The first consideration when choosing incense is the type of incense to use:
Incense powder is the oldest form of incense. Originally, powdered leaves, flowers and other scented parts of plants were simply thrown onto a fire. Today, it is sprinkled on to burning charcoal.
Resin incense is burned on a charcoal base. Although a relatively difficult way to burn incense, adherents believe it to be worth the extra effort and produces a superior aroma and more pronounced psychological affects.
Incense cones are placed in special containers. Cones are very long lasting, but some same they are best used outdoors or in well ventilated areas because they produce more smoke as they burn down to the wider base of the cone.
Incense sticks are by far the most popular type of incense. There are two types of incense sticks: those with bamboo cores and those that are composed entirely of incense.
What are you using incense for? Scents have a profound psychological affect, so your choice of incense should be based at least as much on the mood you wish to create as on its pleasant fragrance. Some possible choices include:
Sandalwood is one of the most popular scents. It is used for meditation because of its calming affect, but is also great for producing a tranquil atmosphere in the home.
Aloeswood is recommended for meditation only. It is said that the inhalation of aloeswood is the equivalent of a half hour meditation session. An expensive and relatively hard to find incense, it can also be found in some aloeswood/sandalwood blends.
Patchouli is a very popular incense. Used extensively in the perfume industry (especially in fragrances for men), patchouli is said to have aphrodisiac properties. Patchouli incense is recommended for lifting your mood and relieving anxiety or tension. An added bonus to patchouli is that it has historically also been used as a mosquito repellant.
Lavender incense has a noticeably calming effect. Aromatherapists use lavender oils and essences to help relieve tension headaches and other stress related disorders.
Rose is a romantic, soothing fragrance that really needs no introduction. Caution should be used when choosing rose incense, though. Many cheap imitation rose incense sticks are available that are made from synthetic ingredients. Purists and aromatherapists always recommend only pure, natural ingredients for best results.
Orange, lemon and other citrus scents are great energy lifters. As with rose and other fragrances, try to find incense that uses essential, not synthetic ingredients.
With the possible exception of aloeswood, any of these incenses can be used at any time. While sandalwood, for example, is associated with meditation, many cultures also associate it with joyous family gatherings and other celebrations because they so often occur at religiously significant times of the year when sandalwood incense is burned at home altars.