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.