Incense Body Powders / Johin, Gokuhin, Tokusen, Zukoh, Scent of Samadhi (by Nancy)

Incense body powders are an interesting and thoroughly enjoyable way to expand the scope of your incense experience. Like high quality Japanese sticks, these powders are deliciously aromatic, relaxing and grounding. Wearing them is like traveling in a delicate mist of fine incense all day long. One of the more interesting qualities of these powders is that their smell is enhanced by perspiration. Just like the heat of cooking releases the flavors of culinary herbs, body heat and moisture amplifies the aroma of the powders. These powders are also a viable option for those who are sensitive to commercial perfumes, 95% of which are derived from synthetic petroleum sources. They contain nothing artificial, consisting only of essential oils and finely ground medicinal-grade herbs.

Incense body powders have their roots in ancient India where they were originally rubbed on the hands and sprinkled on temple floors to prevent the spread of disease. Over time the use of the powders expanded, and applying them became a more symbolic way to attain spiritual purification before ceremonies, meditation, or yoga. By spreading the powder on the palms and then lightly dusting it all over the hair and clothing, one could effectively smudge or cleanse the aura. According to Shoyeido, Buddhists monks would sometimes even put a small amount of these powders directly under their tongue to enhance mental clarity during meditation.

Here is a listing of the ingredients of the 5 incense body powders I am reviewing:
Shoyeido / Johin: Cinnamon, Sandalwood, Clove, Camphor
Shoyeido / Gokuhin: Cinnamon, Patchouli, Camphor
Shoyeido / Tokusen: Cinnamon, Clove, Camphor, Sandalwood
Baieido / Zukoh: Cinnamon, Cassia, Clove, Sandalwood, Camphor, Star Anise
Scent of Samadhi: Clove Oil, Red Sandalwood, Tulsi Oil, Rose Oil, Cardamom Oil

The offerings from Shoyeido and Baieido differ in smell, but only subtly. As you can see, all contain very similar ingredients. The effect of the blends in general is reminiscent of oatmeal cookies, 5 Spice, mulled cider, pumpkin pie, or even chai tea. The camphor note does come out as well, making for a really nice earthy, spicy blend, appropriate for men or women. Shoyeido offers three different grades of their body incense and what distinguishes them the most is the quality of the ingredients used in each one more than the smell. Tokusen is the highest grade and it definitely has more staying power, depth and richness. Baieido’s Zukoh is comparable in quality to Tokusen with the main difference being that it is slightly more woody. If you would like to try the Japanese powders I recommend going straight for Tokusen or Zukoh because their scent is more refined and longer lasting.

Scent of Samadhi is a totally different experience all together. Comparing this to the Japanese varieties is very much like comparing Japanese incense to Indian incense overall. The Japanese powders are drier, woodier, and spicier while Scent of Samadhi is moister and more floral. Yes, Scent of Samadhi contains clove, but there the similarity ends. The powder is stickier, obviously heavier with oils when you compare ingredients, and sort of reminds me of the masala-type incenses. Because of its high oil content even less is required for application as compared to the Japanese powders and it’s aroma last the longest of all. I really do like this one for its uniqueness. The blend is dominated by the rose oil, making this one a more feminine experience. It also mixes really well with the Japanese powders, resulting in a delicious blend where the floral and the spice balance each other out quite nicely.

The powders come in small packets, about ½ oz. Because so little is needed for the desired effect this is certainly enough to last for months. Shoyeido also makes a nifty ebony holder (scroll to bottom of page) for the Japanese incense powders that I would recommend picking up. It’s perfect for shaking out just the right amount of powder for application and makes a very convenient, portable container. I really love these powders, especially Tokusen and Zukoh, and would highly recommend them to anyone who is interested in expanding their incense repertoire.


  1. Judith said,

    July 17, 2014 at 4:55 pm

    I purchased SoS for my favourite uncle. He loves it and saves it for “special occasions”. I don’t think of it as feminine or masculine exclusively because it works on both. I love it.

