Updated: Nov 6, 2021
I’ve been using incense for years in my spiritual practices, both personally and professionally. I light incense whenever I meditate. I use them for various rituals and whenever I work with a client. Whenever I feel negative energies need to be shifted from a room in our house, I’ll burn some incense. And, they make wonderful gifts!
I’ve used a wide variety of incense brands and the three that are always in my cupboard are the SAC, Tulasi, and Satya brands. They all have their distinct aromas and while each brand may share the same scents such as sandalwood and lavender, they also have their own specialties.
If you’re looking for the perfect incense, then read on. I’ll talk about what is incense, where does it come from, and why do we use it. I’ll also share with you my personal opinion on the three brands I’ll be reviewing in this blog and why I always keep these three brands in my Place of Wellness.
What is Incense?
Incense is aromatic material usually made with natural plant material and essential oils. In ancient times, incense would be made with plant matter such as resins, oils, sage, cedar, and wood that exuded strong scents.
Over the years, the ingredients have changed with other materials to increase the aromas of the product and making them more combustible. Certain ingredients have also been added to help bind the materials together.
The word “incense” means “to burn” from the Latin word “incendere.” Ancient Egyptians would use bouquets that were combustible as forms of incense during worshipping rituals. They also used resin balls in tombs to release aromatic fragrances into the air.
Plant oils were first used as incense as far back as 3300 BCE by the Indus Civilization. Seeds, frankincense, and cypress took the form of incense for Indians while it was the wandering Buddhists monks who first introduced the incense stick to China in 200 CE.
It’s burned to create a smokey scent and incense is used in many religious ceremonies, spiritual practices, meditation, aromatherapy, and for pleasure. It’s often used as an insect repellant and room deodorizer.
The incense we’re most familiar with is the stick or cone which is lit with a flame. The flame is fanned out, leaving the stick to smolder, producing a smoking fragrance. In order to maintain the burning ember and the release of fragrance over time, binders are used in the production of incense.
The two main types of base binders found in commercial incenses are:
Natural plant: The gums of certain plants are used to bind the materials together. The gum is normally sourced from some Acacia plants and Middle Eastern legumes. Together with other plant materials, the gum is combined to produce a combustible, fragrant incense that burns at a stable rate.
Fuel and oxidizer: Wood powder or charcoal can also be used as a binding base for incense, providing the fuel for the stick. The oxidizer is then added to the mixture for sustaining the burn. Fragrant materials are added to the mix for the aroma.
What is Incense Used For?
Incense was originally used in religious ceremonies, rituals, and for cleansing the air. But, there are many other uses for burning incense such as the following:
Masking the unpleasant smells of human habitation in ancient times
Getting rid of demons and other evil spirits
Bringing in the gods and good spirits
Supporting prayers of divination
Ceremonial and purification rites
For medicinal and healing purposes (the first phase of Ayurveda)
I’ve already mentioned how I use incense and it’s a wonderful tool to use during meditation and healing sessions. My yoga teacher uses it all the time during classes and my spiritual teacher always welcomes us to his home with the scent of burning incense. Walk into any esoteric shop and you’re likely to encounter the aromas of incense.
The Types of Incense
While I’ve talked mostly about the incense stick, there are many types of incense available. They're divided into two categories namely direct-burning and indirect-burning. I’ve been talking mostly about the direct-burning type of incense.
Indirect-burning incense relies on heat provided by coals or charcoal. This incense type is made of aromatic material combined with resins but has no combustible products included. The most common incense of this type is frankincense which is also known as “pure incense.”
Indirect-burning incense can come in the form of whole material which is burned in raw form on coal embers. It can also be in powder or granulated form which burns very quickly or in a paste. This is a combination of plant material and a sticky ingredient such as honey or resin which is left to mature. This form of incense was popular with the Arabian cultures.
The incense stick, also known as the joss stick, is a form of direct-burning incense and it’s the most popular form used today. But, other types include:
Coil: Very popular in China and can burn for hours, even days.
Powder: This is often placed onto burning wood.
Paper: Infused with fragrance materials, the paper is shaped into an accordion, lit, and left to burn over time.
Cone: This shape was first developed in Japan in the 18th century and it burns quickly.
Watch this video which talks about how sacred flowers are being used to make hand-rolled incense sticks in India instead of being discarded into rivers.
SAC vs. Tulasi vs. Satya: A Review of Three Incense Brands
The three incense brands I’m reviewing in this article all come in stick-form. I use all three in my own home and spiritual practice. Enjoy reading my review and I hope it helps you to decide which one to buy the next time you need to stock up on incense.
SAC produces a whole range of fragrances in their brand of incense. However, their White Sage is my absolute favorite. The scent is light and sweet without being too overwhelming. The sticks are well-made and they light easily (if the energy is right!).
They burn at a steady rate through to the end although occasionally they may stop burning halfway. But I’ve only noticed this happening with my older stock and it very rarely happens. I’m also a big believer that the energy of the person I’m healing or working with has an effect on how well the stick burns!
SAC produces 250 unique fragrances. Other fragrances I often buy from this brand include:
Patchouli (a firm favorite of mine)
JBJ SAC also produces incense cones. This brand is well-priced so ideal for burning every day in your home as an all-around cleansing incense.
Tulasi is not often easy to find but when I do see it in my favorite esoteric shop, I make sure I buy them. Tulasi has been making incense sticks since 1945 in India and is made using natural gum, resins, spices, herbs, honey, essential oils, and fragrance.
My favorite fragrances are chamomile, red rose, and vanilla. The aromas are pleasantly robust but not overbearing. The sticks light well and burn steadily. I always feel I’m using a higher quality incense when I use Tulasi.
The brand also makes cones and they produce over 60 different fragrances. I like the fact that these incenses are made with mostly natural materials and it’s even more noticeable when you smell their gentle fragrances.
Satya is another high-quality incense I enjoy using for both personal reasons and for when I’m working with my clients. A product made in India; Satya incense was founded in 1964. The founder used ancient methods first used by monks to make incense. This method included key fragrances combined with special resin and hand-rolled into incense.
The sticks are crafted using the masala/flora technique and the company only uses skilled artisans to manufacture their handcrafted incense. The company is also eco-conscious, only using bamboo as the core of their sticks.
The sticks always light easily and burn at a steady rate without fizzling out halfway through! The smoky fragrances are always natural-smelling while still imparting gentle aromas without being too heavy or sweet. My favorite Satya fragrances are patchouli, Positive Vibes, and Super Hit.
Burning incense enhances so many different rituals and practices. A good-quality incense will fill your room (and home) with beautiful fragrances and improve the energy flow. The act of lighting incense sets the intention for whatever practice you’re about to perform be it meditation, welcoming someone to your home, or healing.
Experiment with the different brands and fragrances on the market to find your favorite one. There are so many to pick from so have fun and enjoy the experience!