6 Herbs You Can Use for Incense

Published May 4, 2018
Woman holding incense burner with incense

You can use dried herbs to make your own incense. Some can be combined with the herb essential oil while others can be used in a bundle (wand) for smudging.

Sage (Salvia)

Woman holding burning sage

Native Americans use sage as a ceremonial herb for smudging. It's believed to have the power to cleanse and purify homes, people, pets and even automobiles. You can smudge anything with sage. If you are pregnant, avoid clary sage, since it is used by midwives to stimulate contractions.

White sage is also called sacred sage and the most popular sage used for smudging. However, other varieties (such as common garden sage, Salvia Officinalis) can be dried and used for incense.

  • You can use dried leaves tied into a bundle with string.
  • Light and allow the sage wand to burn for a few seconds. Then blow out the flame and allow the bundle to smoke.
  • You can place the wand in a fireproof clay pot to continue smoking for as long as you want.
  • When finished, stub out the embers in the pot for reusing later.

Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia)

Lavender flower buds in a pile

Ancient Romans used Lavender for a scent. They burned incense to perfume their homes, clothes and even themselves. Lavender relieves stress and has been used for centuries as an incense for meditation. You can also use it as an incense for its calming effect on the body and mind.

  • You can make incense sticks or cones with lavender essential oil; add at least 30 drops of lavender essential oil to an incense cone or stick. The incense must cure for one week before you can use it.
  • Pulverize lavender flowers into a powder, using a food processor or a mortar and pestle. Some people add a few drops of essential oil for a stronger scent.
  • To burn the lavender flowers, light a charcoal round and then add a small amount of lavender powder at a time. Allow the lavender to burn before adding more of the embers.
  • You can also simply burn the dried flower buds for an easy incense solution.

Mullein (Verbascum thapsus)

field of mullein flowers

This herb has many medicinal uses. Mullein is native to Europe and has been used for centuries to fight what is now known as tuberculosis. Sufferers would inhale the smoke from the incense to ease coughs. People in Mexico (Gordolobo) have used it for years, and Native Americans refer to it as "big tobacco." Avoid this herb if you are pregnant.

Mullein is a prized ceremonial herb that is smoked in a blend with other herbs and tobaccos in scared pipes. To use as an incense, wrap dried mullein leaves into a bundle as you would sage for smudging.

Mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris)

basket of mugwort

Europeans, Chinese and Japanese believed mugwort had supernatural powers. There are several stories in these cultures of mermaids bestowing mugwort to humankind for all kinds of ills and to induce lucid/prophetic dreams. Avoid this herb if you're pregnant.

  • Take dried mugwort leaves and wrap into a bundle. You can use this as a smudge stick.
  • Mugwort has sedative properties and, in some instances, a mind-altering effect. Never burn Mugwort while driving or operating machinery.

Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis)

closeup of rosemary stalks on table

Rosemary is the herb for memory. Ancient Greeks tucked a sprig of rosemary under the pillow to ensure a nightmare-free sleep. Studies have shown that rosemary can improve brain function. It is used in aromatherapy to relieve anxiety. You can use dried rosemary to create a pungent but pleasant incense. Avoid this herb if you're pregnant.

There are two popular ways to use this herb as incense:

  • You can grind rosemary into a powder and mix with resin and cedarwood.
  • Rosemary can be used loose over a charcoal round.
  • For a more potent aroma, you can dry the whole needle-like leaves to burn them as incense.

Thyme (Thymus vulgaris)

Picking leaves off thyme sprigs

In ancient Greece, thyme incense was used during ceremonial ritual offerings to the gods. In ancient Rome, thyme incense was a favorite room deodorizer. The ancient Greeks also used thyme incense as a fumigation tool. You can burn dried thyme on a charcoal round.

If you're pregnant, avoid thyme incense.

Incense Made From Herbs

You can use herbs to make incense. Combine herbs with other incense aromas, such as rose or sandalwood, for a unique incense blend.

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6 Herbs You Can Use for Incense