Aromatherapy Scents: Essential Oils and Incense


You’re probably a lot like me in that you like to create an environment for yourself to feel relaxed. We adorn our walls with pieces of art – like my calm, relaxing paintings – or put on some soothing music. Well, another hugely important factor in feeling grounded and peaceful is aromatherapy. Hand-made soaps, scented lotions, a zillion lip balms – I’m a complete sucker for them, aren’t you?

But what really transports me are the aromatherapy scents of incense and essential oils. While I’m painting, reading, folding laundry, working on the computer or meditating, I usually have a stick of incense burning or a dab of essential oil on my wrist.

As you get to know me as an artist, I’d like to show you what goes on “behind the scenes” in my life because we’re all curious about what influences a person’s work. Aromatherapy scents certainly play a part in creating the environment conducive to my creative process.


Essential Oils

Majmua meditation oil

I just got this out about a week ago after forgetting about it for years. As you can see it’s an old bottle! I bought it when I used to go with my best friend to the Siddha Yoga ashram in Oakland, probably 15 years ago. You can still buy it online, though the packaging is different today.

The oil is called Majmua and it has a sweet, yet earthy fragrance to it. It’s a good thing that oils don’t fade, the scent is just as strong today as it was years ago. A little goes a LONG way, so even though the oil is old, this bottle will last me another couple of years. Oh, and I don’t use it just for meditation. I put it on as a regular perfume when I go out or when I want a soothing, yet sweet scent while I work.



Palmarosa essential oil

This is also kind of old, only in that it lasts a LONG time. I bought this Palmarosa when I was living in Bangkok and used the oil mixed with water as part of an oil diffuser for my aromatherapy. I took it back home and forgot about it for a long time. You might even notice that the label for Aura Cacia is out of date here – they have a completely new look now!

Palmarosa essential oil is really strong and kind of stings the skin a little bit if you put it right on. I saw that the bottle was about 1/3 empty, so I added some camellia oil that is fragrance free and meant for your skin. Now I can dab it on straight from the bottle. It has a fresh spring and summery smell that I like to use for those seasons.



Sandalwood oils

Pictured here are three of my sandalwood oils. The one on the far left from Eden’s Garden and today they don’t even carry plain Sandalwood, just East Indian and Australian. My mom gave this bottle to me, so perhaps it’s rather old, too. It has a sharp scent that she didn’t care for, but I like it alright.

Next to it is a home made blend from a family friend, I think, a long time ago. I don’t even know if this person is even in business any longer, but this sandalwood oil has a softer scent, if you can imagine what that might be like. Believe me, you’d tell the difference right away if you did a sniff test between the two bottles.

At the bottom is a small bottle I got when I was in Bangalore, India, back in 2000. Jeez, 14 years ago already! Bangalore is well-known for sandalwood and so I had to get a bottle of it! While it is 14 years old this month, the smell is still robust and fresh. It has the smell of amber mixed in for a softer smell. It’s wonderful. Oh, and Cauvery happens to have a website, too!



Ever since I was a teenager, I always had some kind of incense burning. Here’s what I have now.



Meditation incense

I LOVE the woodsy,earthy smell of cedar wood incense. I go through these Morning Star cedar wood boxes pretty quickly. One morning while I was getting ready to meditate, I thought I’d try out the Chinese jasmine temple incense that my husband got awhile ago. Just to experiment. And oh the smell was lovely! Now the I always use this combination when I meditate and it puts me right into the space I need to get myself grounded and clear and ready to start my day.




My Shoyeido collection

In recent years, I’ve come to deeply appreciate the unique smell of Japanese incense. It has a refined and sophisticated quality to it that is unique to the Shoyeido brand, anyway.

In this group, I have two favorites that I reserve for this time of year. Autumn Leaves and Moss Garden. From my last post, you now know how I feel about moss and the enchantment I have with it. I burn it only on overcast, cool days where it feels like moss would thrive. Autumn Leaves are only for autumn and winter – here in the Bay Area, California, even the winter months are more like an extended fall.

The others are Eternal Treasure and Golden Pavilion, which I use year-round. Do you have a favorite Shoyeido or other Japanese incense I need to know about? I am always and happily eager to try more.

thai-incenseThai incense

When I lived in Thailand, I bought incense too, and there were many kinds of hand made ones I got. The closest I have to that here are some my husband and I accidentally discovered these two in Oakland Chinatown, where we shop semi-regularly for food. The one on the left is very smoky but smells great and reminds me of just everyday life around Thailand, like when I’d walk by a spirit house and see the daily offerings.

The other one on the right is smokeless! I have no idea how they do it, but even being smokeless, it also smells really good. I like to burn this one when I read to Aidan because he doesn’t like lots of smoke in the air, but doesn’t mind the fragrance.


 Good ole Nag Champa

I used to burn this and only this when I was younger. Sometimes with sandalwood, too. Yeah, you’d think that I’d be more into sandalwood incense since I have so many sandalwood oils. Perhaps I will soon, but I’m still more into the cedarwood smell. But back to Nag Champa. I guess you could say I got “burnt out” on the unique aromatherapy scents it gives, because I rarely use it anymore. I still have a box though, just in case I need a fix!

It takes me back to the 90s when I go to underground rave parties and there would always be an altar in the chill-out room burning Nag Champa. Kick back with a cup of Nub Chai and the experience was complete with the ambient music. Love!


OK, so now you’ve got to share with me your favorite aromatherapy scents – essential oils or incense. Let me know, with links too, if you have them, so I can explore new ones. I love, love, love them and enthusiastically like to explore new possibilities.


Top photo credit – Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution by Nicolle Camancho

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4 Responses to Aromatherapy Scents: Essential Oils and Incense

  1. Lani December 4, 2014 at 3:57 pm #

    555+ I love how OCD you are about this! I’m afraid I’m not that sophisticated. Just whatever is easy and convenient. And that means, whatever 7-11 brand is available. Sorry!

    • Amy Tanathorn December 4, 2014 at 9:11 pm #

      You’re too funny, Lani! 🙂 🙂

  2. Luu July 12, 2015 at 8:42 pm #

    Know where I can find the thai incense candles? I’ve been searching for those for a while now but I can not find them anymore

    • Amy Tanathorn July 13, 2015 at 1:49 pm #

      Hi Luu: I use incense only, not candles. I have found the Thai incense in Oakland’s Chinatown. If you live in a large metro area with a Chinatown, check in some of the shops, you might be surprised! Best of luck, I know it is a bit of a long shot.

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