Homemade incense is easy to make. When my son was young, he loved making incense. We learned this technique for making homemade incense sticks using our loose incense from my friend Dawn at Dawn’s Enchanted Garden and have since modified it slightly to accommodate the resins available to us.
I’ve provided specific quantities to give you an idea of about how much gum and water are needed to make approximately 25 incense sticks. These quantities will vary depending on the gum you use, your water’s temperature, and the levels of humidity where you’re working.
This is a basic procedure, not a recipe. I’ve provided approximate quantities for the water and gum in this procedure to give you a rough idea of how much you’ll need to make approximately 25 incense sticks. Be aware that these quantities are quite rough, so be prepared to experiment with proportions as you work. For specific recipes using this technique, see The Practical Herbalist Recipes.
Equipment you’ll need to make incense sticks:
- liquid measuring cup
- measuring spoons
- whisk, spoon, or fork for mixing the gum
- flat tray with a shallow edge, such as a jelly roll pan
- pot or bucket filled with sand or similar material (for drying your sticks)
Ingredients for making incense sticks:
- approximately 1 tsp. Tragacanth or arabic gum, powdered
- 1/4 cup water
- incense punks/blanks
- a quantity of dried, loose incense
Procedure for making incense sticks:
- Measure 1/4 cup water into the liquid measuring cup. If you’re using Gum Arabic, use warm to hot water. If you’re using Tragacanth gum you can use cool water.
- Powder your gum using a spice grinder or mortar and pestle if it’s not already powdered.
Sprinkle the gum powder about a quarter of a teaspoon at a time into the water a little at a time, stirring thoroughly so the gum is completely dissolved.You want your gum to be thicker than water but not too pasty, a little thinner than the consistency of white glue or honey.The quantity of powdered gum you need may vary depending on variables like the water temperature and humidity in the air.
- When the gum is ready, spoon a small quantity onto your tray so that it forms a line at least as long as your incense stick along one edge of your tray.
- Sprinkle a small quantity of incense in a line at least as long as your incense stick along the opposite edge of your tray.
- Grasping the incense punk by the wooden stick end, gently roll the stick in the gum until it’s coated but not sopping wet.
- When the punk is thoroughly coated with gum, gently roll the stick in the incense so the incense coats the stick.
- Push the uncoated end of the incense punk into the sand in your pot or bucket of sand so the incense stick can dry.
- Let your incense sticks dry thoroughly before you store or light them. Drying times will vary depending on the atmosphere. I’ve seen them dry in as little as a few hours and as much as several days.
Storage and use of incense sticks
Store your handmade incense sticks in an air-tight container, such as a plastic bag or a glass jar. They will last quite a while, so long as they don’t rub against one another or get jostled about a lot.
To light your handmade incense stick, hold the tip to an open flame until it catches. Let it burn a few seconds then blow the flame out. The incense stick should smoke and smolder just like commercial incense sticks. If it’s still slightly damp, it may not burn well.