Incense, Asthma and Allergies
A reader asks, “Considering the major role that incense plays in rituals, Circles, cleansing and so on; what would be your suggestions for people trying to perform such activities that have asthma or allergies? There is not much that is more distracting then trying to concentrate on the task at hand and having it interrupted because you suddenly can’t breathe and are coughing trying to get oxygen.
In many cases, the smoke from burning incense can exacerbate asthma. You do have a couple of different options, because there are a number of smoke free alternatives to using incense.
Reader RainbowSkittles, who not only has asthma but also has two kids who suffer from breathing issues, says, “What I use instead of commercial incense sticks is the loose grain incense. I can mix it with water, put it in a small bowl, and heat it up over a tealight burner. This produces the scent, without the smoke.”
MyLittleHomie has a radiator in her apartment, and places frankincense crystals in a pie tin, adds a bit of water, and then places the tin on the radiator.
“You can smell it all over the apartment, and there’s no burning charcoal or smoke to cause my asthma to flare up.”
On the other hand, if your situation is that you’re allergic to certain fragrances – and many of the commercially available incense brands contain synthetics that trigger allergic reactions – you may find that using only natural, fragrance-free incenses is the way to go. Some readers report that if they burn dried plant material like smudge sticks – sage or sweetgrass, for instance – they have no reaction, but if they use commercial incense, it has a negative impact on their ability to breathe.
Keep in mind that it may not actually be the fragrance you’re allergic to, though. A 2008 study looked at religious practices in a number of Asian countries, where incense use is routine. The researchers suggest that allergic reactions to fragrance in incense might in fact be a reaction to tiny particulates that are inhaled into the respiratory system during prolonged exposure to incense smoke.
In some cases, allergic reactions to incense can be more complicated than merely a respiratory issue. A few people have such great sensitivity that they break out itching all over, in a true anaphylactic reaction.
If this is the case in your situation, be sure to check with your healthcare professional, who may be able to provide you with an antihistamine to take if you start experiencing symptoms. There are also individuals who suffer from a disorder known as Multiple Chemical Sensitivity syndrome, in which various symptoms are believed to stem from chemical exposures in the environment – incense, perfume, fragrant candles, even laundry detergent.
Finally, do keep in mind that if you’re just using the incense as something representative of the element of Air, you can always substitute something else – a fan, feathers, or whatnot. If you’re using incense as a method of cleansing a sacred space, you might want to try one of these other techniques instead.
Incense 101 – How to Make and Use Your Own Incense
Smoke in the Sky:
For thousands of years, people have used fragrant flowers, plants, and herbs as incense. Using smoke to send prayers out to the gods is one of the oldest known forms of ceremony. From the censers of the Catholic church to the Pagan bonfire rituals, incense is a powerful way to let your intent be known. You can make your own quite easily, using a blend of herbs, flowers, wood bark, resins, and berries.
Most of these are items you can grow yourself, find in the woods, or purchase inexpensively.
Incense — and other fragrant items, such as oils and perfumes — work on a couple of different levels. The first is the effect on your mood — a certain scent will trigger a particular emotion. Aromatherapists have known for years that smells affect different parts of the senses. Secondly, an aroma may have various associations. You may be walking through a store, catch a whiff of Chantilly, and suddenly be reminded of your grandmother who passed away when you were away at college. The smell of a particular food may evoke memories of the summer you spent at camp.
Finally, we experience scents on a vibrational level. Every living being has energy, and emits its own vibration – plants are no different. When you blend them into incense, these vibrations change in accordance with your intent. This is why, in magic, incense is so popular — in addition to making your ritual space smell nice, you are able to change the vibration in the atmosphere, effecting change in the universe.
Why Make Your Own?:
You can buy commercially produced incense sticks and cones just about anywhere, and they’re not that expensive. However, they’re typically made with synthetic ingredients, and therefore have little to no magical value. While they’re nice to burn, and certainly smell lovely, they serve little purpose in a ritual setting.
Burning Your Incense:
Loose incense, which is what the recipes on these pages are for, is burned on a charcoal disc or tossed into a fire. The charcoal discs are sold in packages by most metaphysical supply shops, as well as church supply stores (if you have a Hispanic Marketa near you, that’s a good place to look too).
