by Cathy Douglas
Incense smells good, and there’s nothing wrong with enjoying it for that reason alone. But as with crystals, incense — in all its different styles and fragrances — has metaphysical properties based on a long history of use. In fact, if you’re used to working with crystals, the nature of many incenses can to some extent be compared to the properties of specific stones: sandalwood to quartz, lavender to amethyst, rose to rose quartz, etc. Using a crystal with a complementary incense amplifies the power of both.
Most modern incenses are built around a sandalwood stick or cone, overlaid with perfumes, essential oils, resins or other sources of fragrance. (For more on the general types of incense and how they are made, please see our previous article, Incense Basics.)
As always, please remember that the healing properties of the incenses below are complementary to regular treatment, not a substitute. Use common sense and seek your doctor’s advice, especially if you are pregnant or suffer from respiratory conditions.
Common Incense Blends:
Nag champa: While there is a flowering plant called nag champa, the incense that goes by that name is actually a blend of sandalwood with floral scents that include the champa flower, ylang ylang, and others.Traditional nag champa formulations also rely on resin from the halmaddi tree (Ailanthus, or tree of heaven). It creates a soothing, relaxing mood. Uses: purification, creating sacred space, spiritual matters, meditation, enlightenment.
Aastha: Very much like Nag Champa, but a little sweeter. The name means “faith.” Uses: relaxation, meditation, religious occasions.
Aqua: A light floral scent with cyclamen and primrose. Uses: any kind of cooling, whether of temper, physical fever, or excess emotion of any kind.
Darshan: This traditional blend combines sandalwood, jasmine and vanilla. The word can mean “pilgrimage,” or may imply having a vision of a deity or holy person. Uses: concentration, freedom from negativity, reviving a tired mind or spirit.
India Temple: Since this is a brand name, the ingredients are proprietary information. The manufacturer will only say that they use “the finest fragrant woods, herbs, essential oils, and other ingredients of the highest quality,” and that it is designed to smell “just like temples in India.” Uses: connecting with Hindu traditions, ritual
Opium: This incense does not contain any parts of the opium poppy. It’s a blend formulated to resemble Yves St. Laurent’s Opium perfume, which is a blend of many typical incense ingredients, including sandalwood, cedarwood, jasmine, rose, cinnamon, and many more. Unsurprisingly, it turns out smelling somewhat like a store that sells incense. Uses: sleep, lucid dreaming, developing psychic skills, contacting deities and guides in dreams.
Plum blossom: This Japanese incense is actually a combination of floral and spicy ingredients, blended to evoke spring. As far as I’ve been able to discover, it doesn’t actually use plum. Uses: meditation, connecting with Zen Buddhist or other Japanese traditions, purity, feeling young
The following are properties for single incense ingredients. Remember, though, that in in the real world most stick and cone incenses contain more than one ingredient, usually including a sandalwood base.
Amber: love, comfort, happiness, healing, past life discovery, connecting with the past
Benzoin: purification, clearing negative energy, balance, prosperity, dealing with negative emotions (especially anger, anxiety and depression), working through grief
Cedar: purification, clarity, enhancing psychic skills, love, preventing nightmares, respiratory infections *
Cedarwood: purification, protection, abundance, grounding, clarity, male virility, strength (including strength during a healing process)
Cinnamon: prosperity, success, healing (especially during winter), love and romance, amplifying the energy of spells or rituals, strength, cultivating power (especially for people who feel otherwise powerless, or as if they are in a hopeless situation)
Copal: Purification, protection, exorcism, finding true love, separating from toxic relationships
Cypress (including Hinoki): Strength, comfort, stress relief, confidence, will power, concentration
Dragon’s blood (resin from dracena plant): removing negativity, banishing unclean entities, protection (especially during magical work), enhancing power, male energies
Frankincense: Purification, consecration, meditation, resolving conflicts, speaking up for oneself or others, transforming a chaotic environment to one of peace. Often used in religious rituals, sometimes with myrrh.
Gardenia: Love, healing or maintaining good health, peace
Geranium / Rose geranium: courage, protection
Ginger: love & romance
Jasmine: attracting love or money, cultivating beauty (especially inner beauty), creativity (especially creating something that will touch other people), connecting with others emotionally, wisdom, dreaming (including prophetic dreaming)
Juniper: psychic skills, psychic protection & protection from the evil eye, breaking a string of bad luck
Lavender: relaxation & sleep, protection & purification, romance, cleansing (especially after a period of health issues), healing (especially from addictions), serenity
Lemon: healing, purification, love. An especially good scent to use during fasting.
Lemongrass: mental clarity, relief of respiratory conditions *
Lotus: peace & harmony, improving mood, concentration, focus. Very good for meditation, or to burn while studying.
Mesquite: disinfecting, digestive problems, enhancing the energy of spells or rituals
Musk: love & romance, courage, facing one’s limits (especially one’s mortality), connecting with departed loved ones
Myrrh: purification, consecration, exorcism, banishing negative influences, connecting with solar deities & powers. Traditionally burned during funerals.
Patchouli: attracting love ** & money, connecting with fae, sensuality, fertility, finding happiness
Pine: purification, banishing negative energy, removing curses, moving beyond outgrown habits and circumstances, strength & healing, finding a job
Rose: love & romance, fertility, emotional healing, enhancing beauty (including inner beauty), divination, house blessing
Sage: protection, purification, wisdom, balancing mind / body / soul, cleansing, creating & purifying sacred space.
Sandalwood: Protection, purification, sanctification, offering to any god, good luck.
Sweetgrass: Purification, space clearing, calls up beneficial spirits.
Vanilla: love & romance, decision making, study, power
Ylang ylang: Love, harmony, peace, euphoria
* If you use incense as a complementary treatment for a respiratory condition, be sure to use a very pure blend, and stop use immediately if the smoke causes any discomfort. If the condition is a serious one, consult your doctor before burning any incense.
** If you use patchouli to attract love, it might be a good idea to make sure the object of your desires doesn’t hate the stuff. Many people have a visceral, negative reaction to patchouli, in part because in the past it’s been used to mask the smell of pot or BO.