The 11 Best Incense Sticks of 2022

Calm your senses and transform your space

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The holistic practice of aromatherapy has been used for centuries to promote healing, as well as strengthen spiritual, physical, and psychological well-being. “Scents tend to bring us into the present moment and help us feel grounded which is particularly useful when our nervous systems move into the overload of anxiety or are overwhelmed," explains Dr. Rachel Glik, EdD, LPC, trauma therapist and spiritual teacher based in St. Louis.

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 we feel emotionally distressed or outside of our window of tolerance, incense can provide a signal to the brain that all is well, that we are safe, and that we can relax," Dr. Glik said. 

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.

Best Overall: SHOYEIDO Plum Blossoms Incense Sticks

4.8
Shoyeido Plum Blossoms Incense Sticks

Courtesy of Amazon

Pros
  • Free of synthetic materials

  • Low-smoke burn

  • All natural

  • Subtle secent

Cons
  • Expensive

  • Scent may not be strong enough for some

Produced in Kyoto, Japan, Shoyeido incense delivers a clean and naturally low-smoke burn. Free of synthetic materials, Shoyeido's Plum Blossom Incense Sticks feature 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 a 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. 

Good to Know

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 an emotional response which is why aromatherapy triggers different neurophysiological and emotional responses in different people.

Best Budget: Satya Nag Champa Incense Sticks

Satya 3 Pack of Nag Champa Incense Sticks
Pros
  • Long-lasting smell

  • Sweeter smell

  • Low-smoke burn

  • Good value for bundle

Cons
  • May be too sweet

  • Some find scent changes when lit

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 for Sleep: HEM Lavender Incense Sticks

Hem Lavender Incense Sticks
Pros
  • Strong and sweet lavender aroma

  • Soothing, mood-boosting scent

  • Affordable bulk buy

  • Long-lasting scent

Cons
  • Fragrance may be too strong for some

  • Stick sizes can be inconsistent

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

Not only is lavender one of the most studied essential oils known for having a soothing and calming effect on the nervous system, but Alison Seponara, MS, LPC, Pennsylvania-based licensed professional counselor notes that the fragrant shrub has also proven to be a promising treatment for insomnia and reducing anxiety.

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 budget-friendly, 120-count pack comes with six tubes, each containing 20 sticks for convenient storage. 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
Pros
  • Long-lasting scent

  • Chemical-free

  • Variety of scents included

  • Good starter kit with included holder

Cons
  • Unique, specific scent profiles

  • Fragrances may be too strong for some

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
Pros
  • Portable, lightweight mosquito solution

  • Long-lasting scent

  • DEET-free

Cons
  • May need to use in combination with other mosquito repellents

  • More than one stick may be needed

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.

This DEET- and petroleum-free formula repels mosquitoes within a 12-foot radius for up to 2.5 hours. For best results, light a Murphy’s Naturals Mosquito Repellent Incense Stick 10 minutes before gathering outdoors, and keep it upright in an incense holder or flower pot.

Best Natural: Bodha Smokeless Incense

Bodha Smokeless Organic Incense
Pros
  • Gentle, clean scent

  • Unique essential oil blends

  • Smokeless burn

  • Crafted with organic wood

  • Expensive

  • Shorter sticks than most

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 organic, high-quality woods and essential oils to produce its incense sticks which results in a smokeless burn. A great option for folks who are sensitive to both scent and smoke, this box contains 50 sticks, each with a burn time of approximately 25 minutes.

Best Unscented: The Better Scents Uncolored Incense Sticks

The Better Scents Uncolored Incense Sticks
Pros
  • Customize your own incense sticks

  • Durable, 11-inch punk sticks

  • Sticks hold essential oils well

  • Uncolored

  • Sticks may come stuck together

  • Can be tricky to perfect essential oil ratio

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 punk sticks are made from bamboo coated with compressed sawdust. The Better Scents Uncolored Incense 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 before burning.

Pro tip: For a longer-lasting scent, the brand suggests adding DPG (dipropylene glycol) to dilute the mixture and extend the scent of the essential oils.

Best Variety Pack: raajsee Incense Sticks 6 Pack Variety Set

Raajsee Incense Sticks 6 Pack Variety Set
Pros
  • Fairtrade labor and environmentally responsible production

  • Slow and steady burn

  • Six traditional scents

  • Chemical-free

Cons
  • Scents may be too strong

  • Some users say scents are too similar

There’s no better way to find your signature scent than by opting for an affordable variety pack. Raajsee's incense sticks 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 8-inch 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. Having access to a variety of fragrances is beneficial because of the effect that scent can have on the brain. While lavender is generally considered relaxing, it may evoke a poor response in someone who has a negative memory tied to the scent. The variety pack allows for exploration and allows you to discover what scents are most pleasing to you.