Apply a match to the disc, and you’ll know it’s lit when it begins to spark and glow red. After it’s glowing, place a pinch of your loose incense on the top — and make sure you’ve got it on a fireproof surface. If you’re holding your ceremony outside with large fire, simply toss handfuls into the flames.
How to Read the Recipes:
Any good cook knows that the first step is to always gather your goodies together. Collect your ingredients, your mixing and measuring spoons, jars and lids, labels (don’t forget a pen to write with), and your mortar and pestle.
Each incense recipe is presented in “parts.” This means that whatever unit of measurement you’re using — a cup, a tablespoon, a handful — is one part. If a recipe calls for two parts, use two of whatever you’ve chosen. One half part is a half cup, if you’re using a cup to measure, or half a tablespoon if you’re using a tablespoon.
When making your own incense, if you’re using resins or essential oils, combine these first. Use your mortar and pestle to mash these until they get a bit gummy, before you add any bark or berries. Dried herbs, flowers, or powdery items should go in last.
A Note on Allergies:
Many people suffer from allergic reactions to incense smoke. In many cases, this is caused by a reaction to synthetic materials in commercially-produced incense. Some people find that they have less of a reaction if they use incense made only from natural materials. However, if you have an allergy or some other condition that can be triggered by incense smoke or fragrance, you should consult your physician before using any incense, whether it’s commercially bought or home-made and organic. You may find that the best solution for you is to just avoid the use of incense altogether.
Incense to Use for A Specific Purpose
Banishing & Releasing:
Blessing & Consecration:
Clairvoyance & Divination:
Inspiration & Wisdom:
Purification & Cleansing:
Excerpts from a Cat’s Diary
Author prefers to remain anonymous
Day 752— My captors continue to taunt me with bizarre little dangling objects. They dine lavishly on fresh meat, while I’m forced to eat dry cereal. The only thing that keeps me going is the hope of escape, and the mild satisfaction I get from ruining the occasional piece of furniture. Tomorrow I may eat another houseplant.
Day 761—-Today my attempt to kill my captors by weaving in and out of their feet while they were walking almost succeeded, note must try at the top of the stairs. In an attempt to disgust and repulse these vile oppressors, I once again induced myself to vomit on their favorite chair……must try doing this on their bed.
Day768—I am finally aware of how sadistic they are. For no good reason I was given the water torture. This time however it included a burning foamy chemical called (shampoo). What sick minds could invent such a liquid? My only consolation is the piece of the thumb still stuck between my teeth.
Day 771—There was some sort of gathering of their accomplices. I was placed in solitary confinement throughout the event. However, I could hear the noises and smell the foul odor of the glass tubes they called ” Beer”. More importantly I over heard that my confinement was due to my Power of Allergies. Must learn what this is and how to use it to my advantage.
Day 774—I am convinced the other captives are flunkies and maybe snitches. The dog is routinely released and seems more than happy to return. He is obviously a half wit. The bird on-the-other-hand has got to be an informant he speaks with them on a regular basis. I am certain he is reporting on my every move. Due to his placement in a metal room his safety is assured. But, I can watch and I can wait. It is only a matter of time.
Astronomy Picture of the Day
Discover the cosmos! Each day a different image or photograph of our fascinating universe is featured, along with a brief explanation written by a professional astronomer.
2016 January 5
The Lagoon Nebula in Hydrogen, Sulfur, and Oxygen
Image Credit & Copyright: John Nemcik
Explanation: The majestic Lagoon Nebula is filled with hot gas and the home for many young stars. Spanning 100 light years across while lying only about 5000 light years distant, the Lagoon Nebula is so big and bright that it can be seen without a telescope toward the constellation of the Archer (Sagittarius). Many bright stars are visible from NGC 6530, an open cluster that formed in the nebula only several million years ago. The greater nebula, also known as M8 and NGC 6523, is named “Lagoon” for the band of dust seen to the right of the open cluster’s center. The featured image was taken in the light emitted by Hydrogen (shown in brown), Sulfur (red), and Oxygen (blue) and displayed in enhanced color. The featured picture is a newly processed panorama of M8, capturing twice the diameter of the Full Moon. Star formation continues in the Lagoon Nebula as witnessed by the many globules that exist there.