Fifteen years ago when I first began to make natural incense, some of the ingredients were very difficult to locate. In 2012, life is a lot easier for natural incense makers. While we have always been able to get certain aromatics at the grocery store, I was surprised when I recently toured my favorite grocery store’s bulk food section and discovered everything you need to make quite a variety of natural incense.
Binders (the “glue” that holds incense sticks and cones together) have always been the most difficult ingredient to find, but no more! Although guar gum has long been available at some health food stores, it is now found in many more mainstream stores as well. Likewise, thanks to a growing awareness of wheat gluten allergies/sensitivities, xanthum gum is also much easier to find in many grocery stores. You might find these ingredients in the bulk foods section, “specialty foods” (a section that I am very familiar with since going gluten-free six months ago), or the baking section.
Bases (the part of natural incense that provides the heat and helps to smooth out burning) are more limited in the grocery store, but in most bulk herb sections I can find white willow bark, which can be a useful base. Some stores carry even more materials that can be used as a base. For more details on what constitutes a good base you may want to consult a good incense making book.