Friday, February 10, 2017

The Power of Natural Incense

Pine wood heated over charcoal. The aroma from the natural resin is sweet and full of complexity. Inhaling deeply awakens the senses and infuses you with life.

The power of incense has long been recognized by man. The potent and powerful aromas of natural resins, aromatic wood, herbs, etc. are used to strengthen resolve, stimulate Qi as well as to help relieve stress and tension, and to heal. Throughout history the use of incense has been found in many cultures and civilizations in association with aroma therapy, TCM, Ayurvedic medicine, religious ceremonies, traditional rituals, tributes and commemorations, and alongside daily life. Tea ceremonies are often conducted with incense to create a warm ambiance and to awaken the senses in preparation for the tea being served. The power of the olfactory nerve has a profound powerful effect on the body and mind.

The best incenses are handmade with high quality natural materials. However high quality incense is a niche market and make up only a small percentage of the overall market. Most of the commercial products sold do not come close to the quality of incense produced by a gifted craftsman. In ancient times these glorious handcrafted incense captivated the attention of Emperors and noblemen of the Imperial Court in China and Japan with their alluring scents that can lift the spirit and clear the mind. Today’s commercialism has become a numbers game. It is prioritized towards attaining high numbers in quantity through mass production, high margins through utilizing shortcuts and cutting costs, and high market share through the pursuit of an ever increasing growth. Altogether all this combines towards achieving high profits but unfortunately all too often it is in sacrifice of quality and wellbeing. This means synthetic and chemical additives are common. Wood chips that have had their natural oils extracted are treated with artificial aromas and used in the production of cheap incense. It is rare that I encounter incense that I like or even feel safe using. With this in mind I have decided to make my own incense. It will be an early project to start off the year.

The aroma of pine wood and old Liu bao combines well. In the past the production of Liu bao tea relied on the burning of pine wood to provide heat. The smoke from the wood would infuse itself into the tea giving Liu bao a smoky pine aroma. After decades of storage some old Liu bao (like this 50 year old) still retains a faint aroma of pine smoke providing the tea with an added dimension to its character.


  1. I look forward to your posts on this project. I made incense 30 years ago while a young nun, using an old Egyptian recipe that took several days. I still have a jar of it. I guess it is well aged by now. But I do not currently have any burner charcoal to try it.