News is out on yet another thing that causes cancer. This time, incense is to blame. I was a little perturbed to read this since I enjoy a good stick of incense every now and again. But, the American Cancer Society has decided to rain on my smoky parade. They recently came out with an article in their journal, Cancer, regarding the aromatic sticks. The conclusion from the study was that long-term use of incense was associated with an increased rick of squamous cell carcinoma of the respiratory tract (access the journal article here). Of course, a response to this study could also be, “Duh.” Yes, repeatedly burning things and then repeatedly breathing in the smoke of burning things can increase your risk for certain types of cancer. That seems pretty obvious, be it birch bark, charcoal, plastic, hamburgers or incense.
The term incense covers a lot of things. There are thousands of different types of incense, some of which have been used for thousands of years. They have been used for religious ceremonies, healing rituals and to “just make the house smell good” ever since recorded history. They come in many different forms, but the basic idea is to apply heat/fire to the incense to release fragrant smoke. In my opinion, incense can still be used healthfully, just use these common-sense practices:
- Buy good incense. If you buy cheap, low-quality incense sticks, chances are they will be made of charcoal powder and artificial fragrances. So, be sure that any incense you buy (stick, paste, cone, etc.) is 100% natural. Even fruity scents like “strawberry”, “honeydew” and “shnozberry” will likely be synthetic. You need to check the label and trust who you’re buying the product from.
- Use incense in well-ventilated areas. Keep windows open and don’t hover over the smoke or sit directly in its path so as to inhale it (just like at a campfire, nobody sits where the smoke is blowing).
- Like anything else- use incense in moderation.
Breathe in (not the smoke), Peace out…