In the practice of Traditional Chinese Medicine, Fire is one of the 5 elements that create balance in our lives. Each element is associated with different organ networks, colours, emotions, and taste, with Fire being associated with the Heart, the colour red and the emotion of joy. Lighting incense is an accessible way to incorporate the element of fire into your wellness and self care practices. Read on to learn more about incense and some thoughtful uses.

Incense is made of plant materials that are burned to release their fragrant aromas. They come packaged in sticks, cones, and powders in fragrances from sandalwood to jasmine to palo santo. Incense has been around for centuries, and it still has a place in many spiritual and religious rituals in cultures around the world.

While the research on their health benefits is limited, there are still plenty of reasons to use incense.

Here are 12 easy ways to incorporate the smell-good tool into your routine.

1. To clear negative energy

Anytime you’re going to start a project, perform a ritual, or even do some yoga, burning incense beforehand can set the tone. “Burning sage or copal can be a ritual of purification, clearing out negative energy,” spiritual life coach Barbara Biziou tells mindbodygreen.

2. To deepen concentration while meditating

There are a number of scents believed to help improve concentration and focus, like peppermint and lemon. “Frankincense is great for meditation,” Biziou adds.

3. To connect to your memories

Have a smell that makes you feel particularly sentimental or thoughtful? Burn that incense for a trip back in time. “Of all our senses, our sense of smell is the only one to go directly to the brain,” Biziou notes. “Therefore, it also can evoke memories of the past.”

4. To open your heart center

If you feel like your heart chakra is a little closed off, certain smells can do the trick to help you open up. Jasmine and rose, according to Biziou, are two that are great for connecting to love.

5. To help you relax and unwind

Studies have shown that certain scents, particularly scents like Iavender, can have a calming effect on our nervous systems “Use lavender or sandalwood to evoke a state of meditation and peace,” Biziou suggests.

6. To incorporate the fire element into your rituals

In many traditions like ayurveda (India’s ancient system of medicine) and traditional Chinese medicine, the natural elements need to be balanced before true healing can begin. Using incense as a source of fire alongside the other elements (water, earth, air, and space) during things like meditation can deepen and balance your practice.

7. To connect to your sense of spirituality or religion

It’s become pretty standard to see incense in religious and spiritual settings all over the world, from Catholic churches to Native American ceremonies. “Many indigenous cultures believe that burning incense sends our prayers directly up to Spirit,” Biziou notes.

8. To start a new routine

If you’re the kind of person who thrives on a sense of routine, lighting incense as you wind down for bed in the evening or as you get ready in the morning can help start or end your day on the right note.

9. To set a timer

Stick incense typically take about 30 minutes to an hour to burn down completely. Light them as you start working, meditating, or journaling and continue until they burn out. Fragrance is a much more gentle timekeeper that a clock or phone.

10. To practice mindfulness

Stimulating the senses is a great way to engage in the present moment. Simply find a scent you enjoy and tune into the smell fully.

11. To boost your sex drive

Yep, certain scents, like rose or jasmine, have a reputation for being natural aphrodisiacs. Try those out in your incense burner the next time you want to get in the mood.

12. To get grounded

And lastly, Biziou notes that cedar and vetiver are excellent scents for grounding. Feeling overwhelmed or anxious? Light either of those scents and take some deep breaths for a greater sense of calm in the moment.

Safety do’s & don’ts

Of course, anytime you’re using incense, it’s important to keep safety in mind. Here are some do’s and don’ts from Biziou.


  1. Open a window during or after burning.
  2. Burn one stick at a time. (“Too much smoke can be detrimental to your lungs,” Biziou notes, “especially if you have asthma or any other lung condition.”)
  3. Go for all-natural incense that were sustainably cultivated.


  1. Leave incense burning unattended.
  2. Burn incense if you have pre-existing respiratory conditions
  3. Use incense with synthetic or artificial properties.

Incense can be a great addition to any yoga or meditation practice, and burning them is a soothing ritual in itself. So, find an aroma (or four or five) that you really love, and burn away.

If you would like to book our licensed and experienced acupuncturist and doctor of TCM Dr. Peter Wood at Evolve, please email

DISCLAIMER: These posts should not be used to self-diagnose or self-treat any health, medical, physical or psychiatric condition. Information shared via posts does not replace professional healthcare advice specific to your condition and needs. If you are unsure whether you would benefit from implementing tools discussed in these posts, please contact your healthcare provider.