Incence (from the latin incensum ‘to light’) is a preparation of aromatic vegetable resins, to which some animal or vegetal essential oils are added. When it burns, it releases a smoke with a religious, therapeutic, aesthetic fragrant. The Mesoamerican civilizations such as the Purepecha, Mayan, Azteca, etc used the incence as an offer to the god’s and as a therapy for many physical and spiritual diseases. Likewise, Chinese, Japanese and Buddhism cultures use incense to worship their gods, until today.
In Peru, there are different types of incenses among which the Palo Santo - a wood considered sacred since unmemorable times -, used in ceremonies and spiritual rituals as well as in everyday life. Its essence is used to cure skin and muscular problems, the ash of its wood is used to treat external wounds and the crust is used to treat stomach affections. Nowadays, incence is still used to remove negative energies from people or places. The Palo Santo is only beneficial when a tree has died for natural causes, for being old. By cutting a Palo Santo tree, no benefiting incence can be extracted from it. Even though the tree has died naturally, it will need 3 to 4 years until it begins to create its essence.
Another Peruvian incense is mirra, also known as Commiphora Myrrha or Styrax Weberbaueri. The scent has some similarity to the African mirra or the middle east one, but sweeter.
Incence is organic and does not damage to the environment nor people’s health. All types of incence have its own medicinal advantages, such as removal of mosquitoes, sickness or negative spirits.
The tobacco plant is a Solanaceous, which originates from the Americas, known by the human being for about 18,000 years. The experts in vegetal genetics have determined that the place where it was harvested for the first time was located in the Andean area between Peru and Ecuador and it is calculated that the first harvests took place between three and five thousand years B.C.
The consumption of tobacco extended to the north was introduced to Europe by the called conquerors of the New World, 5 centuries ago. Cristobal Columbus received the rough leaves of tobacco as a sign of friendship from the natives, and soon the Spaniards began to inhale the smoke of tobacco, eager to experiment the stimulant and analgesic properties of tobacco. In the western world its use has been vastly extended by fashion factors turning it into a product of social distinction that offered many economic benefits. The fact that the tallest building in the planet in the XVIII century is the Sevilla tobacco factory, gives us an idea of the magnitude of the business. But, the revolution of the cigarettes started in 1880 when James Bonsak patented a machine that manufactured 100.000 cigarettes in a day and the population began to consume at machine rates. Nonetheless, before tabacco became popular in the Western world, it was considered a sacred plant by the indigenous population of both Northern and Southern America. It was consumed in a ludic way for its stimulant effects, and in a medicinal context, considered a gift from the gods.
Very few medicinal plants are as important for south American shamans and the indigenous Amazon peoples as tobacco. It has been many centuries since the American indigenous peoples discovered the ways of using it: smoked, drunk, rapé, chewed or sucked on. Until today, it is used in all kind of rituals and ceremonies.
According to the traditional ceremonies of the Amazon, the tobacco gives “strength”, protection and mental clarity. It is utilized up to this day in a liquid form as a potent emetic, constantly utilized to strengthen and depurate the physical body, especially the chest and sinus area. It has been utilized since ancient days up to today with this purpose and is adopted for the treatment of some drug addictions. It is also one of the plants that are usually used as a previous purge to the intakes of the Ayahuasca ceremony with the intention of debug and preparing the body (Giove, 2002).
It is important to mention that vomiting is associated to a negative connotation in the western culture. In contrast, the many cultures such as the Amazon and Ayurvedic (Panchakarma) cultures, agree that it is very important to have purges on a regular basis with the aim of detoxifying not only on a physical level but also on the emotional level, releasing and removing impurities, toxins and negative emotions. When observing nature, we can see that some animals instinctively know some plants that cause the urge to vomit when their bodies need it. Apart from the physical depuration, vomiting helps to give back, to release and expulse negative contents that we have been “swallowing” in life.
According to the High Amazon cultures, all sacred plants, including tobacco should be ingested first of all in its solid and liquid form (earth and water) in order to incorporate this energetic dimension to the body, and in a second stage it can be smoked (fire and air). If you start with smoking it, the body can’t deal with the masculine energy and thus metabolizes the spiritual energy on a mental level with a coming addiction. Just like all processes (like giving birth) begin with a feminine energy, using the tabacco has to be too.
Getting cured from initiating with smoking tobacco can be done by retaking the energy from tobacco in a solid version (rapé) and liquid (infusion).