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Is Incense Bad for Your Lungs? (Important Questions)

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Written by: Tina Caro

If you love incense but you are wondering if it is the right and safe call for your health, this is the article for you! I am going to explain how to use incense the right way and how to make it safe for your lungs as well.


Burning incense can potentially harm lung health due to the release of fine particulate matter (PM) that can irritate the respiratory tract and worsen conditions like asthma.

Incense smoke may contain allergens, triggering allergies in sensitive individuals.

Poor indoor air quality from incense use in inadequately ventilated spaces can lead to respiratory issues.

Some incense types may contain harmful additives or synthetic fragrances, posing long-term health risks.

While incense-related lung conditions are rare, moderation and proper ventilation when using incense are advisable, especially for those with respiratory conditions or sensitivities.

Is incense bad for your lungs?

Unfortunately, in most cases, yes: even if natural incenses exist and are available, most of the incense on the market are toxic.

The transformation of the product is the phase that most affects the toxicity of incense. We immediately exclude completely synthetic fragrances (chocolate, green apple, and others): common sense is enough to not use them, but even in the case of products with essential oils, fragrances, or chemical origin, formaldehyde, and other chemical compounds can be added.

The combustion of these substances releases polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (highly carcinogenic compounds) into the air, along with various gases such as carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, and nitrogen dioxide. Gases and particulates quickly fill the interior spaces, leaving toxic residues for a long time, even after the flame has gone out.

incense for healing by Tina Caro
Copyright: Tina Caro

How is a natural incense stick made?

The best natural stick incenses are composed of three parts:

  • the stick, which is traditionally made of dried bamboo,
  • the essential oil, which guarantees its fragrance,
  • the base, consisting of a mixture of powders of vegetable origin, has a “cohesive and combustive” function, allowing the incense to burn on the stick.

In the best of cases, therefore, the toxicity comes from the simple combustion of the base, which often makes up most of the stick!

Do natural incenses exist?

Absolutely! You need to make sure you recognize them and rely on high-quality brands providing organic incense made of natural ingredients with a natural production process.

The incenses in resins and grains

A solution exists, but it is nothing innovative: it is simply a matter of using a pure product, which has not undergone any transformations that require adding chemicals.

Quality incense is marketed in resins and grains, and more rarely in cones. Incenses like these are the most used by those who practice aromatherapy and by those who use them in the professional field, such as wellness centers.

Natural resins are produced from different types of plants, or from aromatic plants such as Patchouli or Palo Santo. Their function is to ward off parasites, bacteria, and molds in case of plant wounds. Incenses like these are free of toxic substances, as they do not require transformation.

The choice is really relevant if you decide to have experiences related to Aromatherapy, but also for those who like to give a good scent to the home without inhaling dangerous substances or causing allergic reactions. If we really believe in the power of the olfactory use of essential oils, we should also be convinced of the risks inherent in inhaling chemicals such as formaldehyde.

You can buy them on Etsy

How often should I burn incense?

I highly recommend for you to use incense once in a while, like once a week! Don’t use it daily. Suppose you want to be persistent while enjoying the aromatherapy benefits of these scents. In that case, you can rely on different sources like pure natural organic essential oils with an essential oil diffuser! The properties of each herb are the same in both formats.

How long should you use incense?

I love incense sticks because they burn out quickly, so I have the right amount of time to say a prayer, meditate and enjoy its benefits and then I am ready to go on with my life and my activities with a gentle soothing scent in the “background”.


How to use incense safely?

If you enjoy an incense stick while reading, at dinner, or to create an intimate atmosphere, etc., you may be worried about the effects on your health. But you don’t have to deprive yourself of your incense if you take the following precautions:

  • Avoid if you have children and pets. Children and pets are much more vulnerable than adults to toxins and smoke.
  • Do not expose yourself for more than two or three hours a day and always in ventilated environments.
  • The smoke must be clear. It would be best to stop if it’s dark or very concentrated.
  • Always choose natural incense instead of synthetic. If the smoke from natural incense is already potentially toxic, that from synthetic wands is even more so, as it can contain substances much more dangerous than natural ones, including polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH), formaldehyde, nitrogen derivatives, charcoal powder, artificial colors, and flavors.
  • Lighting sticks occasionally is not serious, but it is better to do so in very large rooms that are well ventilated to allow for airflow exchange. This rule serves to dilute the substances that are formed following the combustion of incense and guarantees a minimum oxygen presence of 21% in the rooms.
incense for sleep by Tina Caro
Copyright: Tina Caro

How to distinguish natural from synthetic incense?

To differentiate the poor quality (synthetic) from the good quality (more natural and handmade), there are some key tips:

  1. The origin. Make sure is a certified organic and raw product coming almost straight from nature into your home!
  2. The fragrance. The natural incenses are gentler than the artificial ones.
  3. The color. Usually, natural incenses are almost colorless. Those you see in many different colors might be artificially altered.

Also read:
What Incense is Good Against Anxiety? (& How To Do It)
What Incense is Good for Healing? (& How To Do It Properly)
What Incense is Good for Happiness? (& How To Do It)

You can find a lot more articles about incense here.


If you use natural incense once in a while and ensure you ventilate the room, incense won’t be bad for your lungs.

Make sure that when you shop for incense, you gather all the necessary information to make a wise decision! I know some natural organic raw incense can be a bit more expensive than those cheaper ones, but trust me, this is the right thing to do!

If you would like to use incense to attract a certain type of energy or blessings in your life, don’t forget I can also help you with my spell casting service!

Tina Caro

Tina Caro is a witch with more than 10 years of experience, a yogi, an astrologer, and a passionate supporter of all things holistic! She’s also an owner of the website Magickal Spot where she discusses a variety of her favorite topics.

Magickal Spot has helped thousands of readers worldwide, and she’s personally worked with hundreds of clients and helped them manifest desires to have a happier and more abundant life.

tina caro new about me photo

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