When I started making my own blends, I had been seeing posts all over praising the magic superiority of hand crafted incense over store bought verities. After all, you could customize with only the ingredients that served your purpose and would know just what it was made of. It sounded great for bringing my practice to the next level. Plus, I always loved incense.
That said, I found the actual instructions for making it to be contrary to the hype. Self igniting charcoal is neither natural, not is it clear what it's made of. Makko needs to be special ordered on line unless you have the luck to live near the right store. Saltpeter may be an old stand by, but it's not natural either and affects the scent of a blend. And pre- formed joss-sticks often need to be special ordered and rarely if ever tell you what your costly oils are soaking into.
So one day I wen through my kitchen and started lighting things on fire to see if there was another option.
In retrospect it was a pretty radical concept, but I found that most anyone with access to a gluten free baking department and spices could get everything they need to make an incense stick. Candy flavoring could be just as effective as essential oils, and several are pure oils. Basically, I found that the art of incense doesn't strictly require a specialty store or online ordering, so anyone who really wants to do it can.
I have been taking notes and running tests in what is admittedly not a typical kitchen. That said, I have also been keeping track of what substitutes I can use. Sure, saffron and sassafras may be a bit off the beaten path, but they are just some of the materials I have tested.
I intend to keep testing, and keep taking notes as I go so others interested can make informed choices. Everything I post on is something I tested. I make mistakes too, and share them to help others learn to do better on their first try. And I'm not the final expert on all things flammable, so I invite others to test and share and I continue to read up on the topic.
While some blends will include non-natural ingredients, I won't beat around the bush about it and offer alternatives. The whole point is to provide enough information that each person can make their own blends their own way in their own kitchen. After all, if a “one style fits most” approach was enough, there would be no point in taking the time to make incense of any kind from scratch.
Good luck, and happy burning,
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