Self-Care Tips

Turn Your Home Into a Zen Den With These 7 Incense Sticks

Saanya Ali

Photo: Getty/Matt Porteous
“Incense,” derived from the Latin word “to burn,” has been used for centuries in religious, ritualistic, and spiritual ceremonies. Though the true origins of incense are undetermined since many early civilizations traded long before history acknowledged it, the practice of burning incense is most commonly attached to ancient societies from Egypt, India, Japan, and the Americas. In Egypt, tombs were found covered in the resin of incense, as ancient priests would use incense sticks to cleanse ceremonial tombs, protect the deceased from evil, and as an offering to the gods. In India, the use of incense dates back to 3300 BC, having been burnt in Hindu temples to create a sacred space for prayer and serenity. And in China and Japan, incense sticks were used to anoint sacred shrines to nature deities, seeing as the natural properties of incense were believed to link your being to the natural world.

The most common type of incense comes in the form of a stick. These incense sticks are easy to light and burn evenly, releasing the smell of fragrant flowers and essential oils into the environment. According to Shereen Campbell, a seasoned astrologer, reiki master teacher, and founder of My Little Magic Shop, throughout history, the cleansing and calming properties of incense sticks have been used for a combination of both mental and physical purposes. The mental clarity and cleansing that they provide helps create the environment needed for deep meditation, spirituality, and prayer while their aromatherapeutic properties can be used in a holistic healing context depending on which oils or herbs are used. Ayurvedic doctors consider lavender, sandalwood, sage, and rose to be calming while scents like cinnamon, ginger and mint help energize and stimulate the mind.

According to Campbell, incense can be used anytime you require mental clarity or activation. These are the 7 best incense sticks to incorporate into your self-care and spiritual rituals.

1. HEM Sandalwood Incense Sticks, $6

best incense sticks

HEM is one of the best known global manufacturers of incense sticks. Handcrafted in India, they create sticks in a variety of scents with locally sourced ingredients. According to Campbell, the general incense stick will contain sandalwood, a powerful cleansing and healing agent. This set of 6 sandalwood sticks are said to help reduce anxiety and promote a feeling of calmness because the main compound in sandalwood is santalol, a natural sedative that can ease nausea and relax the mind. It is also a natural antiseptic, which can cleanse the air of bacteria.

Shop now: HEM Sandalwood Incense Sticks, $6

2. Nitiraj Premium Patchouli Natural Incense Sticks, $7

best incense sticks

Crafted using an ancient Indian method called “masala incense,” where resins and oils are combined with herbs to make a dough mixture which is then pressed around a thin bamboo stick and coated in sandalwood or another aromatic powder, Nitiraj uses all pure and natural ingredients in their sticks. Due to the long production process, these patchouli incense sticks are one of the brand's most popular scents and carry a long-lasting fragrance and high quality burn.

Shop now: Nitiraj Premium Patchouli Natural Incense Sticks, $7

3. Satya Nag Champa Positive Vibes Incense Sticks, $13

best incense sticks

Each stick of Satya incense is hand-rolled and manufactured in Malaysia and the scents are used everywhere from homes to Buddhist temples. This sweet and spicy scent combination is meant to reduce stress and help provide mental clarity.

Shop now: Satya Nag Champa Positive Vibes Incense Sticks, $13

4. Shoyeido's Ruby Incense, $6

best incense sticks

Based in Japan, Shoyeido uses the secretive practices from the Kyoto Imperial Palace in the 18th century to create their incense sticks. The brand aligns their practices with the traditional Japanese use of incense, which highlights the beauty of fragrances. The popular Ruby blend is made with cinnamon, sandalwood, saussurea, and patchouli.

Shop now: Shoyeido's Ruby Incense, $6

5. Primo Lavender Incense, $6

best incense sticks

Primo is best known for the quality of their scents and the low smoke from their incense. The family-run business keeps their methods of production a family secret, though are transparent about the use of all natural ingredients. The lavender scent is a great calming and soothing option for the evening.

Shop now: Primo Lavender Incense, $6

6. Gonesh Classic Incense, $10

best incense sticks

Made with high-quality charcoal and coated with herbs, resins, and oils, the scent blends used for these sticks have been extensively researched and draw from the brand's historic origins. Gonesh has created in-demand incense sticks since 1923. The classic scent is fruity, and with 100 sticks in the pack, each burning for an hour, they sure give you a bang for your buck (and 60 hours of cleansing aromas).

Shop now: Gonesh Classic Incense, $10

7. Province Apothecary Cedar Wood Essential Oil Incense, $16

best incense sticks

This grounding and strengthening scent is made to clear and purify the air while putting your mind at ease. The charcoal incense is hand-infused with essential oils making the smell gentle and less overpowering than many of the others.

Shop now: Province Apothecary Cedar Wood Essential Oil Incense, $16

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