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There are two different types of incense on the market today.


The first and more commonly available is combustible incense. This is usually sold in cone or stick form, and is made from powdered herbs, spices, flowers, resins etc. potassium nitrate is added before it is bound together into the form it is sold.


Potassium nitrate is a chemical compound with the chemical formula KNO3. It is an ionic salt of potassium ions (K+) and nitrate ions (NO3−), a combination which makes it an alkali metal nitrate.

It occurs as a mineral (nitre) and is a natural solid source of nitrogen. Potassium nitrate is one of several nitrogen-containing compounds collectively referred to as saltpetre.

Major uses of potassium nitrate are in fertilisers, tree stump removal, rocket propellants and fireworks. It is one of the major constituents of gunpowder (black powder) and it is the addition of potassium nitrate that keeps your incense cones and sticks lit. It has also been used since the Middle Ages as a food preservative.


The other type of incense available on the market today is known as non-combustible incense or loose incense. This usually consists of a blend of herbs, spices, parts of plants including, roots, stems or stalks, leaves, flowers, and bark, resins and powders which may be obtained from any of the afore mentioned ingredients if dried for long enough. This type of incense will burn if you set fire to it, but in order to benefit from it's fragrant smoke you will need to add it to a source of heat. There are two ways to do this, firstly you can adapt any small bowl into an incense burner with the addition of sand, although earthenware and soapstone work best. You will also need a charcoal disk. Lighting the disk is easy enough, carefully hold one edge of the disk over a flame, when you see orange sparkles cross the disk and it begins to glow on the edge nearest the flame it is lit. Carefully place the disk on top of the sand in the bowl and wait a few minutes for the heat to spread. When you are ready add a spoonful of your chosen loose incense to the disk and enjoy the fragrance. The alternative is that this type of incense can also be thrown into your fire-pit or brassier as an offering to your deities during rituals.


There are benefits to using both types of incense, and your choice will often depend on many other factors, such as whether you are indoors or outdoors, how much time you have, and what your reason for lighting the incense is in the first place.


As always the choice is yours.