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20 Different Types of Incense

Various types of incense. placed on a wooden table.

Whiffs of delicious fragrance are enough to envelop anyone in a world of perfect ambiance within seconds. This is why incense is often used to set the mood for meditation, encourage relaxation, and help you get better sleep. Incense has been used to imbue human life with its incredible aroma from as early as 2000 BC, while some believe that incense was discovered as far back as 3300 BC.

Incense, although having the ability to improve the smell of a room has for centuries been used to ward off evil spirits as well. Keep reading to learn about all the different types of incense that you have to choose from and how they can benefit you.

What is incense?

When we think of incense, we automatically think of its aroma. The smell of incense is produced by biological matter when it is burnt. A combination of plant materials and essential oils produces the aroma given off by most types of incense.

Types of Incense

1. Incense powder

Plenty of incense with incense powder.

The earliest known version of incense was the powder form. To create this powder, powdered flowers, leaves, and other powdered scented parts of a plant were thrown into the fire to produce the incense. As such, powder incense has to be ignited in order to produce its scent.

There are various benefits of using this slightly dated incense powder including its ability to purify the air. Incense powder is also believed to improve memory and concentration depending on the type of dried flowers it is made from. Thanks to its potency, incense powder can easily get rid of odors without producing harmful side effects.

With that said, the chemicals used when the incense powder is created can lead to dizziness and headaches.

2. Stick incense with Bamboo core

Black incense sticks on a black background.

This is probably the most commonly used type of incense on the market. These incense sticks tend to be made with bamboo sticks, essential oil, as well as sawdust. The sticks are usually burnt to create positive feelings or even improve the ambiance in a home.

The fragrance of this stick is given off by the bamboo core when it burns. These thin bamboo sticks are relatively easy to make which is why you can find them almost anywhere and everywhere. For some, incense sticks contain polyaromatic hydrocarbons that can make them cough and sneeze.

3. Senko

Japanese senko and shoko.

The part of the word, “ko” in the word “Senko” refers to incense. Initially, these sticks were very expensive and difficult to come by, however, they have become easier to obtain now. Senko sticks are made from cedar and are the purest and most Japanese type of incense.

Plus, they’re sustainable as well.

4. Cylinder incense sticks

Whereas a stick incense emits a fragrance that comes from the bamboo core, these cylinder sticks do not have the same core. Instead, these sticks are made from a dried paste of the incense material and since they lack a core and are dried in cylinders, these sticks last far longer than the burning core type of incense. The cylinder incense sticks are similar to another type of incense, cone incense in that the material used to create this cylinder incense stick is made by hand.

Being longer and thinner, you can expect these incense sticks to burn longer.

5. Joss sticks

A group of joss sticks placed on a white surface.

Joss sticks come predominantly from China which is considered to be the home of incense sticks. These sticks have a religious connotation associated with them as they’re commonly used to fill Chinese temples with f a pleasant fragrance. Traditionally, Chinese Joss sticks are hand-rolled and can be used for a variety of purposes other than religious ceremonies.

This type of incense can remain fragrant for 30 to 90 minutes depending on how long the stick is and how much product has been used to make the stick. When using Joss sticks, it’s important to ensure that you never leave these sticks to burn unattended.

6. Hand-dipped incense sticks

As the name of these sticks suggests, the bamboo incense stick or the masala sticks are dipped in essential oils by hand. Since these sticks are dipped in various fragrances at a time, they tend to produce a wide range of unusual scents. These are the thinnest of all sticks and can either be dipped in natural or synthetic essential oils.

7. Dhoop

Dhoop the essence of pilgrims.

Dhoop incense sticks have their origins in India. They’re sold in a variety of sizes and that can easily be broken down due to their highly malleable nature. The sticks have become increasingly popular in the west.

However, each Dhoop stick is very fragile and may break even if breaking the stick wasn’t your intention.

8. Agarbatti

Holly agarbatti for fuming aroma isolated on white background.

If you visit an Indian home, you may catch the smell of burning wood from the Agarbatti. The name gives away the fact that these sticks emit the fragrance of agarwood, aloeswood, and batti. The word, “batti,” in Agarbatti refers to sticks and the wooden core of these sticks is what gives off the potent woody scent picked up by your olfactory system.

9. Masala sticks

These hand-rolled southeast Indian incense sticks are made of wood, herbs, flowers, resin, and gum. These ingredients are then made into a paste before they’re rubbed onto a bamboo core. Once the paste dries, the masala stick can be used.

The mixture used to create these Masala sticks makes it possible for it to produce a wide variety of different scents.

10. Durbar sticks

Incense sticks burning in durbar square.

