As today is the Autumnal Equinox (in the Northern hemisphere, Spring Equinox in the Southern), I wanted to revisit this older article of mine.

Incense is a delightful tool for celebrating the turning of the seasons.

For the Autumn Equinox, incense is specifically used to clear old, stagnant energy and to make room for new insight and inner balance. As we turn inward for fall and winter, we can look to incense to support us in letting go of patterns and stories that no longer serve us and to rejuvenate our energy field. (source)

Some wonderful foraged or common ingredients (other than tea!) that can be used in homemade loose incense include:

  • Dried citrus peels
  • Cinnamon, clove, allspice, etc.
  • Dried wildflowers
  • Dried rosehips
  • Dried apple bits
  • Pine needles

Original 2019 Article

After making arrangements to go to an Asian supermarket with my mother, I thought I would check my tea cupboard to see if there was anything that needed to be replaced. After clambering onto the counter in order to reach into the back, imagine my surprise and chagrin when I pulled out a bag of sencha that had to have been at least five years old! Certainly undrinkable, I was pondering what I would do with it. A few thoughts went through my head, but most of my current projects would need non-stale tea or herbs. Finally, I struck upon the best idea: Incense!

Incense is a perfect use for older herbs. While most of the health benefits fade with age, they usually still SMELL delightful! Many of my older herb stock ends up in my incense-making supplies. Thus I set out to make an incense with a sencha base.

Rather than deal with the hassle of using sticking agents, accelerants, shaping or dipping, and drying I keep it simple and make loose incense. Loose incense is easy to burn by sprinkling onto hot charcoal, of which there are many indoor-safe options. For making this incense, I used a quick-light incense charcoal.

Mortar and pestle next to bags of tea and herbs
Incense charcoal on white sand in a bowl

Incense charcoal, already lit, in a ceramic bowl full of sand.
Tongs are highly recommended for handling hot coals.

The first question I had to answer was: What does sencha smell like when burning? I threw a small amount into my mortar and pestle and ground it into a powder, then onto the charcoal it went. I admit, I was expecting a clean or astringent aroma and was surprised that it actually had a lot of depth, with an after-smell reminiscent of matcha. Pawing through my herbs to find what I felt would mix well, I gave a few a quick sniff to assess before finally settling on lavender and benzoin.

Lavender is—of course—a well-known powerhouse when it comes to herbal benefits. Studies have even shown that inhaling the oil has a relaxing effect (source). It’s also very widely used in bath and body products of every type for its sweet, intoxicating floral scent.

Benzoin, on the other hand, is a resin made from tree bark that is very commonly used in incense around the world for its heavy, sweet, vanilla-like aroma (source).

After grinding the sencha and lavender together, I sprinkled a generous amount of benzoin powder over the mixture and ground it a little longer. After sprinkling a little onto the charcoal, I added more sencha and lavender and ground some more. I continued like this, grinding and periodically checking the smell and making adjustments. The final thing I did was add more lavender that I mixed in without grinding. Strange as it sounds, lavender smells differently whether ground or unground, as grinding it releases the oils to mix with the other ingredients. While sitting in a sealed container long enough will cause the oils to infuse and “settle in”, adding the un-ground lavender means I can enjoy the fragrance now! And I did, adding more powder to the charcoal, fanning gently with a hand fan to spread the aromatic smoke.

Unfortunately, I can’t really share the exact recipe considering the haphazard way that I mixed this incense. But with only three ingredients, it wouldn’t be too difficult to mix to your own tastes. And trust me: It’s a delightful sweet, floral, vanilla-like, matcha-finish incense!

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