  2. Inge Rogers said,

    October 11, 2012 at 5:12 pm

    I have racked my brain, I would love to make the sent of samahdi, but I am not even close, what are the secret oils, yu name a few, but I have these, and not even close to the real deal, help.

  3. January 20, 2012 at 10:13 pm

    Hello, I have tried both and yes Indian and Japanese is different. However, we do have stronger ones than Shoyeidoh in Japan, also, basically clove scented. To be honest, the Shoyeidoh types are arranged to also sell as pefume subsitute since makko kusai things (
    temple and funeral smelling) are not liked by the youngs.
    However, if you are really into scents and incense and natural ingredients, the “makko kusai” things is what I advise you look for.

    For clove smelling I advise the Holy Mountai Powder, totally made according to the sutras etc.,
    Yamadasan and my supplier company has great ones also.

    Did you know that Shoyeidoh has a what we call “ura shohhin” or product sold to VIP s kind of. It comes in a paulonia box and is very fefined. It is not even on their site and they sell it only to I would say whom they choose or if you already know it and really want it.
    ( I sometimes list it on Ebay)

    I sometimes have fragrant sachet, and zukoh making events if time allows. It is very economical because I supply the ingredients in much more economical prices than those incense making kits you can see on some sites. For recipies, you may need to do some research but it might be fun.
    I and my friend also plan nerikoh or kneaded incense making events and ritual aromatic blend making events.

    This is only in Japan now, but since I see that many of you know the real good Japanese scents, we may have an idea for the same event internationally by sending ingedients and recipies etc. in the future.

    I also like the Scent of Samadhi, mostly in summer. Their nice bags are made by the socially weak and physically and mentally challenged, I heard.

    I have tried more than 20 zukoh’s and have personal samples so please feel free to ask any quetions, if I can answer them, as I am not really a pro.

    Have a great day!

    Kinan Kikaku Japan

  4. Renee RIvera said,

    June 8, 2011 at 8:16 am

    Hi Nancy,

    I started to use Scent of Samadhi almost 4 years now when my yoga teacher gave us each a pinch. I was transported to another realm. I purchased my next SOS last year but I noticed that the scent was not as fresh or strong as if the sandalwood had been reduced. I just purchased another SOS from Amazon and I don’t smell much of a fragrance at all. I have a sensitive sense of smell and there is a significant difference from last year’s batch and the from 4 years ago. My attempts to contact has been futile. Do you have any info or knowledge regarding the change of scent. It no longer has the magic.

    Thank you for your kind assistance. What type of incense do you recommend that would be similar to SOS?


    • Mike said,

      June 8, 2011 at 8:35 am

      Hi Renee, Nancy hasn’t been around in a while and am not sure if she’s keeping up, but I think the answer’s probably exactly what you think it is. Sandalwood just keeps going up in price so it’s probably no surprise that they’ve adjusted the formula to account for that. This seems to be the case with the incense world, formulas can change at any moment and changes are rarely if ever for the better.

  5. Carrie said,

    May 4, 2011 at 1:06 pm

    I was at work this morning and there was a group of high school age girls from Japan there. As I walked by, I caught a whiff of something that smelled exactly what I imagine Shoyeido’s Tokusen must smell like. Maybe it was. Whatever it was, was amazing. It was incredibly high quality , a rich, warm sandalwood with some spice on it. I didn’t catch any star anise in the blend, which made me think maybe it was the Tokusen.

    I wanted to ask them about it, but the interpreter wasn’t handy.

    • Mike said,

      May 4, 2011 at 1:19 pm

      The Tokusen has a real noticeable tinge of vanilla in the mix to my nose, did you get that too? Oh and I don’t *think* there’s any star anise in it, or at least in Nancy’s list it didn’t list it but Zukoh below does. Anyway I like the Tokusen a ton, wear it all the time.

      • Carrie said,

        May 9, 2011 at 1:25 pm

        Hmm. I don’t remember if I picked up on the vanilla. It was faint, I didn’t get a strong whiff of it, but it was definitely a good sandalwood with some spice(s).

        Beth sent me a sample of the Samadhi today. It’s a lovely scent, but a bit too sweet for me.

