Sandalwood (Santalum Album) is number one for meditation according to most Buddhists. The aroma of sandalwood is warm, rich, sweet, and woody. Sandalwood has been in use as incense for over four thousand years. Sandalwood powder and chips are most commonly used as incense, although the wood is often used in carvings, and for beads, and the oil is used as well. The scent of sandalwood promotes relaxation, openness, and grounding. Its special calming effect has been used to treat anxiety and depression, and it acts as a mild sedative. It can aid with opening the Third Eye and is considered by some to have qualities of an aphrodisiac. It’s also a disinfectant. Sandalwood is one of the classic aromas that have been burned in monasteries and temples for centuries.
Also be aware of Red Sandalwood (Pterocarpus santalinus) which is used chiefly as a dye, base ingredient, or combustion agent when making incense sticks. Sandalwood can be expensive, depending on the quality, but affordable varieties and blends are widely available. For mediation you want (Santalum Album).
Aloeswood (Aquillaria spp.) is the most highly prized of the fragrant woods. The finest aloeswood, Kyara, is reputed to instantly produce the calmness achieved by a thirty-minute meditation. The reason aloeswood is so special is due to the way it is formed. This evergreen tree, which grows in Vietnam, Indonesia, and Malaysia, is very unique. After a tree dies from a natural death, a fungus begins to grow and creates a resin in the heartwood. This may take anywhere from months to years to form. The older the tree is, the greater the value it has as incense. The wood itself is not aromatic until burned, and in burning it refreshes the mind. Aloeswood may be the ultimate incense experience, but you’d better be willing to pay a lot for it—it can range in price from a few dollars a gram to a few hundred dollars a gram. Fortunately, there are many different grades and even what is considered the “lowest” quality aloeswood is still good. The best way to enjoy aloeswood is to purchase stick incense that contains aloeswood in the mixture. Some fine quality Japanese incense contains a blend of sandalwood and aloeswood and can be obtained for around $20 a box. These types are often marketed especially for the purpose of meditation.
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