Similar to Masala sticks, Durbar sticks are made from a combination of interesting ingredients. Only the ingredients that are used to make the paste can only be found in Asia and they’re known to produce a sweet yet spicy aroma.

11. Champa sticks

The fragrance of these sticks resembles that of the Champa flower and they’re made from Sandalwood and frangipani, which is similar to the Durbar and Masala sticks. Frangipani has certain therapeutic benefits when inhaled which adds to the appeal of these incense sticks.

12. Simpoi sticks

These sticks are known to originate in Tibet and they are also hand-rolled. There is not much information to be found about these sticks as they are not as commonly found as all the other incense sticks but they are an honorable mention.

13. Fluxo incense

This incense is one of the rarest of them all and is not at all common among Western users, being predominantly popular in India. With the Fluxo scent, a variety of other scents are combined to produce the pungent smell given off by the incense. Since such complex ingredients are used to create this incense, it has the ability to produce all kinds of different scents.

However, the incense is almost too pungent for most Westerners but is commonly used in many Indian homes as Indian worshipers are quite accustomed to the stronger smell.

14. Cone incense

Incense cones with fresh lavender flowers.

Cone incense is an aesthetically pleasing type of incense that’s usually used for meditation. The cone incense is made by mixing various powders and essential oils to produce the desired scent. When it comes to using cone incense, there are some rules to follow.

Usually, the cone incense is burnt on a burner and it’s riskier to use as it can cause a fire when placed near objects that are flammable.

These incense cones are a long-lasting option compared to other types of incense sticks. The cone incense does in fact burn for longer than the stick incense and when incense sticks are pressed into a cone shape, they are referred to as direct burning incense. The cone incense can be extinguished in much the same way as the stick incense.

15. Incense backflow cone

Just like cone incense, the backflow cones are aesthetically pleasing additions to the incense family. The only difference is that the smoke flows downwards instead of upwards. These cones like the normal cone incense are made from dried herbs and thus burn more rapidly than other types of incense.

The incense backflow cone is a good investment for people who don’t enjoy smoke flowing upwards and they look great in a meditation room.

16. Coil incense

Chinese burning coil incense.

This type of incense is becoming more and more popular as the coils are made from incense materials. There is no bamboo core but just as incense sticks are made, the incense materials are shaped into the form of a coil and often come with coil holders. These incense coils can burn for an entire day which is far longer than the bamboo incense sticks or many other types of incense.

17. Resin incense

Close-up of resin incense on a white surface.

Resin incense is burnt on a charcoal base. It might be slightly harder to get your hands on it, but it’s definitely worth the effort to find it. That’s because resin incense produces a very potent fragrance and that pungent smell is linked to positive psychological effects.

Resin incense is known as an indirect burning incense that requires a special heat source so that the resin matter can continue burning.

18. Bakhoor incense

This is a rare incense form that can be found as either scented chips or incense blocks. The Bakhoor incense is becoming more popular and more research is being conducted on this Bakhoor incense type to discover its benefits and origins.

19. Chinese sticks

Smoking Chinese sticks.

Chinese incense sticks make use of the Halmaddi flower which is only available in India. It also contains many ingredients that are not as commonly used in other incense sticks. However, the smell of the Halmaddi flower is one of the most delightful.

20. Manaka

This is one of the oldest forms of incense available and one of the things that make it unique is the fact that it doesn’t produce a scent when burnt. This is especially great for people who tend to be troubled by the aromas given off by other incense types but it is said to offer certain spiritual benefits that make it very valuable.


How to choose the right incense for you?

While each incense type has its own pros and cons, the quality of the incense type that you buy is of utmost importance. Read reviews about the burning time of a certain type of incense and the distribution rate of the incense. You don’t want to end up with an incense stick that doesn’t burn for long or evenly distribute its fragrance.

You will know if incense is authentic or not if it says that it’s made from 100 percent natural ingredients. Also, make sure to buy high-quality incense so that you don’t experience any harmful side effects when using this incense.

What about preparation time?

If you’re looking to buy incense for your home, you want to buy one with the least preparation time required. Direct burning incense has the least preparation time and this includes incense sticks, coil incense, and cone incense. On the other hand, indirect burning incense requires far more preparation time.

When was incense used as an offering?

During ancient times, incense was used as a sacrificial offering to the Gods and it is still used for this purpose in both Eastern and Western cultures. However, many people have also started to see the benefit of using incense for meditation and purifying the air. Is Joss incense harmful?

For best results, it is recommended to adhere to certain rules when burning Chinese joss sticks. While joss sticks are believed to be harmful to the lungs, high-quality joss sticks that are made from natural ingredients are not at all harmful.