I did not expect to be writing a blog post today. I had so much fun making incense two times time this week that I thought I would share. This is not a kyphi (although that fascinates me.) Nor is this self burning with saltpeter or makkho powder. I’ve never used those substances.
I have had a bag of pine resin for a few years now. Resin that was easy to find at the base of various piñon trees that grew stately on the land where I lived for 4 years before moving further south in New Mexico.
(I never take resin off of a tree itself because it is there to protect a wound on the tree. Enough drops to the ground or can be easily found that way.)
Being at lower altitudes now, I happily exclaim every time I see a piñon tree or juniper tree. When I hike into the jagged mountains close to where I live I start to see these old friends again at 6,000 feet or so.
On a recent hike I saw some junipers at an historic site of a crumbling stone hotel. It featured 32 rooms at one time, local gardens for the meals, a grand piano, much enjoyment and muslin covered ceilings. Now it was a wonderful sight to experience as we took a bend in the trail above an occasional, welcome spring, called Dripping Springs.
Here is a beautiful juniper at the top of old stone steps.
And, following are pictures of piñon trees. (Pine trees)
I wrote a whole blog on piñon trees and pine resin and making pine resin salve known in New Mexico as Trementina.
Here is that post for more info on pine:
It is likely that the pine resin I used to make incense today is from those days. I will explain how I made incense with it and, how easy and fun it is to do.
Here is a close-up and a picture of a piñon pine. Two needle pine. Two needles per bunch. And, I saw some good years of pinecones developing piñon (pine) nuts.
(Above: pine resin and melting snow)
And, you can just burn the resin as incense. I really enjoy it just like that. On charcoal or burned embers from a small fire.
I used a rock from the land as a heat proof surface.
This is from some years ago. I have been wanting to learn how to make a different form of incense for a while now so this is what I did.
I used a mortar and pestle to grind the pine resin. I have been holding onto that mortar and pestle for the right inspiration and now I found one for grinding resin.
You could probably use a river rock and a sturdy metal or wooden bowl. Or a grinder devoted to resins. Even my mortar and pestle is devoted to resins now. Which feels good to use as a friend gave it to me and I have such a good use for it now.
I used pine resin as my base in my first batch and I literally added dozens of ingredients. Almost, just to invoke a special connection to all the herbs in the incense. To make a special blend and, also just to see what would happen when I dove in and gave incense making a try!
I added many herbs including: calamus root for focus, envisioning. Wood betony for grounding and soothing. Orange peel for it’s aromatics, soloman’s seal root for repair and flexibility, cat’s claw (the herb) acorn shell from the mountain spring, …too much to remember… though I did write down a list. 🌸
So all these herbs were ground into a powder or fibrous powder. The other many herbs I made a tea, strained it and used that tea along with marshmallow root powder to bind the mixture.
The mix was roughly:
1/4 resin powder, 1/2 + other powdered herbs, and less than 1/4 amount of marsmallow root powder to bind… Or so…. Not exact.
Just make a dough that binds and holds together. Add a touch more water if needed, a few drops at a time if necessary.
This first batch I added an herbal tea to mix all the powdered herbs to make an incense dough.
It was just enough wetness to keep it all together though not too wet. Just enough to use a fork or spoon and keep pressing it together, incorporating the dry into moistened dough to bring it into form.
I have been having these experiences lately using different flours and now incense doughs that bring me into a more ancient feeling. A comfortable feeling. Something very satisfying for me to be working with plant doughs this way. Never mind that it is just fun and children naturally have a sense of wonder and play making dough! In some places and traditions these practices of making incense and aromatic healings are centuries old practices and alive and well! Nevermind all the plant and herb crafters out there. Aromatics is part of all cultures. There are gaps in some cultures but the threads are still there.
It was fun to use the pine resin I had gathered and to respect it that way by doing something constructive and enjoyable with it.
And, Fun being constructive to the spirit! I felt like I was rolling and forming little dough beings. All lined in circles on my antique floral, gold embossed plate from the Salvation Army thrift store.
Next I will discuss the second batch I just made today. This one I used holiday spices such as clove, nutmeg, coriander, mace, cinnamon, myrrh and piñon resin. I used marshmallow as a binder with tap water to bind.
It smelled wonderful and with each batch I tasted a tiny dough ball because they are both technically edible although I wouldn’t eat them, of course? 🙂 Although, some could be made as dried tablets or incense, if you think about it… This is the beauty of making your own incense or anything else for that matter! You know what is in it!
