Incense is found in so many venues — churches and other places of worship, yoga studios, meditation chambers — that to some it may seem to epitomize the aromatic delivery system. Should it be so?
I’d like to explore the arguments for preferring essential oils to incense.
Both incense and essential oils have been used for thousands of years for a variety of purposes, including promoting spiritual practice. Both are, ideally, made exclusively from plant materials with no additives. So why might one be better than the other?
Early incense contained nothing other than ground herbs, plant gums, and honey. Most incense you buy today, however, is a combination of a wide variety of substances, some natural, some not. Furthermore, the way in which incense is created varies greatly. Plant and other natural materials are sensitive to heat, humidity, pressure, and so on, so how these materials are processed to make incense truly matters.
Incense consists of aromatic plant materials, often combined with essential oils, and can be categorized into two main types: indirect-burning and direct-burning. Indirect-burning incense is non-combustible and cannot burn on its own. For example, when I used to burn Frankincense and Myrrh, I would place the resins on a smoldering piece of coal. In addition to being messy, there was the burning coal to be wary of.
Direct-burning incense is combustible on its own, so it doesn’t require a separate source of heat. Most incense available today is of this type: Light it, blow it out, let it smolder.
The main difference between diffusing essential oils and burning incense is that when you burn incense smoke is produced. This smoke includes such gaseous pollutants as carbon monoxide as well as various nitrogen and sulfur oxides.
It’s also important to reiterate here that the most commonly available types of incense are synthetic and can fill the air with their own toxic substances in addition to the polluting by-products of burning.
Furthermore, consider one of the most commonly available forms of incense — the dipped incense strip. The actual incense blanks may be made with inferior pressed wood and glues that are toxic when burned. So no matter how pure the actual incense, the final product, when burned, may still be toxic.
The oils I work with are pure therapeutic grade oils and have undergone substantial in-house and third-party testing to assure that they are all-natural with nothing added and nothing taken away. Yes, most if not all of what you’d find commercially available is synthetic or, at the least, has synthetic additives. But I can hook you up with the real thing.
Furthermore, essential oils don’t need to be mixed with anything to release their aromas. I am, for example, able to diffuse my Frankincense and Myrrh exactly as I diffuse all my other oils — safe, clean, effective. Nor do they need to be adulterated to fit on a stick or hold together in a cone or whatever. They are simply and purely the essential oils extracted from the oil sacs of plants.
There are three ways to enjoy essential oils — aromatically, topically, and internally. It’s the aromatic use that’s most directly analogous to the burning of incense. I’ve written elsewhere about diffusing essential oils. This method of use is especially well-suited to creating an atmosphere of peace, serenity, liveliness, energy, quiet, and so on. Pick the atmosphere you want for a particular purpose and choose your oils accordingly.
And there are no by-products. When you diffuse an essential oil, there is vapor but no smoke, no flame, no heat. High heat actually destroys the beneficial properties of essential oils. These oils come from plants. In the same way that we destroy the health benefits of the plants we eat when we expose them to too much heat so, too, do we destroy the health benefits of essential oils.
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I hope I’ve piqued your interest in essential oils. They are amazing, and I love them. Want to learn more? Or get started diffusing your own oils, perhaps to support a meditation or prayer practice? Please contact me. I’d love to hear from you!