It's a common practice in Hindu tradition to use agarbatti (incense sticks) at home, in religious ceremonies, and during meditation. Besides its soothing scent, it also helps reduce stress and relax our senses.

But did you know inhaling incense smoke can harm your health in a similar way to cigarette smoke?

In ancient times, our ancestors used to make incense sticks from plants and medicinal extracts. This gave incense sticks a nice fragrance and soothing properties - and importantly, wasn't harmful to our health.

But the method of preparing incense sticks have changed over time, and more chemicals are being added into in place of medicinal extracts. Check out the effects of burning incense sticks:

More harmful than cigarette smoke

A 2015 Chinese study published in Springer's journal Environmental Chemistry Letters, found that some chemicals found in incense sticks match the chemicals found in cigarettes.

The incense sticks are said to be more harmful than cigarettes because it produces more particulate matter - 45 milligrams per gram, compared to cigarettes, which had 10 milligrams per gram.

Causes inflammation

Since incense smoke contains chemicals such as carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, and formaldehyde, inhaling it can irritate the lungs and cause chest pains.

Causes air pollution

Burning incense sticks in a room with less ventilation can pollute the air you breathe, as the smoke emits carbon monoxide.

Risk of cancer

Another study, "Incense use, and respiratory tract carcinomas: A prospective cohort", published in 2017, suggests that a particular compound - auramine O (AuO), raises the risk of lung cancer.

If you want to use incense sticks at home, opt for organic brands which use fewer chemicals and burn them in a well ventilated space. Or you can even opt to use alternatives such as essential oils and aromatherapy if what you want is the soothing sensation.

Source: TimesOfIndia, DrAxe and Science Daily
Image credit: Quora and DrAxe