incense smoke

Are Incense Sticks Harmful to Your Health?

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Are Incense Sticks Harmful To Your Health?

Incense sticks are very popular, they’re the “old guard” of Armoatherapy. They are traditionally used as part of people’s culture and religion, but many people worldwide also use them for general aromatherapy. Some simply love how they make the room smell and some even use them to improve their room’s ambiance. As you light up an incense stick, have you ever wondered about the safety of the smoke that it produces?

We’re here today to answer one of the most common questions about the use of incense sticks. Are incense sticks harmful to your health? If they are, then should we completely avoid them, or are there ways to make the use of incense sticks safer for your health? Do they harm our bodies like cigarette smoke or are they worse?

Incense Sticks VS Cigarettes

resin incense burning

The main reason why many consider incense stick use as highly dangerous to health is because of research that compared the effects of incense smoke and cigarette smoke to animal and bacterial cells. They noted if there are any mutations in the DNA when the cells are exposed to the smoke. 

The research shows that some of the incense smoke that was tested produced a greater effect as compared to the tobacco smoke. However, this research has limitations like only testing 4 incense and one cigarette.

Additionally, some even question it because some of the researchers who worked on it are also employed by a tobacco company.

However, that doesn’t also mean that the research should be ignored. Anything that is burned and produces smoke like coal, tobacco, or incense can potentially irritate the lungs and cause damage to them. 

Are Incense Sticks Harmful To Your Health?

Even if we discovered that the research stating that incense sticks are more dangerous than cigarettes still needs additional tests, we still can’t conclude that incense sticks don’t pose a threat to health.

There are still health risks involved with the use of incense sticks and they are as follows:

Lung Cancer

Incense smoke produced due to the burning of various ingredients for the scent plus the combustible material could increase the risk of developing lung cancer as per research.

This is because the burnt particles contain carcinogenic matter like benzene, polyaromatic hydrocarbons, and carbonyls.

However, that clearly doesn’t mean that lighting an incense will guarantee cancer!

Long-term use does conceivably increase the risk, though, especially in poorly-ventilated areas. 


Asthma is a respiratory condition that makes it difficult to breathe. It can be a genetic condition but can be triggered by various environmental conditions. Aside from potential carcinogenic materials, the smoke from incense sticks can also have irritants that can trigger asthma attacks.

Contact Dermatitis 

Contact dermatitis is a condition wherein the skin gets irritated by certain substances. It becomes itchy and may develop redness, blistering, swelling, and even ulcerations.

Depending on the ingredients used for the incense sticks, it possible to have contact dermatitis simply by handling them. Picking the best incense sticks you can will help.

Potentially Poisonous

Even if out of curiosity, you shouldn’t try to taste incense sticks because they can contain poisonous ingredients.

Although we don’t ingest them, it is still possible for children and pets to accidentally do that. Additionally, in general, it’s best to not burn incense around dogs and cats.

Benefits Of Incense Sticks

Even if there are health risks involved in using incense sticks, there are still a lot of people who use them. This is because there are many benefits that we can get out of using them. Such benefits include the following: 

Reduces Stress

Incense Sticks

One of the most common reasons why people use incense sticks like the above Hem incense sticks is for relaxation. Beyond that, it also helps the body by reducing stress and anxiety. There are many different scents that can provide this kind of benefit.

Helps With Focus

Another reason to light up incense sticks is to help you focus. When you relax your mind and focus on the moment, you can better do what you have to do. Incense sticks that have cinnamon are great for focus and they can also help with creativity.

They are also great for those who practice yoga, daily meditation, or while praying. See our article on the meanings and uses of incense for more tips here.

Cinnamon Apple - Box of Six 20 Stick Tubes - HEM Incense
Cinnamon Apple - Box of Six 20 Stick Tubes - HEM Incense
Quality incense from HEM, one of the leading incense makers in India.; Box containing six 20 stick tubes of incense, for 120 sticks total.
$6.98 Amazon Prime

Last update on 2024-06-06 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Helps With Sleep

Depending on the type of incense stick that you use, it can also help with sleep problems. Lavender incense sticks are great for those who have insomnia.

Burning them before your sleeping time can help you fall asleep easier and it can also help you feel refreshed when you wake up.

Last update on 2024-06-06 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Cleans The Air

Many of the incense sticks like Frankincense contain ingredients with anti-bacterial properties. Burning them would release them into the air and make the air cleaner.

Additionally, the scent they emit also helps cover the unwanted odor due to cooking or pets. It also helps improve the ambiance because of the fragrance it emits.

Frankincense - Box of Six 20 Sticks Tubes, 120 Sticks Total - HEM Incense From India
Frankincense - Box of Six 20 Sticks Tubes, 120 Sticks Total - HEM Incense From India
Box containing six tubes of incense; A gift of the magic; Frankincense brings you the healing power of fragrances
−$0.49 $6.50 Amazon Prime

Last update on 2024-06-06 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Safer Way Of Using Incense Sticks

We’ve discussed the risks and benefits of using incense sticks and incense cones. It is now up to you to decide whether to use them or not.

If you decide to use them, here are a few tips you should keep in mind to improve your safety while using them. 

Carefully Select Your Incense Sticks

Not all incense sticks are made of the same materials. Get the ones that are of high quality like those from raasjee and Shoyeido (some of our favorite brands of incense.

Even if they seem more expensive, they’d be less harmful to your health and that is what matters most.

Also, consider getting those that are made from organic and natural materials such as these made by Juccini. Note that some incense popular brands like HEM may use synthetic ingredients in their incense.

Last update on 2024-06-06 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Increase Ventilation

Inhaling incense smoke can lead to headaches. To lessen the risk of inhaling the particulates, you can open windows to improve the airflow while you are burning the incense.

It is always advised to burn incense in a well-ventilated area. This will reduce the damage to your walls and to your electronics from burning incense, as well.

Consult With Your Doctor

If you know that you have respiratory issues then it would be best to avoid burning incense. It can trigger your respiratory problems.

However, if you really want to use them, you should at least consult and clear it out with your doctor first. 

Don’t Leave A Burning Incense Stick Unattended

A burning incense stick has an ember and with the right conditions plus a flammable material, it can ignite and accidentally cause a fire (or just go out). Make sure you keep an eye on it, especially if you have children or pets.

Also, consider buying an incense stick holder or backflow incense burner so that the ashes don’t fall off everywhere and to help secure the incense stick in place. 

Folkulture Incense Holder for Sticks or Incense Burner | Insence-Stick Holder for Men or Her, Modern...
  • PERFECT INCENSE HOLDER- 12 inch long and...
  • MODERN GIFT- Our Incense burner holder...

Last update on 2024-06-06 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Choose an alternate Aromatherapy Solution

Essential Oils

If you’re looking for the calming scents of incense, but don’t want to deal with the smoke and fire, you can switch over to essential oils. These oils are expelled into the air through a nebulizer, humidifier, or diffuser. There’s no smoke, and no flame, so they’re almost certainly safer.

The rituals associated with incense are gone, but essential oils are an excellent substitute for incense for those concerned with their health.