The Complete Guide to Choosing the Best Incense for Meditation

香道

For many, depending on your culture and traditions, incense has probably long been a part of your life.

You may have burnt it at home or in your college dorm to create a peaceful atmosphere, or you may even associate it with visiting churches or temples. In less formal environments you may also have come into contact with incense when having a massage or when practicing meditation and yoga.

Incense has an undeniable power and with good reason when you consider how many thousands of years humans have been using it for and the connection we unconsciously feel to that mystical tradition of our ancestors.

The History and Culture of Incense

Aromatic incense burning is an ancient practice, having been around for millennia and used in many different civilizations. Reference to incense can be found in Sanskrit texts and is likely to have originated in ancient Egypt or China although exactly where and when is not certain (that’s how long we’ve been using it!). It was burned not only for its pleasant aroma but as a sacred material to ward off evil spirits and offer prayers, purify and cleanse and to signify spiritual practices.

Incense was introduced to Japan by Buddhist monks in the 6th century and it was here, during the Heian period (8th- 12th centuries) that the way of incense or Koh was created – basically the art of appreciating incense. Using delicate, unusual scents that often related to the seasons, the nobles of the Japanese courts developed an entire culture of incense. They even invented a game where people competed to produce the best fragrances.

In India, incense is often burned to signify the start of a Hindu ceremony and is strongly associated with clearing the mind and healing. It is hard to disassociate incense burning from a deeper connection to something beyond the physical world. Over the years, the use of incense found its way into everyday lives for many people seeking to enhance an environment with the peace and harmony it can bring. Today it still has the powerful spiritual, physical and emotional effects as it did for those living in the ancient world.

Incense comes from the Latin word incendere which means to burn. It is simply made by combining various ingredients such as oils and resin from wood, flower petals and herbs with water. A paste is made and the raw materials cut into sticks, cones or coils and dried.

How to Use Incense

The best and safest way to use incense is to use a high-quality product and burn it in a well-ventilated room, at least one or two meters away from where you are sitting so as to avoid any direct smoke inhalation. If you are using the best incense with natural ingredients, there should be no problem with too much smoke.

Incense is so popular throughout the world because it’s such a simple and effective way to transform a space and foster a sense of stillness. Incense inspires different moods and can completely change an environment depending on the scent.

It’s so simple to add a little incense ritual to your day, just carve out some time where you spend a few peaceful moments, either in meditation which can be carried out any time of day, or simply relaxing in your favorite spot. You could even have a stick burning as you take a soak in the tub, or when journaling or drawing. The therapeutic effects of burning incense will have you making this a regular part of your self-care practice.

As humans, our sense of smell is incredibly important and fragrance has a potent connection to our memory and emotions. A certain smell can, therefore, trigger memories, enhance our mood and encourage relaxation.

Incense and Meditation

There is a reason incense is burned in temples and churches, the scent is extremely compatible with deep contemplation and evokes a sense of the holy and sacred.  When used in meditation, incense can help bring our minds to that clear point of calm. You could either light incense before you begin your meditation practice, in order to cleanse and purify the room or have it burning as you meditate which can have huge benefits when meditating to show gratitude or to visualize positive future scenarios. 

It is hard to meditate in a chaotic space, especially when you are just starting out with a practice. We don’t all have access to beautiful temples or perfect meditation rooms, so filling your space with the light aroma of incense is a sure way to take you out of the normal world and into that clear space in your mind.

Incense brings a sense of harmony and deepens our spiritual connection. Meditation is about finding that still place within ourselves where we can exist for a few minutes or longer, in a state of pure being, that is ultimately the purpose of meditation. We find the space of clarity and focus, where our minds rest without the usual chatter of our conscious brains.

Incense helps to create that environment of serenity and peace. There is something about the ritual of burning incense before meditating that immediately draws us into a sacred space. It evokes the sense of so many religious and spiritual ceremonies where incense is used, which is helpful in setting up the appropriate environment for meditation.

If we find it hard to quiet our minds, the calming, soothing scent of incense is a wonderful accompaniment to the practice, deepening our connection and uplifting our spirits.

The Different Types of Incense Available

The best incense for meditation is entirely personal of course, but two classic and ancient scents stand out – sandalwood and frankincense.

Sandalwood is what you will find wafting towards you as you approach any Buddhist temple or monastery. The Buddhists have been using it for centuries for the sense of calm, groundedness and wellbeing it creates among those meditating and worshipping. Sandalwood is instantly recognizable as a warming, woody smell that is ideal for inspiring deep meditation.

Frankincense is another ancient scent that reduces anxiety and fosters a sense of serenity and happiness. It promotes a meditative state as it contains certain phytochemicals that have an effect on the parts of our brains responsible for emotions. For tranquility and centeredness, this is one of the best smelling incense for meditation and it is often used in churches.

