The 10 Best Incense Sticks of 2021

Calm your senses and transform your space

Our editors independently research, test, and recommend the best products; you can learn more about our review process here. We may receive commissions on purchases made from our chosen links.

The holistic practice of aromatherapy has been used for centuries to promote healing, as well as strengthen spiritual, physical, and psychological well-being. Incense sticks, which contain high concentrations of essential oils, are a common tool for aromatherapy and are often used in conjunction with yoga and meditation to create a calming atmosphere.

When inhaled, the molecules from incense sticks are absorbed through the olfactory system, which transmits signals to the limbic system in the brain, affecting emotion and memory processing. Composed of fragrant plant-based ingredients like plants, herbs, and tree bark, incense sticks release an inviting, aromatic smoke when lit.

Here are the best incense sticks on the market.

Our Top Picks
Uniquely crafted without a bamboo core, these Japanese incense sticks produce a clean, low-smoke burn.
Take in aromas of sandalwood and amber while calming your senses as you enjoy this affordable set's clean, slow burn.
Purify your space with this set of three sustainably harvested, pesticide-free smudge sticks grown in California.
Allow the calming scent of lavender to help you unwind with this 120-count pack of incense sticks made with fragrant oils.
Free of harsh chemicals and artificial fragrances, these incense sticks are crafted for chakra activation and spiritual healing.
Enjoy your time outdoors with this chemical-free set that's powered by plant-based ingredients.
Enjoy the naturally smokeless burn of these mellow, earthy incense sticks traditionally crafted in Japan.
Create your own personalized incense by adding your favorite essential oils to these highly absorbent sticks.
Search for your signature scent with this variety pack, featuring 12 traditionally scented sticks that boast a slow burn.
Complete with 120 incense sticks, this set delivers 45 minutes of odor elimination and air purification per stick.

Best Overall: SHOYEIDO Plum Blossoms Incense Sticks

Shoyeido Plum Blossoms Incense Sticks

Produced in Kyoto, Japan, Shoyeido incense sticks provide a clean and naturally low-smoke burn. Free of synthetic materials, Shoyeido's plum blossom incense delivers a delicate balance of sweetness and spice for a breath of lush, springtime air with zesty notes of cinnamon and sandalwood. 

These Japanese incense sticks are uniquely crafted without a bamboo core, resulting in their clean, low-smoke burn. Each box includes 150 all-natural incense sticks free of synthetic oils and fragrances. Each Shoyeido incense stick measures 5.25 inches and burns for approximately 30 minutes. 

The Link Between Scent and Memory

Have you ever caught a whiff of something that stopped you in your tracks and transported you back in time? Odor-evoked memory, also known as the “Proust phenomenon,” is a rare yet powerful experience that occurs when an odor triggers autobiographical memories.

Unlike verbal and visual stimuli, odor triggers a much more emotional response. For this reason, aromatherapy works on an individual level, as different scents trigger different neurophysiological and emotional responses in different people.

Best Budget: Satya Nag Champa Incense Sticks

Satya 3 Pack of Nag Champa Incense Sticks

Calm your senses with the earthy, sweet fragrance of dragon’s blood incense sticks. This harmonizing aroma is reminiscent of sandalwood and amber mixed with notes of patchouli and tropical flowers. This incense from Satya is said to bring balance and clarity while calming the mood and atmosphere. In addition, its purpose is to protect and strengthen one’s aura from external negativity.

This value pack features three boxes of authentic Satya Sai Baba incense sticks. Each box contains approximately 15 hand-rolled incense sticks, which deliver a clean, slow burn.

Best Purifying: Alternative Imagination California White Sage

Alternative Imagination Premium California White Sage 3-Pack

This pack of premium California white sage bundles features three sustainably harvested, pesticide-free smudge sticks. Each wand burns slowly, holistically cleansing the air in your home and restoring balance in the atmosphere.

The white sage wands are grown in California and hand-tied with 100 percent cotton string. To burn one, hold the tip of the wand over an open flame and let it catch for approximately 20 seconds. Then blow it out and let the sage smolder and cleanse the space.

