Incense and Essential Oils – just a bit of general information
Scents have been used by humanity since the dawn of civilization. The most commonly used scents for meditation and altars in our society come in the form of incense and essential oils. Burning of incense helps to create a positive state of mind and helps condition the mind to associate the typical fragrance with a positive and calm mind. Incense during meditation is said to dissipate negative energy.
The oldest sources we have regarding incense are the Indian Vedas. Incense has been used in religious ceremonies and spiritual purification rites, for banishing negative and undesirable energies and odors. Some incense is said to have several medicinal effects and many earlier civilizations used incense as a herbal medicine for treating health disorders.
Incense can be used to alter consciousness through the sense of smell. Scents are detected by olfactory cells in the nose, which communicate with the brain. The olfactory nerve pathways are a direct link to the limbic portion of the brain, which means scents bypass the intellectual part of the brain and hit the limbic system directly, accessing memory, emotion, intuition directly. Some incense has been shown to affect the brain waves, it can stimulate the parasympathetic nerve function (stimulate) and suppress sympathetic nerve function. This reaction could explain that some incense has a calmative effect.
In general, carefully observe and determine the influence and effect of a particular incense on you to determine the scents that are best for you. Those with asthma should carefully test incense before buying it as some incense can give you a violent allergic reaction.
Myself, I use Sandalwood (Morning Star) and smudging with sage in an abalone shell.
Another way to use scents is through the use of essential oils. I used them a lot during energy healings. Researchers have proven that essential oils have a measurable effect on brain-wave patterns. When stimulating oils, such as basil or rosemary, are inhaled, beta brain waves (which indicate a state of alertness) are amplified. Sedative, calming oils like can help induce the brain to drop into alpha. Alpha and theta brain waves, indicative of relaxation, are increased with essential oils such as jasmine, lavender, Orange blossom (neroli), Roman chamomile, bitter orange, bergamot, lavender and melissa and rose. My personal favorite is rose oil. I also love lavender. For clearing and cleansing, a couple of drops of lemony oil in water with a candle underneath…nice.