Incenses have been around for thousands of years and use can be traced in practically every culture on our planet.
Over the past several decades what was once only found in places frequented by hippies or ethnic outlets such as Indian grocery store, we are finding that incenses are now main stream and can be found many general retail stores.
As it use and popularity have increased over the last 50 years we are also finding that there is a huge difference in the quality of incenses in the market, some are 100% natural while others are chock full of chemicals and other somewhere in between.
Many people will tell you that they are “allergic” to incenses, this is due to their experience with very poor quality “dipped” or “scented” incenses, which we will explore in more detail shortly.
Up to now there really is not a lot of information about the difference when it comes to incenses and how you can tell the difference between a quality traditional incense that is made from scratch and a dipped or scented stick.
Traditional Incense stick
Some also refer to as a “masala” incense which is the Hindi word for “spice”. This type of incense is typically of better quality and is made in process that dates back centuries. Basically it’s a process of combining raw ingredients that would include spices, herbs, natural oils, resins, wood powders, flower petals to name a few. These would be ground into a powder form and mixed with honey to make a dough like mixture. This pliable dough is used to them roll onto a plain bamboo stick and then coated with aromatic wood powder so that the wet sticks do not stick to each other. This is a TRADITIONAL incense stick.
Dipped or Scented incense stick
This second type of incense was developed as the modern “short-cut” alternative to making incense sticks. The stick actually begins with an “unscented punk stick” which is sawdust and or charcoal powder mixed with a binding agent and formed onto to a bamboo stick (these sticks were originally made to light fire crackers). Usually these punks come from factories in China and Vietnam that produce these sticks by the ton. The next step is to mix the fragrance oil with a diluting oil. Here is the what I would consider the main problem with this type of poor quality stick. In order to distribute the costly element that is fragrance oil evenly over thousand of sticks, you have to find a cheap way to increase the “volume” of your fragrance oil in order to coat these unscented punk sticks. The solution that most incense makers use is a diluting oil such as diethyl phthalate DEP or dipropylene glycol DPG at about 90%, mixed with a about 10% fragrance oil to increase the volume of the fragrance oil. Now the unscented punk stick is literally “dipped” in this concoction to produce a scented or dipped incense stick. The inherent nature of this type of stick is that you are burning about 70% chemical oil with a small amount of fragrance trying to mask a stick made from sawdust that actually smell like burning wood.
Now you have a better understanding of what goes into making a TRADITIONAL incense stick and DIPPED SCENTED stick. You decide what you would rather be using.
If you want to know what type of stick you have, simply light the stick and observe the flame, if you see a black plume of smoke, you know that most likely it’s a dipped, scented stick.