Best Odor Eliminator: Utopia Scents Incense Sticks Variety Pack

Utopia Scents Incense Sticks Variety Pack
Pros
  • Ten scents included

  • Effectively eliminates odors

  • Low-smoke burn

  • 45-minute burn time

Cons
  • Not sold as single scents

  • Fruity scents may be an acquired smell

Knock out the smell of last night’s cooking, smoke, and even bathroom stench with Utopia Scents Incense Sticks. 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 that lasts.  

This Utopia Scents set provides 120 incense sticks in ten scents, including rose, lemongrass, sandalwood, strawberry, frankincense, white sage, apple, vanilla, jasmine, and lavender.

Best for Anxiety: TRUMIRI Frankincense Incense Sticks And Incense Stick Holder Bundle

TRUMIRI

Amazon

Pros
  • Slow, even burn

  • Long-lasting, natural scent

  • Free stick holder included

  • Affordable

  • Scent may be too strong

  • Holder may lack durability

Scents can strongly influence us physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. Dr. Glik points to a growing body of research on mice that reveals how burning frankincense was found to awaken brain pathways associated with calming anxiety and behavior patterns associated with depression.

The HEM Frankincense Incense Sticks And Incense Stick Holder Bundle offers everything you need to start on your calming journey to relaxation. This set includes six tubes of 20 incense sticks, each measuring 9.75 inches long. HEM incense sticks are non-toxic and handcrafted in India from organic wood, resin, and bamboo. This set also includes a Trumiri incense holder.

Best for Beginners: Botanica Incense

Botanica Incense

Urban Outfitters

Pros
  • Handmade in the USA

  • Extra-long sticks

  • All-natural wood and essential oils

  • Variety of fragrance options

Cons
  • Only 20 sticks per pack

  • Expensive

Made in the USA, Botanica Incense offers a fresh, modern twist on classic incense stick fragrances. Whether you're new to incense, are sensitive to heavy fragrance, or are searching for a lighter scent, this collection features blends for all tastes and preferences.

The line's signature scents include Canopy (a fresh woodsy scent inspired by the Amazon rainforest) Kalahari (a mix of sweet and citrus fruits, patchouli, and nag champa), Teahupo'o (a blend of orchid and ylang-ylang with sea salt and yuzu), and Grove (with its juicy notes of citrus topped with sea salt).

Botanica Incense is made from all-natural wood and essential oils. Each pack includes 20 incense sticks measuring 12-inches long and delivers a burn time of approximately 40 minutes. The brand donates $1 from each pack to region-specific nonprofits in the areas indigenous to the scent's ingredients.

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

Length

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

Quantity

When purchasing a scent for the first time, we recommend opting 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.

Purpose

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. 

  • For a sense of calm and to relieve stress or anxiety: Lavender, frankincense, ylang-ylang, chamomile, and rose.
  • For spiritual awareness or purification and cleansing purposes: Myrrh, nag champa, and sandalwood.
  • For mental clarity, focus, awareness, and memory: Amber, cinnamon, lemongrass, lotus, rose, rosemary, and vanilla.
  • For mood boosting: Vanilla, ylang-ylang, patchouli, bergamot, and other citrus fruits.

Natural vs. Synthetic

When choosing incense, Dr. Glik emphasizes the importance of purchasing based on the dip or coating.  “We want to make sure that we trust the purity of the incense itself,” she said.

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.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How to make incense sticks

    The easiest way to make your own incense sticks is to make dipped-style incense with unscented punk sticks—we suggest The Better Scents Uncolored Incense Sticks (view at Amazon). In addition to punk sticks, you'll need a long, thin dish or a beaker for bulk batches, a tall glass for drying, and your desired essential oils. Some people also prefer adding dipropylene glycol into the mixture, a solvent, and carrier which helps bind the fragrance to the stick and enables it to burn properly. 

    Refer to the directions on your punk sticks or follow a step-by-step tutorial.

  • How to light incense sticks

    First, pick a well-ventilated area on a heat-resistant surface that's away from anything flammable like papers, lampshades, or curtains. Steer clear of open windows that could knock the incense over or extinguish the flame. Also, make sure your incense stick is away from pets and children and placed in a suitable incense stick holder—whether it's store-bought or homemade. 

    Light the end of the stick and let the flame burn for a few seconds before gently blowing or fanning it out. The stick should produce a slight red glow and emit a slight wisp of smoke. Once lit, never leave the incense stick unattended.

  • How to put out an incense stick

    The easiest way to put out an incense stick is by dipping the tip into the water. The flame can also be extinguished by pressing it against a heat-resistant surface. Another option is to snap off the tip and drop it in a cup of water.

  • How long to incense sticks burn?

    Incense sticks generally have a burn time between 20 and 45 minutes, depending on a number of factors, including stick length, thickness, quality, and the environment.

  • Can I take incense sticks on a plane?

    Yes, according to the TSA, incense powder and sticks can be packed in carry-on bags with no quantity limitations.

Why Trust Verywell Mind?

Emily Stone is a Chicago-based fitness-obsessed journalist specializing in health and wellness. Emily is all about clean, green products. When it comes to incense, she favors Shoyeido (view at Amazon) and DIY unscented sticks.

5 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.
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