Fact or Myth: Is Burning Incense Bad for Your Health?

This is a FACT.

burning incenseThe wafts of smoke, the calming effects of aromatherapy…there is something magical about burning incense. It’s a practice with spiritual, cleansing, purifying, even healing applications. But did you know that burning incense carries some pretty significant health risks? Research has linked incense to various health disorders, including respiratory distress, headaches, cardiovascular complications, cancer, and undesirable transformations in lung-cell structure.

Incense Smoke as Bad as Cigarette Smoke!

According to a 2013 study conducted by University of North Carolina researchers, incense smoke carries similar health risks as cigarette smoke.

Researchers used two types of incense commonly burned in 96% of the homes in the United Arab Emirates on a weekly basis. They burnt incense over the course of three hours in an indoor chamber that mimicked an archetypal living room. They identified and examined the particulate concentrations and levels of gases, including carbon monoxide, volatile organic compounds (VOCs), sulfur dioxide, and oxides of nitrogen and formaldehyde.

Human lung cells were kept in the chambers for 24 hours to let the particulates settle and impact the cells. The lung cells reacted with an inflammatory response that mimics the response of lung cells exposed to cigarette smoke!

A 2008 study in the journal Cancer linked incense burning to a statistically higher risk of upper respiratory tract cancers, especially squamous-cell carcinoma tumors.

Alternatives to Incense Burning

Be it sticks, cones, or resin, incense is splashed with essential oils which impart the aroma you crave. Why not ditch the smoke that can make you sick, and instead benefit from the positive health effects of essential oils directly? Use an aromatherapy diffuser, which emits a mist of water and essential oils, so you get a smoke-like effect and a pleasant-smelling home or office without subjecting yourself to any health risks.

If you refuse to give up your incense, then avoid using a charcoal briquette to burn your resin, as the smoke from the charcoal adds even more pollutants and carbon monoxide to the environment. And be sure to provide adequate ventilation, opening windows and doors to improve air flow.