Is Burning Incense Bad for You?

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Is incense bad for you? - Dr. Axe

Walk into any yoga studio and chances are high that the place will smell amazing, usually because there’s incense burning. Or maybe you use incense at home to set a relaxing mood when it’s time to wind down. Whatever the case, most of us have used incense at some point.

Many people use it as an alternative to synthetic scents, which can be really harmful to your health. But is incense that right alternative when you’re opting for a more natural lifestyle? Or in other words, is burning incense bad for you?

What Is Incense?

So what is incense? It’s really any type of material that’s made from plant materials and burned to produce a fragrance. It’s been around for thousands of years.

Ancient Egyptians used it to please the gods and eventually, its use spread around the world, usually in religious and healing ceremonies. Even today, you’ll notice that it’s routinely used in churches or to disinfect areas after someone has been sick or passed away.

How do you light incense sticks?

If you go to buy incense, you’ll notice that there are two types. Direct-burning incense is likely the one you’re most familiar with. It’s also called combustible incense. The way this one works is with an ignitable base that binds the incense together.

First, the incense is lit with a flame and then the flame is blown out. The ember that remains smolders, producing both the smoke and the fragrant scent that we associate with incense.

Indirect-burning incense requires a constant heat source to keep it lit, because the incense is made with materials that don’t remain ignited by themselves. Sticks are the most common type of incense, but you can also get incense cones, which burn fairly fast.


What is incense? - Dr. Axe


Why do you burn incense?

As I mentioned, incense is often part of a religious practice. If you walk into a Catholic church, for instance, there’s likely to be incense burning during a Mass. Many people use it to set a particular atmosphere for activities like prayer, meditation or another quiet, spiritual type of practice. And sometimes incense is burned because it just smells good!

Is Burning Incense Bad for You? 4 Scary Dangers

Because incense is derived from natural materials, it seems like a scented solution that’s good for us. But there’s more to incense than meets the eye. Here are some reasons you might want to steer clear of incense.

1. It causes inflammation in your lungs. Just like you might get chest pains and a cough if you’re in a place with a lot of smoke, burning incense can irritate your lungs. One study found that just three hours of breathing incense smoke caused an inflammatory response in people’s lungs, likely due to the fact that incense smoke contains chemicals like carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide and formaldehyde. (1)

2. Incense is a type of air pollution. As mentioned above, any time you burn incense, dangerous pollutants are being released into the air you breathe. This includes including carbon monoxide, a…

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