I read a few sites to get ideas how to make these cones. They are not perfect cones as I do not have that kind of patience or even skill lol! But, I have the patience to finish what I start, at least.
This was the same recipe as before, not strictly measured. I will include a link with other recipes for you.
The 2nd batch of incense:
1/4 resin powder (myrrh and pine resin)
2/4 + herbal powders (any amount each that you want, these or your own blend.) I used soloman’s seal root powder because it is a root and for flexibility (of spirit) too, clove, nutmeg, mace, coriander, cinnamon A lot of aromatic herbs in this mix besides the aromatic resins.
1/4 or less amount of marshmallow root powder to bind the mixture
Tap water or distilled water
A holiday-ish blend… Plus fun to work with these spices this way. And, did I mention the pleasant experience of all those aromatics, yes! 💜 Plus, keep on healing the household. I burned the incense just to get those healing aromatics in the air. Glad that last week’s batch was ready.
It seems I put cinnamon into everything 🙂 I always have some on hand. And, it smells so good too! All these herbs have traditional and magical/healing uses but, we can also just use what we like and have an affinity toward. Also, for herbal properties such as relaxation, focus, etc.
You just want the marshmallow as a binder because it acts gummy when mixed with water. (Plus marshmallow is soothing, healing, softening, cooling: good energetics!)
Other binders could be used such as gum Arabic but, it is marshmallow root powder that I had on hand and I enjoy working with marshmallow root, anyhow.
Use just enough water to keep pressing the powder together to make a paste. More on the dry than wet side. Just wet enough to hold together.
You can also knead the dough, at this point, to incorporate any of the loose powder or powder on the surface of your incense dough ball.
Then pinch of pieces and form them into small tapered cones and let air dry 5-7 days or so.
The cones have to be totally dry to burn. I have gotten some to self burn with just a match but, I usually place them on a charcoal tablet that ignites when lit.
Here are some pics from today.
Myrrh and pine resin ground into coarse powder.
Thankful for the aromatics since my household is recovering from the flu and colds! Pine resin and myrrh resin powders just ground…
Then the mix of all the powders including the marshmallow root powder.
Here is the incense dough just formed. It is just one step from being tooo crumbly. And, my little dough beings as I call them.
The little set up, with our sweet potato vine, a lovely squash.
Last week’s and today’s incense cones. A grateful little bottle of tincture to ward of the flu blues. And, last week’s incense burning.
My helper as I write this! Hibiscus
Tip: I try to make cones that stand upright on their own as I set them to dry.
I use a pan with a potholder under it to burn incense these days but, you could use a big flat rock, heat proof ceramic, etc. Or just on embers of a fire as I mentioned before. That seems a really nice way to burn incense.
Here is one of the posts that gave me the inspiration to try and they have good incense recipes to try too!
This was just a fun post for me to write and share. A way to connect with plants, herbs, spices. Aromatics. Grateful for the journey of collecting the pine resin some years ago. Some of it is still gooey and sticky. You can just roll that into an instant incense ball and burn that way!
Incense is used in so many traditions, so many different types from simple to complex. I really did not have the extra dough 😉 to get wine or honey this week or I may have made kyphi.
I was so ready for a quicker method and the aromatics have been so healing and fumigating for the flu!
I have made gallons of tea, taken ounces of tincture, herbal baths, sunshine and now incense to overcome the flu blues. Not bad, we are perking up again.
To finish, here is more of the crumbling old hotel and some plants nearby. (🌸🌿)
As we rounded the corner of the trail up past the recent rain driven spring we realized we were coming upon an historic site. I love these old vestiges of time alone but, also get excited by what plants would be nearby. From settlements and dwellings I suspected there would be herbs and cultivated plants as echoes from times past. Past gardens and plantings.
I was heartened upon greeting the blackberry vines upon first sight. Another plant teacher, learning and story to be grateful for.
Blackberry shrub vines along the old stone steps. Not far from a rushing spring from the last night’s rain.
Enjoy, as we surely do, this spring when it flows through the heart of the rugged Organ Mountains.
And incense has its roots in the word incensare: to rouse, inflame, inspire
What rouses you, ignites your passion, brings forth the aromatic heart of your pursuits?
City of Rocks State Park
Long ago creations of Lava Flows
Like massive incense cones