Resin Incense and How to Burn It

Safety Notes

BURNING INCENSE: Never leave burning incense unattended and always keep out of reach of children or pets – resin burners (censers) can also get very hot during use. Always burn on a heat-proof surface, and safely dispose of ash only once it has cooled.

ASTHMA: Like many other irritants, smoke from incense can irritate and cause asthma. If you or anyone in your family are known asthmatics please consider this before purchasing or using any incense products.


What is RESIN Incense?

Resin incense has been used since Biblical days – pure and natural gums & resins straight from the plant and presented in solid, dried pellet form to be heated as incense. The term ‘resin incense’ can also refer to botanicals, herbs, wood powder or chips that are burned in a similar way.

The best known resin incense would be Frankincense, whose shrub yields a natural gum collected by making incisions into the bark. It is often paired with Myrrh as the two scents blend so beautifully.

Copal is South America’s alternative to Frankincense, and other resins include red-coloured Dragons Blood, Benzoin, Dammar and Palo Santo. Aromatic botanicals burned as incense include Sandalwood and Palo Santo, or herbs like Sage Leaves or Lavender Flowers.

Just like essential oils, many resins are categorised by purity or grade, and can be grown in different regions or using varying genus plants, which can yield a range of scents and quality, depending on their background.


How do you Burn Resin Incense?

Charcoal Tablets

A charcoal tablet is much like a bbq heat bead: once lit it stays alight for a period and provides the heat to warm your resins and allow them to give off their aromatic smoke. The disks are typically around 3cm in diameter, and each can burn for approx 30mins to an hour. ‘Self igniting’ charcoal like our SOEX / IRFAZ tablets include an accelerant that allows the charcoal to be lit easily. Keep any charcoal tablets in a sealed bag between uses to make sure they don’t become damp or stale.

Candle Warmed Burners

Many types of resins or botanicals can also be easily burned using a candle warmed burner which has a platform that can be raised or lowered over a tea light candle, which warms the resins (not suitable for finer ‘powder’ types).

Censers & Burners

Charcoal is usually burned in a specialised censer (burner) made from metal or brass, stone or even terracotta – censers with screens allow for good air circulation around the charcoal while burning. Charcoal tablets can also be burned in any heat-proof bowl filled with sand or earth, which will help insulate it against the heat. Adding a layer of sand or earth in the base of any censer (metal ones in particular) will help save your censer from heating up and damaging the surface below – or anyone who touches it!

Whichever type of burner you use, you MUST ensure that you take all care around children or pets as the charcoal burns red hot, and both the charcoal and the burner may be hot enough to burn skin if touched.

Step By Step: How to Burn Resin over Charcoal Tablets

SAFETY: We cannot stress enough just how hot charcoal tablets become during use, as well as the metal of the censer
– DO NOT use them around children or pets.
– Always ensure they are on a STABLE SURFACE that cannot be bumped.
– Place your censer on a HEATPROOF SURFACE as the metal will get very hot and can scald furniture or burn skin.
– AVOID DIRECT CONTACT with the censer and charcoal to avoid burns.
– NEVER leave burning charcoal unattended.

LIGHTING your Charcoal Tablet



Place a ‘self igniting’ charcoal disk in your censer or bowl (add a layer or sand or earth to help dissipate the heat, and ensure your censer is on a heatproof surface or coaster). Never hold the charcoal in your fingers: use purpose made tongs, and always hold over a heat proof dish or plate.

A long-handled refillable BBQ lighter is the perfect tool to light your charcoal as it may take a minute or two for the tablet to take hold.


Begin by lighting one side/edge of the tablet first. Hold your flame against it – after a while it will start to glow and then begin to spark. Continue holding the flame to that edge until when you blow on it you can see it begin to glow red.

This could take a minute or two – don’t expect it to be instant.

NOTE: Any quick-lite charcoal may give off a faint scent during the lighting process, which should dissipate once the charcoal is completely alight.