There are many popular scents to choose from, floral or herbal, medicinal or fruity. It’s really up to you to decide the best incense for lifting a certain mood or inspiring a particular emotion. You can test out your favorites and decide which resonates most for you. Below are some popular scents and their healing effects.

Jasmine – Long been associated with easing depression, the aromatic little white flowers aid to uplift your mood and calm the senses.

Lemongrass – Citrus smells are associated with an uplifting energy and feeling alert and lemongrass does this in a revitalizing but soothing way. It has a fresh scent and stress-relieving properties that inspire calm reflection and groundedness.

Copal – This is a traditional Mexican scent, made from the sap of a Mexican tree and is used for cleansing negative energy and inspiring positive transformation. It has a clean, woody sharp scent that lends itself perfectly to cleansing your home space and transforming energy. Copal is a good space -clearing smell before meditation or during times of change to accompany new habits and fresh starts.

Lavender – popular for its relaxing, sleep-promoting effects lavender is the ideal scent for those wishing to unwind and find some calm in a hectic world. It’s the most typical scent for creating a sense of tranquility.

Patchouli – a distinct plant-based musty smell that is not to everybody’s taste, however with the right brand, this does not have to be overpowering. It has an exotic, heavy aroma that is said to be an aphrodisiac.

If you’re wondering which incense brands are the best, look out for brands that stick to traditional, natural methods like the following:

Nippon Kodo is a traditional Japanese brand (with roots going back 400 years!) which won’t let you down and has some of the best incense cones and incense sticks on the market.

Satya is the maker of the famous nag champa and is a traditional Indian brand you will pretty much be able to find everywhere. Originally made in the monasteries of India and Nepal, these incense producers are a household name and still make hand rolled natural incense sticks.

HEM is another popular brand making traditional Indian incense in many different fragrances, all carefully crafted with expert skill.

So What is the best incense for meditation?

Are you feeling ready to connect with your inner calm and bring some zen vibes to your home? Then check out our top affordable five incense products.

HEM Incense

This selection contains some of the best smelling incense and is a smart choice for those looking to try out different scents to get an idea of the best incense for a particular occasion.

You will receive six boxes each containing about 20 incense sticks.

These hand-dipped sticks are made in India and scents include amber, opium, sandalwood, lemongrass, Egyptian jasmine, precious lavender, and eucalyptus.  The aromas are rich and long lasting and the sticks slow to burn. This is really a great choice for such a variety of scents and the fragrance really filled the room and lingered long afterward.

Nag Champa Gift Set

Nag Champa is one of those iconic scents people often get introduced to via yoga or meditation.

It has a base of sandalwood and captures an authentic sense of India and is the best scent for that zen vibe you are looking to create. Satya is a well-known brand and these are the best incense sticks for their subtle but distinctive scent.

This gift set includes the original Nag Champa and 11 other unique scents 1) Sunrise 2) Romance 3) Fortune 4) Rain Forest 5) Celestial 6) Super Hit 7) Nag Champa 8) Jasmine Blossom 9) Midnight 10) Sandalwood 11) Patchouli Forest 12) Blessings. Each one contains 12 incense sticks and will burn for a very reasonable amount of time, close to an hour. The different boxes with their unique names also make a lovely gift for someone new to the world of different incense.

Satya Set of 6

A pack of six different boxes each with a distinctive scent to connect you to a little sense of peace and relaxation.

The trusty classic Nag Champa is once again part of the pack, you will receive 12 sticks per box.  Other scents include Sandalwood, a classic incense stick to burn for meditation. Sandalwood is also at the base of the next scent, Midnight along with hints of vanilla.

Patchouli is a stronger aroma but this specific make is a lovely woody scent.

Sunrise has some vanilla and spice and is a lovely uplifting stick to burn in the morning. Celestial is a lighter, woody fragrance that can balance out other stronger scents.

Karma Scent Incense

With Karma scent incense you will receive six different boxes of natural scents, each with 30 sticks and a holder. The fragrances include Lavender, Sandalwood, Jasmine, Patchouli, Rose, and Vanilla.

Hand blended and rolled in India, this is a lovely, authentic selection wonderful for inviting simple delicate scents into your space and evoking a balanced, calm atmosphere. The rose, jasmine, and lavender are very pure and floral, whereas the sandalwood fills your space with that original aroma, arguably the best incense for meditation. Vanilla is a warming, welcoming aroma perfect for the home.

One of the best things about this pack is the fact that each box comes with its own holder for burning, a thoughtful detail.

Nag Champa

The incense of incenses – traditional masala scent and hand-rolled from the finest oils, powders, gums, and resins available.

Nag Champa Incense has a lovely rich earthy and robust fragrance which fills a room and is harmonious with meditation or for an at-home yoga practice.  The scent of this incense is classic and would be a good choice if you are unsure about which fragrances to go for. There is an unassuming, gentle aroma that most people enjoy.  This selection has two boxes of about 75 sticks each.