Burning incense is an ancient practice that puts us in touch with memory, both personal and ancestral. Certain incense ingredients used commonly today predate recorded history - they are natural, unprocessed materials that early man valued for their aromatic and esoteric properties.
Here's a list of five prehistoric incense ingredients:
Benzoin - a sweet soft fragrance that comes from the dried sap of the Asian tree Styrax Benzoin or Styrax Tonkinesis. A pleasing fragrance associated with stimulating creativity and soothing the senses. It is a common ingredient in many popular incense blends today. In India it is associated with the deities Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva.
- Juniper - Ancient shamanic cultures have revered Juniper as a sacred plant. The wood, branches and berries are all useful incense ingredients and have been discovered in prehistoric firepits around the world. I think of Juniper as the top Paleo incense ingredient. It's purpose has remained unchanged- used in cleansing and healing, the rejuvenating fragrance connects us to ancient times.
- Spruce - The sap, wood and needles of this stone age evergreen were used long before the discovery of Frankincense, as both an incense ingredient and an aid to health. In later times it was used as a substitute for frankincense because of it's citrusy aroma. Old herbal books mention a technique of intensifying the aroma by placing Spruce resin in an anthill for a specific amount of time. Supposedly, the acid secreted by the ants produced an alchemical transformation in the resin. I'd love to get some of that!
- Frankincense - The dried resin of the evergreen tree Boswellia family is a historically prized incense ingredient. It's origins in the Arabian Peninsula and subsequent trade routes have lasted over a millennium. It has always been associated with heavenly or spiritual energies and is also used to purify space.
- Cedar - Varieties of this aromatic evergreen species are found throughout the world. In the Native American traditions, cedar is widely associated with aiding visions and helping the body and mind in times of stress. It's use as an incense ingredient is widespread in the cultures of the Himalayas, The Mediterranean, and ancient Egypt. Cedar is one of the key ingredients in the Zouz Copalo Blend.