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Aromatherapy & Incense FAQs


What is Aromatherapy?

There are many medical practices within your reach today: at your doctor's office, in your local pharmacy, in the back room of an acupuncturist in Chinatown. But how about in your very own garden? Yes! And it is Aromatherapy! Aromatherapy is the science of using the essential oils of plants for medicinal purposes to promote health and well being. The "root" of Aromatherapy lies in the essential oils extracted from the plants. These oils are composed of botanical vitamins, hormones and antibiotics that can effectively treat a plethora of ailments.

Unlike most modern medicines, Aromatherapy acts holistically. That is, it combines both physical and mental aspects of healing. Most modern medicines have side effects that weaken one part of the body while trying to strengthen another. In aromatherapy, many parts of the body are strengthened simultaneously using essential oils. For example, chamomile is an antiseptic, a cell rejuvenator and soothes the nervous system by calming and relaxing you!

How Long Has Aromatherapy Been Around?

The term Aromatherapy was coined in 1937 by French chemist Renee Maurice Gattefosse. One day, while conducting an experiment in his lab, Maurice burned his hand and quickly jammed it into the closest bottle of liquid, which happend to be lavender oil. His hand healed quickly with no blistering or scarring. This triggered what become a life long interest in the healing properties of plants, what he called "aromatherapie".

This aside, Aromatherapy as a practice dates back into our early history to the Egyptians. The Greeks also knew of Aromatherapy. "The Father of Modern Medicine," Hippocrates, taught the health-enhancing joys of aromatics to his pupils. Though the science of Aromatherapy is modern, the knowledge of the benefits of our aromatic friends, the plants, has been around for centuries.



One of the finest all-natural ingredients. From the sacred forests of India comes Sandalwood. Within India by the shores of Southwest is the dense forests of Mysore. It is here that the highest grade of Sandalwood is regulated by the Indian government. The fragrant heartwood of the Sandalwood trees has been used to carve statues of Buddhas, make sacred temples, and for countless other uses. Its aroma calms the mind and makes one think of sacred things.

Aloes Wood (Kyara * Jinko)

One of the finest all-natural ingredients. We cross the world to Vietnam, Indonesia, and Malaysia to find the ancient forests which yield the most prized of all incenses. First, a fungus begins to grow on the Aquilara (type of evergreen) tree. After the tree has fallen naturally, the miracle of nature begins. The tree begins to defend itself and forms a resin. The longer the tree sits, the more resin forms. Its aroma is majestically deep and ancient. The select pieces are referred to as Kyara and are more expensive than their own weight in gold.

Cinnamon (Keihi)

From Southern China and Indonesia comes one of the oldest spices known to man. The bark of the tree is harvested and pounded and the result is cinnamon. It has a warm spicy aroma and a sweet flavor. Only the finest grade is used in our incenses.

See Baieido Japanese Incense



Indian incenses, diverse as they are, fall into several distinct categories.


Masala is the Indian word for "blend of spices and or herbs", such as those used in making curries or other food dishes. Masala types of incense are made by blending a number of solid aromatic ingredients into a paste and then rolling that paste onto a bamboo core stick. These incenses usually do not contain liquid perfumes (which can evaporate or diminish over time).


Charcoal is integral to the manufacturing of an unscented blank (non-perfume stick), which is then dipped into a mixture of perfumes and/or essential oils. These blanks usually contain "spent" sandalwood powder, a binding sticky resin that holds the sticks' coating together, wood charcoal and sometimes other substances. Most charcoal incense is black or near-black in color, and is distinctive because they are rich in aromatic liquid perfumes. Indian charcoal type incense are very different from the "punk" type stick incenses often sold in America: the latter are usually made by dipping cheap firecracker punks into solutions containing synthetic aromatic chemicals. By contrast, Indian charcoal sticks almost invariably contain for superior perfumes, and burn smoothly without producing irritating smoky by-products.


Also includes the sub-group Champas. Durbars are Masala incenses which frequently contain ingredients entirely unfamiliar in the West. They are usually very slow burning and quite sweet and spicy in bouquet. They amalgamate solid and liquid perfumes in a gummy base which never quite dries, making the sticks themselves soft to the touch. All possess rich, complex fragrances.


Champas are set aside from other Durbars because they are based upon a critical natural ingredient indigenous to India called "halmaddi". This sticky grey semi-liquid substance is what gives the world-famous Nag Champa its characteristic color. Halmaddi is a key part of the Nag Champa bouquet, which is meant to smell like the extravagantly fragrant flowers of the Indian plumeria tree. Halmaddi is also hygroscopic, absorbing moisture from the air, so occasionally champa type incenses have a wet feeling to them. All champas are slightly sweet and produce extremely smooth bouquets when burned.Some of our finest Indian incenses are in the champa family.


These incenses are those which we have found to have the qualities of both the Masala and Charcoal types. It is possible to make a Masala incense and then add liquid perfume to it, producing a very colorful and rich bouquet. Or semi-liquid substances such as resinoids or ambers can be added to the Masala along with essential oils or liquid aromatics. The resultant incenses usually have a great deal of depth and are well "fixed" (fragrance is extremely stable on the stick, and has considerable lingering quality when the stick is burned).


Woodbase incenses include Sandalwoods and some Ambers. These contain little more than powdered or ground wood plus a resinous or solid perfume. They are really masalas but since the woodiness is so distinct in most cases, we put them into a separate category.


Dhoops are Masala or Combination incenses in extruded form, lacking a core bamboo stick. Originally, dhoops were basically powders or mixtures of various substances; one particularly famous early type being an earthy mixture called "dashanga". Modern dhoops generally have very concentrated perfumes, and some are very smoky when burned. The most well-known, Chandan Dhoop, is basically sandalwood powder rolled into a little log. Another great favorite is Laxmi Dhoop, a black, tar-like substance rolled out into soft sticks which burn for hours and produce an extremely mellow fragrance. The word "dhoop" can just mean "incense" in India. We use the term generally to describe Indian incenses without core bamboo sticks.

*Text compiled and written by The Incense Works, Inc. 1998. Thanks!

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