Burning incense is a time-honored tradition that can be rejuvenating both for the body and the spirit. We’ve written at length about the benefits of incense, but it’s also important to understand the potential dangers so that you can enjoy it safely.
Below is a roundup of the top questions we receive from readers looking to begin a practice of burning incense. We recommend bookmarking this page so that you can refer back to it in the future.
Is incense bad for you?
According to the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), has been linked to asthma, contact dermatitis, and even cancer.1 A 2008 study found that heavy, long-term use of incense has been linked to “an increased risk of squamous cell carcinoma of the respiratory tract.” 2
However fragrant it might be, it’s important to remember that incense smoke is still smoke. And smoke is home to a multitude of carcinogens that could wreak havoc on your lungs and respiratory system if not careful.
This is why it’s important to take precautions when burning incense, including:
1. Burn incense in ventilated areas, such as near open windows or screen doors, to prevent smoke from accumulating.
2. Consider buying an electric air purifier to run while burning incense to cleanse the air of harmful chemicals.
3. Look into smokeless incense sticks that provide a fragrance without the visible smoke. Our favorite smokeless incense sticks are Beieido’s Rose Sawayaka Smokeless Incense.
If you have any pre-existing respiratory conditions, it’s always best to check with your doctor before burning incense for any reason. Everyone has a unique medical situation and ultimately your physician will be the best judge of whether burning incense is safe for you given your unique medical history.
Is incense bad for your eyes?
Incense smoke can cause redness and irritation in the eyes. Some people are more prone to eye sensitivity than others. If you’ve ever sat in front of a campfire or a fireplace and experienced eye irritation, it’s likely that incense would have a similar effect.
To mitigate this issue, follow the precautions we’ve outlined above making sure to burn incense only in ventilated areas and for shorter periods of time. Consider smokeless incense, and purchase an air purifier.
Overall the most important advice is to listen to what your body is telling you. If there is pain in your eyes, it’s a sign that the smoke is causing irritation. Move your incense to an open windowsill so that the smoke isn’t trapped in the room.
If smoke is simply not an option, consider an essential oils diffuser like the Vitruvi Stone Diffuser instead.
Is incense bad for dogs?
Dogs are just as vulnerable as humans are to the airborne carcinogens found in incense smoke. Brachycephalic dogs, like bulldogs, Boston terriers, pugs, shih tzus, boxers and other dogs with shorter snouts are at a higher risk of experiencing respiratory issues related to incense smoke. If your dog is one of these breeds or has a pre-existing respiratory condition, we recommend not burning incense in their presence.
If you decide to burn incense with your dog present, take the same precautions recommended in the answer above: ensure proper ventilation, use an air purifier, and consider smokeless incense. Above all, pay attention to your dog’s behavior and stop burning incense if you notice anything out of the ordinary such as sneezing, heavy breathing, runny nose, or runny eyes.
As always, check with your vet if you are concerned about specific issues related to your pet’s unique situation.
Is incense bad for cats?
Yes. Cats are extremely sensitive to smoke, and incense is often made with essential oils and other volatile organic compounds that can lead to feline asthma and other respiratory issues.
If you have a cat and want to burn incense, we recommend keeping your cat out of the room while the incense is burning. Additionally, consider burning incense next to an open window to allow the smoke to escape the room.
If you do burn incense with your cat present, pay close attention to its behavior and monitor his or her eyes and nose for any sign of fluid discharge.
Is incense bad for birds?
Yes. Birds are especially sensitive to smoke and other airborne irritants, due to the way their lungs are structured. Birds have a unique respiratory system made of a centralized pair of lungs along with numerous air sacs under the skin all over their bodies.
These organs are extremely sensitive to smoke and other irritants. It is widely recommended that birds never be present in the same room as burning incense.
Is incense bad for plants?
No. Plants require carbon dioxide to create the fuel that allows them to grow. In exchange, they give off oxygen which allows us humans and animals to do the same.
There haven’t been studies done on the impact incense can have on plants. But anecdotal experiences indicate that incense has no negative impact on plants.
Of course, monitor your plants, moving and repotting any ones that appear to be yellowing or browning as a result of the incense.