How to Burn Incense

How to Burn Incense

How to Burn Incense

Incense comes in many forms and there are various ways of using them.

You will encounter on this site loose incense which comes in grains, granules, powders, and resins which require burning on a small charcoal disc. These discs, the same that are used for shisha or hookah pipes and they provide a heat source which effectively burns the incense placed on top of it, releasing the aroma. Our signature European incense and natural incenses (frankincense, myrrh, and so on) uses this method. You will need a heatproof container and a layer of insulation such as ash, sand, gravel to insulate and prevent the container getting too hot. It is advisable to use tongs to light and handle the hot charcoal and they should be used with safety in mind. Below is a flyer that comes with our loose incense (please scroll down for instructions on using other forms of incense).

Another form of incense you may already be familiar with are incense sticks, also called joss sticks. As the name suggest, these come in stick form which when lit with a match or lighter will burn themselves and release delicate coils of purfumed smoke. Our Japanese and Indian incenses are in stick form. They are generally differently made - Indian incense such as SATYA is made with a very thin piece of wood or bamboo that is hand dipped and rolled in a fragrant paste of herbs, resins, and oils (called "masala") and is often made by cooperatives of women providing a source of income. It takes tremendous skill and experience to make these incense sticks by hand which look perfectly uniform in shape and size. The sticks are dried and bundled together and then packaged according to the market in which it will be sold. These Indian sticks are very affordable yet their quality varies greatly between brands. Too often a person's first experience with incense is something bought in the supermarket or other store for about the price of a cup of coffee. These sticks usually smell awful - of burning wood and smoke - and can make a person think that they just don't like incense! The incense sticks we sell here are carefully curated for their joyous, uplifting fragrances. We offer the type of incense that will make those around you ask you what exactly is it and how can they get it. If you are looking for a place to experiment, perhaps start here. You will need an incense stick burner that will keep the lit stick safe while it burns down. This can be a bowl with ash or sand into which you place the stick. There are also designated incense stick burners that have a small hole or notch into which you plant the stick. Just be sure to place it somewhere safe and always attended to as it contains a live, burning ember. 

Our Japanese incense sticks, like those made by the 400 year old NIPPON KODO family company in Tokyo. These incense sticks differ from their South Asian counterpart as they tend not to have a central wood or bamboo core. Instead, a paste of natural ingredients including powdered woods and resins are mixed to precise formulations and then either hand or machine rolled or cut into thin stick forms. Even though machinery may be involved to form their shape, they still require a great level of skill in their manufacture and there are some venerable Japanese incense houses who take great pride in maintaining their centuries-old incense making traditions. Japanese sticks can also be affordable and a wonderful way for people new to incense to experiment and find a fragrance that captivates them. Also, many of the best-known heritage Japanese incense makers like Nippon Kodo and Shoyeido also make small batch, elegant and costly incense sticks made from the world's most precious and sought after incense woods. 


  1. Using an incense stand, bowl, or other container.
  2. Light the tip of the incense and blow or shake out the flame. The end should be glowing red. Put the burning incense stick in an incense stand and place on top of a plate to catch any ashes.
  3. Another method of burning incense is to place the stick in a container of sand or ash to hold the stick up straight.
  4. Place the incense in the center or corner of a room and avoid having it directly next to you or in any drafts.

The best way to experience incense is to enjoy the wafting fragrant smoke mingling with the ambient are from afar. As you see the smoke rise you will begin to enjoy the pleasant fragrance that spreads entirely throughout your space. You will also continue to enjoy the lingering beautiful fragrance for hours after it has finished burning, much like a scented candle.

In addition to Japanese and Indian and other Asian incense being available in stick form, they can also come in form of coils or cones. Using these follow the general principles as above, they are placed on or suspended over a heat-proof dish, tile, or surface and the tip of the cone or the outer edge of the coil is lit and the flame extinguished. Given their compact shape, cones tend to not last long but release a huge amount of fragrance. Coils can come in all different sizes and can burn for hours. The coil can be carefully extinguished or broken into smaller sections to get more uses from it.

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