A Brief History of Incense

Incense has been used throughout ancient times dating back over 4000 years. It is thought that incense pre-dates the Egyptians but was certainly used by the Pharaohs for its fragrances and offerings to the gods.

The vast majority of early cultures used the incense, along with aromatic oils, to mask unpleasant odours. Incense was also used in many religious ceremonies for its spiritual qualities and prayer offerings.

How Incense Spread Across The Ancient World

The wide belief is that the first use of incense was by the Babylonians and the Indus Valley Civilizations from around the 1900BC period. The ancient Egyptians used incense regularly and gradually it spread to Rome and Greece.

Incense has long been associated with Buddhism and with good reason. Buddhist monks were responsible for introducing incense to Japan in the sixth century. Around this time incense was used for its pure aromas and various spiritual properties.

Japanese society used incense in its many forms. Even the historic Samurai Warrior around the fourteenth century would use incense to improve their perceived strength. The samurai would fragrance his protective armour to create an unbeatable presence.

Japan gradually began to appreciate the aromatic qualities of incense from the sixteenth century and its use spread through the upper echelons of society.

Incense Production in Ancient Times

In early times incense was often made using locally sourced materials. However with the spread of trade across the Middle East, many incense production materials became readily available albeit at a cost. The incense route was a major trading route for precious materials including Frankincense and the incense arts gradually spread.

The developing cultures across Asia and the Middle East saw the use of many plant and natural materials. Depending on local availability, incense production included many natural extracts widely used today in higher quality incense.

Flowers Fruits & Seeds Leaves Woods
Clove Cardamom Balsam Cedar
Lavender Coriander Bay Cinnamon
Rose Nutmeg Patchouli Juniper
Saffron Vanilla Sage Sandalwood

Incense Use in Modern Times

Fast-forward to present day and incense is still used in many ceremonies and traditions. Incense has steadily grown in popularity throughout the western world and is now frequently used as a simple home fragrance or as an aid to relaxation.

It can be bought in many forms now but the most popular way of burning incense is using incense sticks. Incense in stick form is relatively cheap when compared to even the cheapest scented candles. Also popular are incense cones due to their convenient size and wide choice of fragrances.


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