Sandalwood incense is a form of aromatherapy and a religious meditation tool that has been used for thousands of years. It has a sweet and slightly earthy smell when it is burned. The heart of the sandalwood tree is usually harvested, converted to a powder, and then used as incense. Many people believe that the aroma from sandalwood incense offers a wide variety of benefits, ranging from calming the mind to boosting a person's mood. It is often used during meditation for some religions and by people practicing witchcraft as well.
Incense sticks and loose powder are the two primary forms of sandalwood incense. In both cases, the heart of the sandalwood tree is removed from the hardwood and typically ground into a fine powder. The fine powder, or makko, can then be burned over hot charcoal or another source of heat, such as a candle flame.
In the alternative, the powder may be mixed with a small bit of water and turned into a thick paste. The paste can then be rolled onto a stick. This is typically done by hand, creating sticks that are anywhere from 1 inch (about 2.54 cm) to 7 inches (about 17.8 cm) long. The incense stick can then be lit and slowly burned, releasing the sandalwood aroma. In some cases, the sticks can be fanned or blown out, and they will continue to burn and create smoke until the dried paste on the stick is completely burned away.
Many people believe the aroma from sandalwood incense provides valuable calming effects, clearing the mind and reducing stress. Some people claim that it can boost a person's sexual appetite as well. In addition, it is commonly used in India and Asia for meditation, especially by those practicing Hinduism and Buddhism. People practicing witchcraft or pagan magic also often use sandalwood incense and believe it will provide protection from evil; as such, it is often used in spells involving safety.
In some areas, the sandalwood trees are becoming over harvested in order to reach the valuable heart of the tree. Some people believe that the older trees have more potent heartwood and therefore more valuable sandalwood incense. As a result, trees that were centuries old have been harvested. Some areas, such as Australia, have become dedicated to protecting the trees and have decided to fight the overharvesting. Other places, such as India, have recently taken measures to plant new trees and increase the amount of sandalwood growth, thereby reducing the effects of overharvesting.