The 101 on Incense!
Incense or Dhupam have a rich history in various traditions and cultures around the world, Ayurveda inclusively. Aromatherapy, the ingestion of plants/herbs/resins through the medium of smell, is a powerful healing modality that is thankfully regaining some popularity today, but with that can also come misunderstanding and commercialization.
The oldest references to incense in the Vedas are found in the Atharvaveda and Rigveda. Incense burning was suggested as a medicinal way to create a soothing atmosphere or as a healing tool for fumigation - to purify and cleanse the environment of viral/bacterial invaders, but also to spiritually cleanse and energetically uplift the space and those living within it. In this way, incense is also burned as part of 'pujas' or rituals during sacred rites and meditation, both to clear and to welcome freshness into the realm.
Aromatherapy and Herbal 'Smoking'/Smudging is so important in Ayurveda that there is a whole chapter in the Charaka Samhita, one of the ancient texts of Ayurveda, that is entirely focused upon the therapeutic effects of herbal remedies in smoke form! It is THAT IMPORTANT! It's Medicine!
Sadly, most of the incense on the market contain chemical fragrances, toxic additives/colors, glues and slave labour. You DO NOT want that wafting into your home or your body!
Traditionally, Ayurveda has used many different parts of plant medicine (flowers, barks, roots, resins, leaves) to make incense. Depending of what materials are used and what their prabhavas are (specific medicinal actions), an incense can have a variety of effects upon us. They must be prepared and ingested wisely and with respect. This is called Sugandha Vigyana in Ayurveda – an ancient understanding of how scents or aromas (whether pure or chemically adulterated) enter us and impact the body and mind.
For example, incense can be used to cool our bodies and minds in the heat of the Pitta Summer Season, or to bring warmth in the iciness of Wintertime. We can be uplifted and inspired by the aromatherapy of certain plants (think Jasmine!) or experience deep grounding and calmness (think Cedarwood!). In fact, what we ingest through aromatherapy should be thought of as medicine to the same degree as the herbs we may ingest orally or the medicinal foods we carefully select. There is truly no difference.
All of the senses are vehicles for knowing, connecting to, and ingesting life in all of her abundance of healing and attunement.
In fact, our sense of Smell (Gandha in Sanskrit), is 10,000x more acute than the other senses. 10,000 TIMES!
BUT! Due to our current digital-heavy culture, we over-engage through our Vision 5x more than any of our other senses. Essentially, we are missing out on the medicine that can be received through the other 4 senses!
SOOOOO! What we smell is so important!
>>> Try this little experiment - smell a Ripe Lemon & then smell a Cinnamon Stick & then smell your Peppermint Tea. Is there not a clear difference in what these three common plants are communicating and how they affect our bodies and minds?
You can engage with this meditation at any time in your day to witness how you feel when you smell various plants, foods, nature. Start to become more aware of how this may seem simple and common-sensical, but the science of Aromatherapy truly recognizes that our state can be entirely influenced by what we are smelling.
And this is why we have carefully selected TATTVA INCENSE as the only brand that we carry at RASA Ayurveda. Hand-rolled (not machine-made) by a sweet co-operative of women in the Himalayas, Tattva uses only the highest quality natural herbs, resins, flowers and barks to make their products.
We carry their incense in all 3 Doshas, as well as a Tri Dosha and Meditation incense. They are beautiful additions to your altar, and are always so well-received as gifts. And you can feel confident and assured, knowing now, that they are true medicine and aroma-therapy for yourself and for anyone who may enter the spaces in which you burn them.