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The act of burning incense has been an important ritual since ancient times. Believed to have originated in Egypt in the time of the Old Kingdom, it was once used by priests for fumigating tombs. Incense has a long history of being used in conjunction with ceremonies, rituals, and spiritual and religious occasions.
Incense burning was discovered in India and Southern Asia as early as 3300 BC. Used alongside worship and prayer, it was believed that burning incense could ward off evil spirits while purifying the surroundings.
Over 2,000 years ago, the trade of spices and incense played a significant economic role between the east and west. In those days, the Middle Eastern Incense Route wound its way through the Middle East to the Mediteranean region, where it was popularized by the Roman Empire. It’s been estimated that 3,000 tons of incense traveled this route each year.
Benefits of Burning Incense
- Complement a yoga or meditation practice. Incense has a reputation for being associated with yoga and meditation. Given that some of the essential oils most commonly used to scent incense sticks help ease stress and increase focus, burning incense is a perfect addition to a yoga and meditation routine.
- Increase calm and focus. Essential oils of plants like rosemary, peppermint, and citrus have been shown to improve mental cognition, clarity, and focus.
- Reduce stress and anxiety. Some herbs are specifically known for their ability to ease anxiety and curb stress. For example, breathing in lavender oil has proven to be effective in reducing anxiety in several studies.
- Aid sleep. Lavender is also well-known for its sedative effects, and is considered to promote sleep and fight insomnia. Burning incense with lavender essential oil as you’re getting ready for bed may help you drift off to sleep faster.
- Stimulate creativity. Burning incense can help boost creativity and flow state by clearing and stimulating the mind.
- Purify your space. Buddhist monks have been using incense to purify their atmosphere for thousands of years. Amazingly, one study showed that burning incense for an hour reduced the bacteria in the air by 94%!
- The simple pleasure of enjoying a lovely scent. Of course, the simple act of enjoying a smell is a benefit in its own right. Taking in pleasurable aromas actually has the ability to make us happier, trigger fond memories, and boost our moods.