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The Art of Herbal Incense

The art of incense has been a cherished tradition in cultures around the world for centuries. From ancient rites and rituals to modern day aromatherapy, incense has played a significant role in human history.

One particularly fascinating and versatile method of burning incense is through loose incense. Let’s delve into the history of loose incense, explore why it’s often considered the best method of incense burning, and provide step-by-step instructions on how to use it safely and effectively.

A Brief History of Loose Incense

The history of loose herbal incense, like that of incense in general, is a rich and diverse tapestry that spans various cultures and civilizations throughout human history. In many cultures, incense was employed for religious ceremonies, purification rituals, and even as offerings to deities.

Loose incense, also known as non-combustible incense, consists of a mixture of natural botanical materials like dried herbs, aromatic woods, resins, and spices. These mixtures are burned to release fragrant smoke for various purposes, including religious, spiritual, medicinal, and cultural practices.

Many cultures around the world and throughout history incorporated loose incense into spiritual practice, believing that the smoke would carry their prayers and wishes to the gods.

Ancient peoples, such as from Egypt, Mesopotamia, China, and the Roman Empire, used hand blended loose incenses containing local herbs and resins in both religious rites and daily practice.

Ayurvedic texts describe the use of various herbs and resins in incense-making. Ayurvedic incense, called “dhoop,” is still widely used today.

In recent years, there has been a resurgence of interest in loose herbal incense, particularly in the context of alternative medicine, wellness practices, and New Age spirituality. People are rediscovering the therapeutic and aromatic benefits of natural incense materials compared to cheaply produced incense sticks and cones, filled with unnecessary (and often unnatural) fillers and binders.

Why Use Loose Incense?


One of the primary advantages of loose incense is the ability to create unique blends tailored to your preferences. You can mix and match various herbs, resins, and essential oils to create a scent that resonates with your specific needs, whether it’s for relaxation, meditation, or spiritual rituals.

We do that hard work for you at Modern Day Magick, but if you need a custom blend for your specific needs, we can help with that too!

Quality and Purity

Loose incense often consists of natural, high-quality ingredients like pure resins, oils, and organic herbs. This results in a cleaner, more authentic aroma compared to synthetic incense sticks or cones. (And it often costs less!)


Loose incense can be burned using various methods, such as charcoal discs, incense burners, oil warmers, or bowls, making it adaptable to your specific needs and available tools.

Ritual and Spirituality

Loose incense burning is deeply rooted in spiritual and ceremonial traditions. It allows for a more personalized and intentional approach to invoking the senses, enhancing the connection to your practice.

This method requires you to be present in the moment, mindfully adding pinches of the blend as you need it. For ritual or meditative practice, this helps you connect deeper to the energy of the work.

Burning Loose Incense Safely: A Step-by-Step Guide

Gather Your Materials:
Loose incense, charcoal disc, matches or lighter, heat-resistant container, sand (optional), tongs (optional)

Your loose incense needs a charcoal disc or other heat method to burn, unless it’s self-igniting. (Most loose incense blends are not self-igniting, and it would be clearly labeled on the packaging if it were.)

You will also need a heat-resistant container for the charcoal, like a cast iron cauldron, burn bowl, or incense holder.

Some people like to be safe with tongs to hold the charcoal. (I like to live dangerously.) Be aware that once they ignite, they get hot quickly!

Optionally, you can get some sand to layer under the charcoal to help disperse the heat.

Some people like to extend the longevity of their incense by warming it gently in a tart or oil warmer instead of igniting it. Some even just leave the container open on an altar, if its a particularly aromatic blend!

Prepare the Charcoal Disc:

To light the charcoal, hold it with tongs or securely between two fingers on one side of the disc. Hold the flame up to the opposite side until you see it spark and catch.

It won’t go up in flames, but rather will start to glow and spark gently, and you’ll be able to see a clear line of ember travel across the charcoal disc. Once the disc has started to ignite, place it in the container.

Add Loose Incense:

Once the charcoal disc is glowing red and covered in white ash (this may take a few moments), carefully sprinkle your loose incense blend onto the disc.

Only start with a pinch, especially if it’s a new blend or you aren’t used to this method. Loose incense on charcoal can produce a lot of smoke, so it’s always better to start with a little and add as needed. Too much incense can also smother and extinguish the charcoal.

Enjoy the Aroma:

Once the smoke has started, you are ready to move into whatever ritual or meditative work you have planned.

As the smoke begins to die down, you can choose to add another pinch to the disc, or simply let the existing smoke linger in the air.

Extinguish Safely:

When you’re finished, make sure the ash-filled container has cooled completely before disposing of the contents.

If you’re ending your incense session before the disc has burned completely, securely cover the container to smother the disc and put out any heat or fire. Again, wait until the container has cooled completely before disposing of the contents.

Never add water to a charcoal disc to extinguish it, as this can create sparks and cause burns.

Give Loose Incense A Try!

Loose incense offers a profound and highly customizable incense-burning experience. With its rich history and versatile applications, it’s no wonder that many people consider it the best method of incense burning.

Whether you’re seeking relaxation, meditation, or a connection to spiritual traditions, the art of loose incense can enhance your practice, all while offering a unique and aromatic journey into the world of incense.

Modern Day Magick offers a line of mindfully blended loose incenses for all your spiritual and aromatic needs, along with the tools you need to burn them.

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