If you have ever visited yoga or spiritual healing centers, you have probably been enchanted by the amazing smell prevalent inside them. What makes such places smell so good and relaxing? The answer is burning incense.
If you have ever bought incense, you would have noticed the most common one is the stick form which is also the most widely used type – direct burning incense. This type is preferred by most people because all you need to do is ignite it once and it keeps on burning.
The other type which is the indirect incense requires a constant heat source on the contrast. The materials used in this type are not able to stay ignited and burning which is why a heat source in compulsory all the times.
Incense has a big number of uses. Normally, people direct burning incense for spiritual prayers, meditation, yoga, and sometimes only for the purpose of making a place smell good in place of synthetic scents.
Indirect burning incense is seen commonly in big yoga centers or similar places. If you have ever walked into a Church during the festive season or during some congregational prayer, you might have noticed that it smells beautiful.
The use of incense became popular in the general public after the rise of studies on synthetic scents and its dangers. Since incense is derived from natural resources, many people consider it a safer alternative to scents.
But, is burning incense actually a safe alternative?
A number of studies have been conducted that have looked at the effects of incense on the health and have proved that there is much more to the impact of burning incense on health than most of the people know.
According to a study conducted in 2016, incense is one of the many types of air pollution. When any type of incense is burnt, various chemicals are released into the air. One of the pollutants that are released is Carbon Monoxide – a well-known deadly gas.
In addition, since burning incense causes air pollution, it has also been reported to cause inflammation and irritation in the lungs similar to how some people would cough and have pains in the chest when standing in a room with a lot of smoke.
This is largely due to the presence of chemicals in the incense smoke. Chemicals that are present in incense smoke include sulfur dioxide, carbon monoxide, and formaldehyde. These substances can have an effect not only on the lungs but on overall health.
Another study has found that in comparison of cigarette smoke and smoke released upon burning incense, the latter is more harmful than the formal as it can lead to respiratory system dysfunction and a higher production of particulate matter.
What is the particulate matter?
According to EPA, particulate matter or PM is the mixture of liquid droplets and small particles that are formed after reactions between the pollutants. Inhalation of particulate matter can cause severe lung and heart problems.
The particulate matter formed upon the releasing of smoke from burning incense is 45 milligrams per gram which are considerably higher than the 10 milligrams per gram produced by smoke from a lighting a cigarette.
One more question that is raised when discussing the harmful effects of burning incense is that does it cause cancer?
The answer given by various researchers is exactly definitive but they do tell that it can increase the chances of increasing certain types of cancer.
Read more on incense smoke and cancer here.
A study conducted on more than 61,000 women to observe the relationship between incense smoke and cancer showed that burning incense was linked to a higher chance of developing upper respiratory tract carcinomas or UPT.
The more the incense was used, the higher was the risk of the women getting upper respiratory tract carcinomas.
Additionally, another study conducted on the same topic in 2017 found that burning incense released a compound called auramine O (AuO) that helped the progression and development of cancer cells and promoted lung cancer malignancy along with activity in lung tumors.