few examples.

Sandalwood. This earthy smell is supposed to have relaxing and anti-inflammatory properties.

Jasmine. A lovely floral bouquet that’s believed help reduce tension and stress.

Rose. An aroma by any other name. Another serene smell that might brighten your state of mind.

Lavender. Need a pick me up? Lavender might help lighten your mood as well as calm your nerves. It might also be an effective deodorizer.

Patchouli. Not just for hippies anymore. Patchouli is believed to help with anxiety and fatigue. Plus you can pretend you’re in 1960s Berkeley.

Cedarwood. Stress and anxiety be gone! Cedarwood is also thought to keep moths away.

Rosemary. Have a case of the blahs? Rosemary might be for you. It’s thought to be a mental stimulant, helping with memory and focus.

Visit our website for even more incense “flavors,” including lotus, pine, vanilla, green tea, musk, and many more, as well as beautiful incense holders.
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