How To Make Incense Sticks with Essential Oils

4 min to read
Andrea Butje

Make your own incense sticks with essential oils!

I love to make my own incense. 

It allows me to choose my ingredients and customize the scent.

There is actually a way you can make incense sticks yourself using makko powder.

But for now, I'll share how I use essential oils to scent blank incense sticks.

I prefer to use pure essential oils in my incense, so synthetic substances aren't released into my air when I burn them.

I also learned that most blank incense sticks have a combustible powder coating that can be toxic. And the sticks are often made from wood and glues that can be harmful as well. That's something I prefer to avoid.

I recommend using unscented punk sticks made with joss/makko powder. You can find them here at Scents of Earth, or with a simple search online. 

You can make your incense sticks with an olive dish. It's just a long, narrow little dish. (I don't actually put olives in mine. I reserve it for incense making!) 

Don't have an olive dish? 

Try a piece of aluminum foil! Just fold it into a "V" shape, making sure to fold up the ends so the oil won't spill out. Now you've got a temporary "incense-making dish." 

You can make incense sticks one at a time, or in small batches.

To make just one incense stick...

Lay a blank incense stick in your dish and drop your essential oils right onto it. 

Each stick can absorb about 20 drops of essential oil. When I'm making one incense stick, I usually choose up to three oils. I want to be sure I can use enough drops of each oil to distribute over the length of the stick. (In the video below, you can see how a single drop of oil absorbs over a large area of the stick. Even so, I don't want to spread the oils too thin.)

As I drop the essential oils onto the incense stick, some of the oil will fall into the dish. Gently press the stick into the dish, so it absorbs all of the oil.

To make incense sticks in a small batch...

First, measure out your essential oils.

I use a graduated cylinder for this, but you can always do it drop by drop.

Let's say you want to make five incense sticks at the same time. 

How many drops of essential oil would you need?

If one incense stick takes 20 drops of essential oil, then five sticks take 100 drops. (In a graduated cylinder, this comes to about 4 ml of essential oil.)

If you don't have a graduated cylinder, you can drop your essential oils directly into your dish, and gently stir them with the end of a spoon or a glass stirring rod. Then place the five blank sticks into the dish, and press gently so they absorb the essential oil.

Let your homemade incense dry.

Set your homemade incense sticks in a mug to dry overnight (between 10 and 15 hours) before burning them. 

This mug of newly made incense will strongly scent the room you leave it in! The room will hold the aroma of the incense for days. (Try letting your incense dry in a room that you want to smell really nice—such as a bathroom.)

Watch the process of making incense sticks with essential oils in this video I created for the Aromahead YouTube Channel!

Is incense just smoke, or can it offer therapeutic benefits?

I make incense sticks simply because I love the aroma.

But that doesn't mean incense doesn't offer any benefits.

Why does incense play a key role in so many medicinal and spiritual traditions around the world?

How do you choose the right ingredients for spiritual growth, mental and cognitive support, and even helping to prevent colds?

My friend Eric, who founded the Northwest School of Aromatic Medicine, has made it his life's work to answer these questions—and more. 

Check out his Listening to Incense home study course to discover how to craft your own traditional incense. Practicing this ancient art can bring a greater sense of connection with your spirit, your health, and with the natural world. And it can add layers of wisdom into your aromatherapy practice that are otherwise forgotten in modern times.