        I might order some of the Zukoh. It sounds as if it would be reminiscent of chai, which I love the smell of.

        • Mike said,

          May 9, 2011 at 2:45 pm

          Carrie, I think I made an error here, I was thinking of the Gokuhin. Zukoh is definitely different from the Shoyeido trio, spicier but also a bit less perfumed. And it is in the Chai-ish direction a little just by way of the spice.

  6. Leyah said,

    March 13, 2011 at 12:52 pm

    I was wondering if you could post the botanical names for these ingredients. the one i was most interested in finding out was the Cassia. there a what seems to be a million different kinds of Cassia. so if you are unable to get the botanical names for the other ingredients could you just give the botanical name for the kind of Cassia used in this particular product please? I have very sensitive skin so i always research ingredients before i invest. Thank you in advance. love the article! 🙂

  7. Robyn said,

    March 13, 2010 at 10:05 am

    Loved your review! Am already awaiting some samples of Samadhi; had not heard of the others before this, so am eager to look into them as well! What led me to the Samadhi was that I mistook it on the web as possibly something a yoga sister of mine was wearing, and have since then learned of my mistake…however, it might be something you would enjoy and may want to add to your review: ruh booty. Have you heard of it? It is a dry essential oil powder made up of Frankincense, myrrh and sandalwood…I think sandalood is the most prevalent fragrance, but it is lovely and not overpowering…if you don’t use too much. A little goes a loooong way…:)

  8. Pinjie said,

    August 6, 2009 at 6:43 pm

    Thanks, Nancy, for the powder-holder recommendation! It is so tiny and so cute and makes life much easier when using powdered incense.


    • Nancy said,

      August 7, 2009 at 1:41 pm

      Yes, I love the powder holder too. So cute! Shoyeido rules!!

  9. Lori Meletiche said,

    February 1, 2009 at 11:07 am

    The first time I smelled Scent of Samadhi was on the palms of my Yoga instructor; I didn’t even know what it was at the time – it was completely different from anything I’d ever smelled before, and the memory of that scent stuck. I was pleased (to say the least) when I found it again as a “I wonder what this is?” purchase from EOtA. It’s very strong – a very assertive scent, but very soothing and calming, and I like to use it on extra-stressful days at work. I just rub a bit on my palms, then rub my hands on the back of my neck, and finish the day with my own personal stress “barricade”. It’s amazing how something as simple as scent can ground you against stress! A caution, though – it is VERY strong. A little goes a long, long way.

  10. Ross Urrere said,

    January 28, 2009 at 3:06 pm

    Has anyone ever tried putting these on their heater?

    • Mike said,

      January 28, 2009 at 4:13 pm

      I think I tried it with Zukoh once and it smelled basically just like it does fresh.

  11. Nancy said,

    January 26, 2009 at 1:44 pm

    Thanks Bernd, I enjoy reading your comments!

    And thanks to you too Mike. Nice to have a second opinion that reaffirms my general conclusions. Smell is so subjective – you just never know.

  12. Mike said,

    January 26, 2009 at 9:17 am

    Can’t add much more to Nancy’s analysis, the Shoyeidos are very much like A, B and C grades of the same incense. I do notice a vanilla sort of scent in them that is the main thing that separates these from the Baieido Zukoh. I’d definitely agree that the Zukoh and Tokusen are the best, in fact I’m terribly addicted to the Zukoh, it’s just a perfect spicy blend. Incense I can bring to work. 🙂

    I’d agree the Samadhi is definitely more to the feminine side, but it’s as good as any of these and very powerful, almost metaphysical in strength. I’d feel a bit odd wearing it in public, maybe a cultural thing, but I’ve used it to drift off to sleep.

  13. Bernd Sandner said,

    January 26, 2009 at 4:00 am


    my girlfriend was laughing at me, when she first saw me using the powder.
    But she liked the smell.
    I like the character of this kind of incense. Not standing in the front, just integrating, and at the same time clearly present.
    I do not know the Scent of Samadhi. But the others, I like very much.

    Thanks for your articles! I enjoy reading them!
    Best! Bernd

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