Posted by Emma Leafe on

Incense sticks are often associated with yoga and meditation and can also be regularly seen burning in temples in the Far East. They are made from a natural material, most commonly seen with a bamboo core - but the quality of this type varies widely as many can have an over powering aroma 

How to Discern Highest Quality Incense Sticks 

guide to buying the best quality incense sticksHigher quality incense sticks tend to be made of a solid stick of pure rolled plant material, which can be seen most often in Japanese incense making. These are on the whole more natural and offer a more delicate fragrance suitable for meditation. Incense can be burnt in the space before meditation or at the start of any spiritual practice to prepare the space.

There are so many different types of incense available and it can be confusing to know where to start. Many spiritual shops do not always stock the best varieties either, thus giving incense a bad name altogether. Seeking out the best, most healthy incense sticks for your meditation is important - but how to do it?


Finding high quality, healthy and non-toxic incense sticks is often quite a challenge. Firstly look for the words ‘natural incense sticks’ on the packet. This should mean that the sticks only contain natural ingredients - which is of course the very best for your health. However to buy pure non-toxic incense sticks, you might want to dig a little further and see where the fragrance comes from -  what exactly is the stick made of? 

Is Incense Good for your Health?

Many sticks are made with a bamboo core, which is a bamboo stick coated with an un-aromatic filler. The incense stick is then either 'dipped' in a strong smelling perfume oil (which can be synthetic and best avoided) or more natural essentials oils (slightly better but still not the purest variety). This makes the sticks cheap to buy, yet many only give you 5-10 sticks per pack, so if you add it up, it’s not actually that cheap for what you receive - mostly un-aromatic wood fillers dipped in oils or perfumes.

This is the type of incense that has given incense a bad name overall. Most people only know this strong smelling type of incense  - and think all incense should be cheap. However the ancient people never made incense this way. They used refined aromatic materials only, due to their therapeutic benefits. Most pure incense materials and aromatics, are amongst the most expensive ingredients money can buy, which could be why so much of it has been adulterated in the past.

Non-Toxic Incense Sticks

If you are looking for the best incense sticks for your health seek out incense that is made with ONLY 'pure herbs' and doesn’t contain any bamboo core (as the bamboo core makes it more smoky smelling). Pure herbal incense also burns cleaner with a whiter smoke or an elegant 'cloud' as the ancients used to call it 


The fragrant cloud of an incense stick, carries molecules of what has been burnt. If what you are burning is pure rolled herbs, the plant essence clears away stuck or negative energies. The fragrant smoke disturbs vibrational patterns held in the space, to reset the frequency to a harmonious pattern.

This practice of purification with incense, is particularly good to do after any conflict in the household, or simply to keep the space feeling calm. Notice how guests entering your space will often remark on the peaceful ambience, beautiful smell and feeling of relaxation, when their own system begins to interact with the plant essences from pure incense.

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Tibetan incense is also very pure and highly medicinal - mostly made with strong smelling juniper. The quality varies wildly and if you get it wrong the scent can be quite earthy and too pungent for many situations. These sticks are usually made for outdoor temple offerings.

For Tibetan incense sticks that are good quality look at the ingredients list and see if there are scents that you like, again look for natural fragrances, anything that smells very strong before you even opened it, is usually an indication that the scent is not real but 'dipped' in fragrance oil (which is to be avoided if you want to buy the best quality incense sticks)

Tibetan incense sticks tend to be thick and smokey - but can also be healing if the scent is refined or not too strong. I always check in with my breath and body ... if I find it too acrid, I generally don't want it in my space - unless I am working with a trusted Tibetan medicine doctor 

Japanese Style Incense

where to buy the best natural japanese incense sticksJapanese style incense or what is also termed 'Solid Stick Incense' are harder to find, but these are some of the purest and most high quality varieties available on the market. Some of this type of incense can still contain subtle perfume, which although can be lovely sometimes, is not what we are looking for in our quest for the most healthy types of incense to use in meditation. Price often denotes quality, so if it says Sandalwood and is surprisingly expensive, it usually means that the Sandalwood is pure and is made of the wood (and not from the essential oil).

Ethics of Buying High Quality Incense

Sandalwood and aloeswood are some of the most expensive aromatics on the market, due to the rarity. Although some species are sadly endangered due to over-harvesting, you can now find high quality suppliers of CITES approved incense materials. This supply-chain are essentially saving many endangered species, by creating cultivated plantations, where they manage supply carefully. Replanting trees, so no wild trees are ever logged or poached.   Choosing sustainable ingredients is imperative, if we want to continue to enjoy these precious aromatics into the future of humanity on this plant.

Why Buy Pure, Plant-based Incense Sticks?

guide to buying the best natural incense sticksIf you inhale the scent from ground aromatic plant material, you are breathing in one hundred times more benefits, than from any burning oils. Oils, essentials oils and perfumes cannot compete with the lasting natural scent of an aromatic herb either - as natural incense will often linger in the room several hours after burning. Not a smoky smell, but the actually fragrance of the plants themselves. So when looking for where to buy the best incense sticks, definitely search for a pure herbal incense stick, or smudge stick and make sure there are no oils inside - not even essential oils, as this can make the scent smokey (and potentially carcinogenic if too much is burnt at once as in many temples across Asia sadly). For meditation you want the scent as pure as possible, so you receive the therapeutic benefits of natural incense - akin to aromatherapy


We hope this guide has helped you identify which variety of incense best suits you and explains a little more about the various types available on the market. If you have any more questions please feel free to message, we are very happy to assist


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