How does Agarbatti (Incense Sticks) emit unhealthy smoke?

How does Agarbatti (Incense Sticks) emit unhealthy smoke?


Use of incense sticks is one of the most ancient traditions of worshiping in any religion or caste. The word is derived from a Latin word incendere which means ‘to burn’. The use of incense burners is as old as the Indus Civilization and India adapted its use from the East-Asia while China was the first to introduce incense in the stick form which is also known as Joss-stick. They started using incense for the purpose of worship and gradually the tradition spread into the masses. Incense is an aromatic material which releases fragrant smoke while burning which is why it is used for various other purposes apart from religious ceremonies.

What’s inside?

The incense is made out of aromatic plant materials which are combined with precious essential oils. The essential oils present in the incense produce a unique fragrance and the intensity of the fragrance emitted depends on the number of essential oils present in it. In the past these incense sticks were made of natural ingredients that were easily available, however, now, incense sticks manufacturers use a combustible base so that the incense last longer.

There are two types of combustible base present in the market these days – fuel or oxidizer mixture or natural plant-based binders. These base provide different properties to the incense sticks and available in different fragrances.


Types of Incense Sticks

There are majorly two types of incense sticks that are available these days and their purchase depends solely on customer preferences, culture or tradition. These days, both types of incense sticks are produced so that the customers have a great variety to choose from. Let us study them in detail.

Indirect Burning

Indirect Burning, also known as Non-Combustible Burning refers to the incense sticks which can not burn on their own and rather require a different medium or heat source to burn. These are composed of aromatic ingredients which are insufficient to burn on their own under normal room conditions. This type of incense stick takes a longer duration to burn completely and the smoke emitted by them spreads evenly in the room. There are different types of incense materials used in the indirect burning like frankincense, myrrh, charcoal based etc. These incense materials are available in whole, powdered or granulated and paste form which makes it easy for the manufacturing companies to make incense sticks or cones.

Direct Burning

This type of incense sticks are also known as combustible incense and do not require any other heat source to burn. The elements present in these incense are capable to burn by themselves and do not require any outside source for the same. Such incense sticks are given the desired physical form or shape as a distinct feature and to attract the customers. These incense sticks are available in different fragrances and burns evenly within a short duration of time. These incense sticks can be in seen in various physical shapes in the market like coned, solid stick, powder, rope, paper or cored stick.

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Uses of incense sticks

There are various companies present in the market who offer a great variety of incense sticks to suit consumer preferences. Due to its various advantages incense has been part of our culture for more than a decade. There are a lot of Incense Sticks benefits which are not only limited to just religious ceremonies.

  •  These are often used in various funeral ceremonies as they dampen the scent of decay.
  •  The burning of incense sticks helps in the measurement of incense clocks.
  •  They are also used to repel mosquitoes and other insects.
  •  The Buddhist followers use them for meditation and to relax their senses.
  •  Incense sticks are also used by some people who smoke indoors as they do not want to breathe in the unpleasant smell.
  •  Different types of incense sticks are used in spa and massaging centers to relax the mind and the body.
Is the smoke harmful?
Is the smoke harmful?

The burning of incense sticks results in emitting smoke which is believed to be harmful to the health of people breathing in such air especially those who are allergic to smoke. Since the incense smoke contains various gaseous pollutants like nitrogen oxide, carbon monoxide, sulfur oxides and many more, inhaling them can cause serious respiratory problems. Several types of research have been conducted in this context to examine the growing health problems from these pollutants and a report from Taiwan in 2001 depicted that people in the Buddhist Temples had complaints of inflammation in their throat and respiratory tract. Inhaling such pollutants for a longer period of time can lead to asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. [COPD] According to these researchers incense smoke can also cause a different type of lung cancer.



Incense Sticks are part of the tradition and culture of many people, however; their benefits cannot overpower the harmful effects of its smoke. There are many companies all over the world who are dedicatedly producing these incense sticks to sell in the market and people buy them for their own reasons but the side effects should be kept in mind so that the lungs get a pollutant-free air to breathe in.

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How does Agarbatti (Incense Sticks) emit unhealthy smoke?

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