The Power of Sage

Sage has long been used in both healing and spiritual practices.

Some alternative medicine practitioners believe that burning sage—also known as smudging—purifies the air with its antimicrobial properties. In fact, research suggests that burning herbs for an hour can help purify the air for the next 24 hours, effectively reducing airborne bacteria by 94 percent.

Best for Sleep: HEM Lavender Incense Sticks

Hem Lavender Incense Sticks

Indulge in the soothing, gentle scent of lavender with these HEM incense sticks. This classically versatile scent is known for its calming, relaxing properties, making this pick the ideal incense to burn before bed.

HEM's Indian incense sticks are made from aromatic, biotic materials, including fragrant oils derived from the extracts of herbal plants, seeds, and barks. This 120-count pack of incense sticks comes with six tubes, each of which contains 20 sticks. The sticks are 9 inches long and have a burn time of approximately 30 minutes.

Best for Meditation: Chakras Incense Sticks Variety Set

Chakras Incense Sticks Variety Set

Specially crafted for chakra activation and spiritual healing, this set of incense sticks features natural scents dedicated to each chakra, including patchouli, jasmine, ylang-ylang, bergamot, sandalwood, rose, frankincense, peppermint, sage, and lotus. 

Chakras Incense does not contain any harsh chemicals, artificial fragrances, or synthetic materials like petrochemicals, charcoal, or alcohol. Made from natural bamboo, they deliver a slow, even burn to create a long-lasting, soothing environment for meditation, reiki, yoga, and relaxation. This set also comes with a free wooden incense stick holder.

Best Mosquito Repellent: Murphy's Naturals Mosquito Repellent Incense Sticks

Murphy's Naturals Mosquito Repellent Incense Sticks

For people who seem to be mosquito magnets, it can be difficult to enjoy a summer evening outdoors. Luckily, there's a chemical-free solution. Murphy's Naturals Mosquito Repellent Incense Sticks are composed of highly-concentrated, plant-based ingredients, including an essential oil blend of rosemary, peppermint, citronella, lemongrass, and cedarwood.

Unlike DEET-based products, these incense sticks deliver a light, pleasant scent when lit. The DEET- and petroleum-free formula repels mosquitoes within a 12-foot radius for up to 2.5 hours. For best results, light the stick ten minutes before gathering outdoors, and keep it upright in an incense holder or flower pot.

Best Natural: Bodha Smokeless Incense

Bodha Smokeless Organic Incense

Kindle a cozy, woodsy atmosphere with Bodha Smokeless Organic Incense. Intermingled with gentle notes of hinoki, cedarwood, and frankincense, these incense sticks emit a mellow, earthy scent that delightfully lingers in the room without overwhelming the space.

Traditionally crafted in Japan, Bodha uses only organic, high-quality woods and essential oils to produce its incense sticks that offer a smokeless burn. A great option for folks who are sensitive to both scent and smoke, this box contains 60 sticks, each with a burn time of approximately 20 minutes.

Best Unscented: The Better Scents Uncolored Incense Sticks

The Better Scents Uncolored Incense Sticks

Crafty folks can make their own personalized incense by starting with The Better Scents' unscented, uncolored incense sticks. By creating your own scent, you can steer clear of harsh chemicals since you know exactly what goes into the mix.

These 11-inch sticks are made from bamboo coated with compressed sawdust. The sticks are highly absorbent, retaining fragrance well and delivering a slow, even, low-smoke burn. Simply add your favorite essential oils and dry the sticks properly.

Best Variety Pack: raajsee Incense Sticks 6 Pack Variety Set

Raajsee Incense Sticks 6 Pack Variety Set

There’s no better way to find your signature scent than opting for an affordable variety pack! Raajsee's incenses are authentically hand-rolled and shaped in India. Using a blend of all-natural resins, herbs, spices, aromatic wood powders, charred coconut powder, fragrant oils, and honey, each stick boasts a slow and steady burn for up to 45 minutes.

