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Tuesday, May 25, 2010

It’s a Zen Thing

by Marla

This is for all you incense-rocking perfumistas who have run through the entire CdG Incense Series at least twice, tried Norma Kamali’s Incense (I love it but YMMV), become jaded with the plethora of oudish perfumes hitting the stores, and are now looking for a new incense fix. Japanese incense body powders are a real departure from Western perfume. They are finely ground medicinal-grade herbs, spices, and woods that are rubbed into the skin. The use of these powders probably began in India for health purposes and to aid meditation; as Buddhism spread, so did the powders.

Shoyeido's three grades of incense powders are created from 200-year-old recipes from a temple on Mt. Koya, Japan. They are composed of entirely natural ingredients, which are very finely ground, blended, and aged. The dominant ingredients are cloves, cinnamon, patchouli, sandalwood and borneo camphor.

Wearable incense powder is said to increase concentration and improve awareness; this makes them very useful for meditation or study, or perhaps taking exams. I can verify that the clove-laden Johin is effective for mornings when coffee just isn’t doing the job. To use, one applies a small portion of powder on the ear lobes, the wrists, or into one’s hair (this last method is not traditional, it’s mine, and it smells good). The bags of powder are sold by the half-ounce, but can be packed into lovely little round, polished hardwood carriers sold by the incense companies. This makes them very air travel friendly, though I suppose a customs officer, upon discovering your stash, might ask you what the mysterious powder was, and you’d have trouble getting them to believe the truth.

Here are Shoyeido’s three grades of powder. I find all of them eminently wearable, and somewhat similar.

Johin- at only $6, it’s a huge bargain, it has more clove than the others, is the most masculine and spiciest of the trio. This one will really wake you up, though it’s also the most fleeting;
Gokuhin- at $10, still a bargain, with more wood, more patch, less spice, and a little mellower than Johin;
Tokusen- the most quiet, the scent practically seamless, elegant and smooth with more sandalwood, more longevity, and the most expensive at $20.

Baieido makes Zukoh, with the same basic ingredients as the Shoyeidos. However, there seems to be more cinnamon, with less borneol camphor, and the star anise adds a lovely note. It runs a half-ounce for around $15.

The powders are available at the Shoyeido website, and through incense sellers like Sensia and Essence of the Ages (I can vouch for all three companies, though I have no financial connection to any of them).

And now for the fun part. I will choose two people at random from the comments, and send them one or two samples of the various powders in my collection. If you have a skin allergy to clove, camphor, cassia, or cinnamon, don’t use these on skin, try putting them on a comfy old T-shirt instead. The draw is now closed.

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Blogger Flora said...

What a great idea! These sound perfect for stress relief as well as general perfumery purposes. I want the Tokusen, of course.

12:03 AM EDT  
Blogger Unknown said...

They sound incredible. I really love the scent of Japanese sandalwood incense because it reminds me of my grandmother, so these sound very soothing. They are much more affordable than I expected too!

12:29 AM EDT  
Anonymous chris g said...

I've alway loved incense, but have never tried powdered. Please enter me in the draw. Thanks!

12:37 AM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes, Tokusen is my favorite, too, though sometimes I prefer the gutsy Johin. Stephanie, that's one of my favorite smells, too! My favorite pure sandalwood is Minorien's Old Mountain, it really smells like the sandalwood of yore. And I know, what a bargain, you can buy all four powders for less than a new bottle of mainstream perfume!

12:38 AM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I would be glad to try it, thanks for entering me. Alica -

12:39 AM EDT  
Blogger KiuKiu said...

That sounds both really comforting and really suitable for final exams at the same time. And they're not as expensive as I had guessed!

12:51 AM EDT  
Blogger rosarita said...

Please count me in, I've never tried this and they sound wonderful. Thanks!

1:06 AM EDT  
Blogger Unknown said...

These sound perfectly lovely. Please count me in for the draw. Thank you!

2:08 AM EDT  
Blogger Tama said...

These sound intriguing - I had heard them mentioned before and perked up then. Yet another thing to put on the shopping list!

2:22 AM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I noticed Tom's Incense sells the Tokusen on, also. I've bought incense from him before, he's very reliable.

