They are different by the method in which the scents are provided to the incense sticks. To compare different types of incense sticks like natural incense and regular incense we first have to understand how are they both made.
Around the world the most popular incenses are those made in India, they’ve spread in different countries for centuries, becoming the first reference we have for incenses.
How is incense made in India?
Starting with a bamboo stick core, a thick and black paste is made with charcoal and powders to be glued in the bamboo stick. The most common method to provide a scent to the stick is having the paste dry completely before dipping it into synthetic fragrances.
Such fragrances are synthetic because they are made from chemical ingredients, like petroleum and natural gases that are commonly referred to as petrochemicals.
These fragrances are not natural yet very popular among Indian incense makers because they are easier to obtain and they can provide a more lasting due to fixatives.
How is a natural incense made?
First of all, there are natural elements than can be considered as incense, meaning that when you burn them, you’ll obtain a scented smoke. Such elements can be tree barks, dry leaves and fruit’s dry peels.
In order to make a 100% Natural incense you must start with an organic base like milled wood that can be mixed with water and attached to a bamboo stick as holding core.
That wood can provide a scent if it comes from an aromatic tree like Palo Santo (bursera graveolens).
Historically, civilizations like the Inca Empire in Peru have used Palo Santo as incense in rituals and ceremonies, even as casually as a mosquito repellent.
These ancient cultures often mixed different plants and barks to create smudging bundles or incense pastes that provided different aromas and had religious connotations.