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How is Incense Made?

how is incense made

Incense is an aromatic substance composed of various ingredients such as resins, woods, flowers and spices. It has a pleasant, long-lasting fragrance.

Large incense companies produce their products using both mechanical and human labor. On the other hand, many smaller family-run operations still craft incense by hand.

Raw Materials

Incense is made using a variety of plants and resins, some in their natural state and others processed. Different herbs, woods and spices are employed along with aromatics like essential oils, decoctions and hydrosols.

Incense can come in a variety of forms, from powder to coils, cones, joss sticks and stick incense. To make stick incense, an herbal blend with resins and sometimes other ingredients is mixed and spread on a bamboo stick for burning.

After being extruded through a sieve, incense makers in Japan create straight or curled strands which are then dried and burned. Drying times for Japanese incense vary by season; typically one week in summer and ten days during winter.

To bind the loose incense mixture into pellets, some pliable resins such as labdanum and opoponax are commonly used. Once formed into pellets, these grains of resin are dried in a ceramic jar with a lid for two or three weeks before use.


Incense is composed of ground and mixed resins, woods and powdered ingredients that have been ground. It can be burned on charcoal tablets, a Japanese incense stove or through methods employed in traditional Kodo ceremonies.

When grinding powdered incense ingredients, it is essential to grind them to a fine powder. Doing this helps the incense sticks, cones or molds burn more consistently and evenly.

Additionally, it is wise to sift ground powders through a metal sifter/strainer before mixing them with sticks in order to eliminate larger grains and prevent lumps that could cause your sticks to crumble. This helps avoid damaging them during transportation as well.

When creating incense, you can utilize various bases such as sandalwood, cedar and pine. These woods are highly aromatic and add an intense scent to the blend.


Incense is composed of powdered incense material, a binder and an oxidizer. Usually gum Arabic or Tragacanth serves as the binder that holds everything together while sodium nitrate or potassium nitrate provides fuel for burning the incense.

Sifting the powdered incense material removes impurities and ensures it is thoroughly mixed. Measured amounts are then kneaded into cylindrical “dough” before extruding it into stick shapes using a hydraulic machine.

Different types of incense are produced based on their production method. Direct-burning incense, which is combustible, is lit directly with a flame and leaves behind an ember that smoulders and releases fragrance.


Incense is dried using various methods, depending on its type. Rope: Twisted ropes of incense powder are commonly used in Tibet and Nepal for religious ceremonies.

Direct-burning incense is created by coating a bamboo stick with damp powder or by extruding paste around a cored stick. Direct-burning incense is lit directly by flame and emits an aromatic smokey fragrance.

Pellet: In Japan, pliable resins are employed to form loose incense mixtures into pellets that can be molded and dried in a ceramic jar. These pellets can be shaped into cones or sticks for greater durability compared to loose incense.

Making incense can be a time-consuming task, involving careful mixing and drying. But the end result is worth all the effort: using high quality ingredients with ample ageing before burning allows for an enhanced aroma that lasts long after being burned, providing a luxurious aroma experience.


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