2:28 AM EDT  
Blogger womo531 said...

really? off to look if I can find these in Taiwan... =P

2:43 AM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hmm, Taiwan, if they sell Shoyeido or Baieido, they might carry these. There may be local versions, as well.

3:10 AM EDT  
Blogger Furriner said...

Interesting article! I would be interested in trying these.

5:44 AM EDT  
Blogger Ines said...

These sounds great. I often need something more than coffee in the morning these days. :)
I'll go check if those sites deliver world-wide.
And please enter me for the draw. :)

6:07 AM EDT  
Blogger waftbyCarol said...

I have never herd of these - how fantastic !
i need some of this..going over to the website to check it out !
Please include me in the draw .

7:18 AM EDT  
Blogger CC ... said...

I had never even heard of these, either. Please enter me in the draw I would love to try these! Thank you!

7:52 AM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am glad to be spreading the news about these little treasures. I've entered all of you in the drawing.

7:56 AM EDT  
Blogger queen_cupcake said...

Powders, hmmm.I think I like this idea...Have seen many perfume powders on auctions and other online sites but never really considered them. Now I may have to go back and look for some of those as well. I do love incense; please enter me in the draw.

8:14 AM EDT  
Blogger Unknown said...

Hi - what a totally bril idea! Thnx so much for info. I never would have thought! I would LOVE to try one - going for the less elegant, but will leave choice to your discretion should I be the lucky one who wins. I write scripts using scents - so am often on lookout for anything redolent or evocative - these sound useful for certain scenes - AND - if you or anyone has ideas for scents, please be kind enough to let me know. I am getting tired of Demeter :) & running out of money for LuckyScent samples. THNX !!

8:38 AM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

These sound absolutely wonderful! And I especially love sandalwood. Please enter me in the draw. Thank you.


8:53 AM EDT  
Blogger Dixie said...

I love the idea of increasing awareness-especially when coffee won't do! Please include me in the draw!

9:09 AM EDT  
Anonymous Nancy C. said...

Sounds fantastic! I've never heard of such a thing and I'd love to be entered into the draw.

9:40 AM EDT  
Anonymous RusticDove said...

I really love the idea of this. Sounds like a lovely way to wear fragrance!

10:02 AM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It is. It's subtle, but very present.

10:14 AM EDT  
Anonymous Tamara said...

Sounds weird but awesome Marla, enter me pretty please. I love burning Nag Champa in my home and just tried S.S.S. Incense Pure yesterday, sooo good but almost gave me a headache :( I hate when that happans. I adore 10 Corso Como even though it's not a incense scent the sandalwood reminds me of it in a way. Have a good day everyday, good luck in the draw to all :)

11:28 AM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well, the Japanese incense tradition is very different than the Indian, but I think you'd like the powders nevertheless. I do like some Indian incenses, my current favorite house is Shroff Channabasappa, they have some lovely incense based on recipes from the Raj, very good quality. I'm told Scent of Samadhi is a very nice Indian-style incense powder, but I haven't tried it yet.

11:45 AM EDT  
Blogger Dionne said...

I'm always interested in finding frugal deals! Please enter me in the draw. One silly question though: How exactly do you apply this kind of powder? Is it like those great little containers with the holes and the fluffy puff that my grandma had?

12:15 PM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I would love to try these. Wow! Tokusen sounds like it is me.
Jill S

12:19 PM EDT  
Blogger Unknown said...

I haven't tried powedered incenseyet, but I love sandalwood, and would be grateful if you entered me into the draw. Thank you!

12:24 PM EDT  
Anonymous grizzlesnort said...

Very intriguing. Please enter me in your drawing.

12:28 PM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi, Dionne:
Well, there are several ways to apply this. If you're not sensitive to the spices (some get a rash to clove or cinnamon), you can keep it in a small container and either pinch or shake some out, a tiny amount, and rub it on your wrists, behind your ears, or under your chin. Rubbed into the hair works well, and you can also rub it onto non-white fabrics. The little holder shakes out a tiny amount, and a very small shaker, like a tiny salt shaker, would probably work very well also!

