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What Is Opopanax Resin & How Do You Use It?

Opopanax resin and essential oil arranged together on a slate counter top. Dark orange and brown resin pieces.

If you've been exploring the world of aromatherapy for a while, either through burnables or essential oils, you may have encountered an unfamiliar but intriguing-sounding ingredient called opopanax. Here at Mountain Rose Herbs, we happen to offer certified organic opopanax in two forms for your fragrance needs, and it's easier to use (although possibly harder to say!) than you might think.  

What is Opopanax?

Opopanax resin is collected from Commiphora guidottii, a tree found growing in tropical and subtropical areas throughout Africa and Asia. Hailing from the same family as myrrh (Commiphora myrrha), opopanax in its resinous form has long been heated and used as an incense. However, opopanax's fragrance is sweet and soft, with resinous and balsamic notes and without myrrh's sometimes imposing pungency and earthiness, earning it the nickname "sweet myrrh."

Opopanax essential oil can be steam distilled from this same resin. In its oil form, opopanax can be utilized as both a middle and base note and, like most essential oils derived from resin, it works as a fixative in perfume blends. It can also be diffused throughout a space on its own or as part of an aromatherapy blend.

While many folks are becoming more comfortable exploring fragrance through essential oils, the idea of getting fire involved can be a bit a bit more intimidating—but it doesn't have to be! Resins have been traded and treasured across many cultures for thousands of years, and burning them is an ancient and fairly simple practice. With a few basic precautions, you can easily enjoy the benefits of this grounding ritual in your own home.

How to Burn Resin Incense

Opopanax and other resins can be burned as incense on lit coals. A popular vessel used for burning resins on charcoal is a metal bowl with a mesh grate on top. This allows the ashes to fall below as it burns and collects them for easy disposal. You can also use a metal or stone bowl filled with sand, but you may find that the ventilation isn't sufficient to keep the coal lit. 

Opopanax resin burning on a charcoal disk. Smoke is rising from a lit clump of resin burning on a charcoal round.

To start, place a quick-igniting, sustainably sourced charcoal round on a heat-safe surface. Using a match or lighter, ignite the coal on its edge. I have found it’s best to wait until the entire coal is red before placing any resin on it. Once a coal is lit, it will burn for approximately 45 minutes, heating and gradually melting your resin along with it!

Pro tips for burning resin Incense

  • Quick igniting coals can sometimes let off tiny particles while being lit, which is why I like to light them outside or over my sink to avoid the mess.
  • I like to use a pair of dedicated metal tongs for holding the coal while I light it, as I will light each side to get it started.
  • Make sure to burn your incense on a sturdy surface where it’s not in danger of spilling, and keep it out of reach of children and pets!
  • Your burning bowl or other vessel will become very hot, so consider placing an additional plate or flat stone under the bowl to help keep surfaces from getting burned, and be careful to not touch it until the coal has completely burned out and the metal has had time to cool down.
  • If you need to put your coal out more quickly, pouring a little water over it until it stops smoking will do the trick. Just make sure to do this over a bowl, because it’s messy!
  • When compared to stick or cone incense, raw resin produces a higher quantity of smoke. If you are burning indoors, it’s usually a good idea to keep a few windows open.

Want More Fragrant Ways to Warm Up Your Space?

Explore Other Resins, Herbal Incense, and Burnables!

You might also enjoy:

Pinterest link to Mountain Rose Herbs. An arrangement of opopanax resin and essential oil on a slate background.


Topics: Aromatherapy, Specialty Ingredients


Written by Kendle on June 1, 2015

Kendle is a Product Coordinator with Mountain Rose Herbs. Born in Portland, Oregon, she has called many different places home across the country. After earning her Associates degree in North Carolina, she moved to Colorado where she spent six years working in the herbal supplement and body care industry before coming back to Oregon. Currently she is engaged in extensive independent study and experimentation in the areas of folk herbalism, homebrewing, and painting. She believes that one of the most important methods for understanding herbs is to experience them, and to truly take the time to listen to your body to find what works best for the individual. She and her partner spend their time exploring the wilderness, hunting mushrooms, concocting herbal remedies, and reading voraciously.

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