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Incense, has its roots back in mankind's first experiences with fire
itself. It is unlikely primitive man would have missed that certain
woods had more pleasing aromas and indeed varying emotional effects.
Incense artifacts, thousands of years old, have be found in throughout
the world, and appear to be a part of virtually every culture. The connection
between incense, religions, medicine, and shaman practices is obvious,
it would be impossible to separate them, or say which proceeded the
other. Historically it is difficult to trace because it has always been
largely an esoteric and oral tradition evolving in relation to both
religion and medicine. There are many myths regarding incense as well.
Several modern sources
include the use of Salt Peter (Potassium Nitrate) in making incense.
This is undoubtedly a much later addition that arose in the commercialization
of incense, primarily in the last 40 years. Incense has appeared in many forms: raw woods, chopped herbs, pastes,
powders, and even liquids or oils. What most of us think of as incense
today is joss-sticks or cones. Cones as we know them were an invention
of the Japanese and introduced at the World's Fair in Chicago in the
late 1800's. I cannot say, at this time, when the Joss Stick or Masala
incense first appeared. We do know that it was brought to China by Buddhist
monk's around 200 ce. Herbal Incense Herbal incense is blended primarily for effect. Scent is the secondary
consideration in many cases, but in "all" cases, the scent is designed
for the burn.
Many natural incense ingredients have almost no aroma
until they are heated. Notably, Aloes wood as well as many other resins
have little or no aroma until they are smoldered over the incense fire. Incense and Herbalism go hand-in-hand, and the oldest sources we have
regarding herbalism and incense is the Indian Vedas. The primary references
are in the Athar-vaveda and the Rigveda. This is commonly considered
first phase of Ayurveda and deals with the subject in a more magical
and religious approach to healing. Examination of early Vedic texts
indicates that the herbalists, or healers were a second tier of Hindu
priest that emerged out of the agrarian areas. They appear to assimilated
their knowledge of herbalism with the rituals and beliefs of the orthodox
or "Sacrificial" priests. However, they remained two distinct classes
and were scorned in the later days of this phase by the sacrificial
priests who considered them unclean because of their association and
medical treatment of all classes of people. Around 200 bce. They were
excluded by law from participating in sacred rites.
Even before this,
the medical priests had begun associating with wandering mendicants
and ascetics who were renouncing sacrificial rites and orthodoxy, and
among these were the Buddhist or bhikkhus. Pali sources indicate that
the Buddhists were the principal means by which these emerging physicians
organized, developed and disseminated their emerging art. This begins
the classical phase of Ayurveda and the great healer Atreya emerges
among others at the medical university at Taxila. Among his students
were Jivaku (Buddha's Physician). Later, Brahmanization of certain medical texts amends the heterodox
practices in light of a more orthodox view, and Buddhist medicine appears
to split with Ayurveda. From this point, incense evolves in both traditions
in association with medicine and herbal remedies, and becomes even more
a closely guarded secret passed down primarily in the oral tradition
Making Incense The process of making herbal incense without the use of salt peter,
or even charcoal is actually quite easy. Perhaps the easiest way is
by using a binder commonly called Makko. Makko not only serves as a
water soluble binder, but as a burning agent as well. Makko is a natural
tree bark from an evergreen tree and contains no synthetic chemicals,
charcoal, or salt peter. To make incense, simply mix the desired ingredients, in powdered form,
with makko and add some warm water. Knead the incense-dough thoroughly
and form into cones or sticks and let dry at room temperature for about
twenty-four hours. Sandalwood is common to almost every incense formula, and serves as
a wonderful base aroma as well as a burning agent of it's own right.
If you were making an incense of sandalwood alone, the amount of makko
required may be a little as 10%. However, resins like Frankincense are
more difficult to burn and must be used in much lower percentages to
burning agents such as sandalwood or makko. Otherwise, your incense
won't burn properly and may me too smoky or keep going out. Here is an incense recipe you can use to get you started:
- Incense Ingredients
- Breaking down the five elements and their Ayurvedic relationship
to plants and common incense ingredients we find them falling into
five classes. The following chart shows the relationship:
- 1. Ether (Fruits)
- 2. Water (Stems & Branches)
- 3. Earth (Roots)
Costus Root, Valerian,
- 4. Fire (flower)
- 5. Air (leaves)
|Recipe for Cone Incense...
1 part Sandalwood
1 part Cassia
1/2 part Clove
Add a little warm water and knead dough completely.
Form in small incense cones.
Dry at room temperature for 24 hours.
After that you can get creative and start mixing any incense ingredient
into you formula.
Incense Making Kit
Fabulous and educational "hands-on" kit that introduces you to the fine art of crafting your very own incense! Create either sticks, cones, or smudge blocks with this seamless and simple step by step kit.
An exciting new product offered by Mountain Rose Herbs!