1:12 PM EDT  
Blogger Katherine said...

Wow Marla, you have me totally lemming these! I have completely fallen in love with incense in the last few months and I can't get enough of it in all of its different incarnations (most recent love is Sonoma Scent Studio's Incense Pure)... and now a new way to indulge my obsesession??? I just think I might be smitten with these. Please enter me in the draw. And thanks for broadening my horizons!

1:44 PM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Fascinating. I have a minor obsession with Japan and things Japanese, but had never heard of incense body powders. Thanks for sharing your knowledge of these. Need to find how to get hold of some in the UK - Emma

1:57 PM EDT  
Blogger Katie Puckrik said...

I'm eager to try a new way to wear incense! Love the sound of these!

2:36 PM EDT  
Anonymous Lavanya said...

These sound lovely,Marla! Please enter me in the draw-thank you!

2:39 PM EDT  
Blogger Veroushka said...

I'm definitely interested in these. Incense is one of my favourite categories, even if the boyfriend would rather I always smell vaguely of cupcakes. ;)

4:47 PM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


4:59 PM EDT  
Anonymous lilacskin said...

how neat-o of a new(old) thing. id love to try these so i'll say, pls enter me in the draw.

5:08 PM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

How cool. I burn this brand of incense and they are soothing...beautiful smoke soft elegant smells. I can't imagine "invigorating". Please enter me also!

5:10 PM EDT  
Blogger Tucasam said...

Please, please, please let it be me! I need the stress relief!

6:05 PM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Most of my friends are of Japanese descent, and I thought I knew a lot about the culture, but I have never heard of these... how cool, thanks so much for sharing!


8:08 PM EDT  
Blogger Olivia said...

These sound wonderful and I would love to try! Please enter me in the draw? Thank you!!

8:47 PM EDT  
Blogger M said...

how i love (good) incense! this sounds heavenly :) if people who live outside of the US are eleigible, i'd love to enter the draw!

9:40 PM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think I can send the samples anywhere in the world, so you're all in the drawing!

12:52 AM EDT  
Anonymous zeram1 said...

Sounds lovely, I already adore the CdGs, and would love to try out the "real deal". Please enter me in the drawing as well.

12:54 AM EDT  
Blogger Proximity said...

That sounds like a fantastic thing to try, and I do love incense. Please enter me in the draw :)

12:58 AM EDT  
Anonymous Zazie said...

I hope I'm not too late for the draw. These powders sound as if theyr were meant for me

3:25 AM EDT  
Blogger Anatole Lebreton said...

Something that could possibly makes me forget Bois d'Encens ( its price I mean) and worst that it's out of stock right now in Paris (can you beleive it!)? I try my luck.

4:09 AM EDT  
Blogger Khanh said...

I visited the shoyeido site and only wish I had more of a budget to try these =) Please enter me in the draw

5:15 AM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

We will do the random drawing this evening (Central Europe time), so you are all included.

6:16 AM EDT  
Blogger dk said...

I'd love to try these!

7:53 AM EDT  
Anonymous Marian said...

I don't know whatever possessed me to try us ing one of these powders under my arms as a substitute for deodorant. I think that's the biggest fragrance mistake I've ever made. Good thing I was at the gym and was able to run to the sink and wash it off after 15 minutes. Those ingredients DO NOT mix well with exercise :-)

12:15 PM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Marian, you might have been confusing these powders with Scent of Samadhi, an incense powder from an Indian recipe. It's quite different in composition (lovely, too), and meant to be used as deodorant as well. It works quite well. The Zen powders are meant to be rubbed behind the ears, or on the wrists.

2:53 PM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm late in reading this post but I'm so interested in giving these a try. Thank you so much for posting about these! I do love incense:)

5:53 PM EDT  
Blogger Galthea said...

well, this is probably little bit out of date comment right now, but I´ll give it a try anyway. After contacting precisely 23 eshops and websites I´m little bit confused - is there any way how to purchase incense body perfumes from Europe? I would love to find some from Baieido or Shoyeido, but they simply don´t ship here... Could anyone help me? (I´m currently living in Germany...) Thank you!

12:39 PM EST  

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