This set features six traditional scents, including nag champa, lavender, sandalwood, Japanese rose, patchouli, and white sage.

Quick Tip on Scent

Scent preferences play a key role in choosing incense. For example, lavender is generally considered to be a relaxing fragrance, but if an individual has a negative memory tied to the scent, they may experience adverse effects. Luckily, many brands offer variety packs and sampler-style quantities to help you experiment and discover scents that are most pleasing to you.

While different scents have been tied to specific health and wellness benefits, there is not a definitive body of scientific evidence behind these claims. With a vast range of ingredients and manufacturing processes used throughout the world, not all types of incense have been studied. 

Best Odor Eliminator: Utopia Scents Incense Sticks Variety Pack

Utopia Scents Incense Sticks Variety Pack

Unlike air fresheners that temporarily mask odors by coating the air with chemicals, incense sticks eradicate foul smells while neutralizing the air.

Hand-dipped and rolled in India using natural bamboo and high-quality essential oils, these 10-inch incense sticks deliver 45 minutes of odor elimination and air purification. This Utopia Scents set provides 120 incense sticks in ten scents, including rose, lemongrass, sandalwood, strawberry, frankincense, white sage, apple, vanilla, jasmine, and lavender.

Final Verdict

If you're looking for high-quality incense sticks that deliver a low-smoke burn, the Shoyeido Plum Blossoms Incense Sticks (view at Amazon) are a good choice. Shoyeido ensures that their products don't contain accelerants or synthetic fragrances that lead to chemical exposure—making them optimal for individuals who are sensitive to smoke. They're also eco-friendly and made without a bamboo core to help them burn longer.

What to Look for in an Incense Stick


Generally, the longer the stick, the longer the burn. Additionally, longer sticks emit more fragrance, filling the room for a longer period of time. 


When purchasing a scent for the first time, opt for a smaller pack. Quantities range from ten sticks to hundreds at a time. Many brands also offer small-batch variety packs, giving you the opportunity to sample a wide range of scents without committing to a single fragrance.


Certain scents are widely used in yoga and meditation practices while others are used to purify the air or rid a space of negative energy. Whether you’re searching by scent profile or meditative purpose, dig into the details behind the scent to find what’s most appealing to you. 

Natural vs. Synthetic

Be wary of "all-natural" on product labels, as it may not mean that no synthetic materials were used in the manufacturing process. Ingredient lists should be composed of wood, herbs, and plant-based materials.

Avoid charcoal-based incense for burning indoors, as it can release toxic chemicals. And steer clear of vibrantly colored incense sticks and overly pungent scents. Use your nose as a guide—the aroma of natural incense is typically soft and subtle. If the incense smells like perfume, that’s a tell-tale sign it’s made with synthetic ingredients.

Why Trust Verywell Mind?

Emily Stone researches and reviews products for Verywell Mind, Verywell Fit, and Verywell Health. As a health and wellness writer, Emily is all about clean, green products. When it comes to incense, she favors Shoyeido (view at Amazon) and DIY unscented sticks.

Was this page helpful?
Article Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Sugawara Y, Shigetho A, Yoneda M, Tuchiya T, Matumura T, Hirano M. Relationship between mood change, odour and its physiological effects in humans while inhaling the fragrances of essential oils as well as linalool and its enantiomersMolecules. 2013;18(3):3312-3338. doi:10.3390/molecules18033312

  2. Herz RS. The role of odor-evoked memory in psychological and physiological healthBrain Sciences. 2016; 6(3):22. doi:10.3390/brainsci6030022

  3. Nautiyal CS, Chauhan PS, Nene YL. Medicinal smoke reduces airborne bacteriaJ Ethnopharmacol. 2007;114(3):446-451. doi:10.1016/j.jep.2007.08.038

  4. Lin T-C, Krishnaswamy G, Chi DS. Incense smoke: clinical, structural and molecular effects on airway diseaseClin Mol Allergy. 2008;6(1):3. doi:10.1186/1476-7961-6-3