Looking back at the ancient tale of the Three Wise Men who brought frankincense and myrrh resin as part of their gifts to the newly born King, it’s easy to see that incense has always played a pivotal role in our world. In fact, these two gifts were considered to be even more valuable than gold, which was the third gift offered by the Three Wise Men.
To make incense, aromatic tree barks, resins, roots, seeds and flowers are used. Incense was initially used by the ancients as a way to drive away bad spirits while inviting the favor of the Gods into one’s life. This is mainly because, in ancient times, Gods were closely associated with nature and as such, any fragrant plant or flower was believed to place one closer to the Gods while also eliminating bad odors.
These days, fragrant scents are mainly associated with designer perfumes which are often perceived as purchasing an integral aspect of that fashion brand’s “signature style.” In fact, the word perfume comes from the Latin per and fumum which literally mean “through” and “smoke.”
These days, a combination of “punk sticks” and fragrance oils is used to manufacture stick incenses. All of these are derived from natural materials of course, although the sticks are made from Chinese bamboo.
The top part of the incense stick is covered in machilus wood and sawdust paste which enables the stick to retain its fragrance for longer periods of time, which is important because it can go through a lot of shipping and storing before it reaches the final user. Most incense sticks which are made in India also use charcoal to produce the absorbent punk.
As for the fragrant oils that are used, they are derived from plants that naturally smell fragrant, as well as other perfumes which are mixed with an oil base. Sometimes the point of the incense stick will be color-coded with a bit of paint to show its fragrance (i.e. purple for lavender).
- First, punk sticks are imported from China in packs of 100 each. The front part of these packages is thrashed to clean them up, and a vacuum cleaner is used to get rid of the resulting dust.
Then, the sticks are painted in a different color depending on the particular fragrance that they will be infused with, after which they’re left to dry overnight.
- The following day, the top end of the stick bundles will be dipped into a fragrance oil mixture and then placed on shelves where they’ll stay overnight to dry. Most incense manufacturers keep a wide range of fragrances in stock to combine for the process, and a lot of the Indian fragrances are actually made up of many ingredients.
- The day after that, the stick bundles will be bound with wax paper and wrapped in ziplock plastic bags that measure 30.5 x 7.6 cm. They will stay there until an order is received, after which they get packaged into recycled cardboard boxes and dispatched to the customer who gets to enjoy the final product.
Making incense sticks is a low-waste business which means that it doesn’t lead to the creation of any byproducts, as all the paper is recycled and any dust residue is vacuumed away.
Also, the whole process is rather safe and hazard-free, which is good news for the workers. However, some people might be allergic to the incense sticks’ natural components.
What Does the Future Hold
The trends surrounding incense burning are changing as Westerners are starting to use them more frequently than ever before. Research shows that a typical American home might burn one incense stick a week whereas Indian families usually burn up to three stick a day.
However, incense sticks are also gaining popularity as a more affordable and safer alternative to conventional home fragrances which are harmful to the environment and human health. The growing interest in Eastern practices has sparked interest in incense demand and in the use for meditation and aromatherapy purposes.