Once the first edge has a good start, move the flame to the opposite side and do the same. You may see some sparks dancing over the surface of the tablet – this is an incorporated accelerant that helps it to ignite.

You’ll notice in this image, the edges on the left hand side of the tablet have already turned grey – they were the first edges we began with.

In damp conditions or if the tablet isn’t fresh you may need to repeat a couple of times – if an edge goes out (doesn’t glow when you blow on it), reapply the flame until it becomes fully alight and continues to spread to the area surrounding it.


Your lit edges should now be spreading on their own. Work your way around any unlit edges until the entire outer radius is alight. It will turn a grey ashen colour as it begins to burn, and when you blow on it the entire edge should glow red, with the burning area continuing to expand down the sides and into the centre of the tablet.

You can stop applying the flame once the heat is spreading on its own and there are no areas that have gone out. Continuing to gently blow will speed up the process – do not add your resin yet.


The biggest issue can be in assuming the charcoal is alight because it has started to spark. This is usually NOT the case, it has only started to light. You will have much better success if you follow Steps #3 – 4 and CONTINUE lighting around the whole tablet, otherwise it may go out again. Don’t stop applying your flame until the entire outer edge is fully alight and solidly travelling inwards to cover the entire tablet. Do not add resins until you’ve completed Step #5 or it may extinguish the tablet. 


Now you just need to wait for the burning area to completely cover the top of your disc. As you can see in this image, the grey ashen area is now almost covering the ‘S’ in the centre of our SOEX tablet. Once fully covered and grey in colour (rather than black) you are ready to add your incense.

Don’t be tempted to add your incense too early as it may smother the tablet and stop it from lighting correctly.

This whole process may take 4 or 5 minutes, though can be quicker depending on the dryness of your tablet and amount of flame used. Blowing on the tablet will also help speed things up.



Once your tablet is completely alight, carefully add your resin or botanical incense to the indentation on the top of the tablet, a few pellets at a time – the resin will heat up or melt, releasing strong aromatic smoke. Use tongs for safety.

A pellet of resin may last a few minutes, while your tablet should burn for upwards of 20-30 minutes or so, depending on the conditions. Top up resins as necessary – but don’t forget that resin incense is very strong and it doesn’t take much to scent a room: using too much may create a LOT of smoke and can set off smoke alarms.


The charcoal tablet will naturally go out once spent, and will turn into light coloured ash. Allow this ash to completely cool before disposing – there could still be a hot area in the centre.

NEVER put your charcoal out by dousing your burner in water as it will damage the burner and spit with heat. To extinguish it in a hurry, use tongs to carefully place the charcoal in a large heat-proof container full of water until completely cool. Extinguished charcoal cannot be used a second time.

TIP: If you can get your hands on a small piece of natural mica, use that as a plate between the surface of the charcoal and the resin – it will help stop more delicate botanicals from ‘burning’ with too much direct heat.

Try creating your own blends by adding different types of resin at once: Frankincense and Myrrh are an obvious choice; try adding Benzoin for a deep, balsamic scent or Dragons Blood for a touch of sweetness. 

Alternatives to Charcoal Burning

Burning resin incense over charcoal can be a relaxing and enjoyable ritual, but can take a little time to set up and perform. To enjoy resin incense without the effort of lighting charcoal, try a CANDLE WARMED RESIN BURNER that uses the warmth of a tealight candle to gently warm your resins or botanicals.

Auroshikha’s pure RESIN INCENSE STICKS feature beautiful ground resins pressed into easy to use stick form, making burning resins as easy as your standard incense stick. Many types of quality MASALA STICK INCENSE can also feature ground resins, mixed in blends with other naturally aromatic ingredients.

Other Incense Types & Smudge

See our other DISCOVER pages for more information on using other TYPES OF INCENSE like Dhoop, Koh, Rope or Cones, or SMUDGE STICKS made from White Sage and other botanicals.


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