10 Makko Powder Substitutes(Incense Binder)

Makko powder is a natural binder and base commonly used in incense making.

It is derived from the bark of the tabu-no-ki tree, an evergreen native to Japan. Its versatile properties make it an essential ingredient for many incense enthusiasts.

However, if you find yourself in need of a makko powder substitute, there are several great alternatives that can provide comparable results.

One of the most popular makko powder substitutes is gum tragacanth, which is also frequently used in incense making.

Like makko powder, gum tragacanth can effectively bind and hold different components, allowing for slow-burning incense. Xanthan gum and guar gum are also excellent gum binder substitutes to consider when you’re unable to find makko powder.

If you’re looking for a more specialized alternative, Joss powder might be the answer. This binder, derived from the bark of the litsea glutinosa tree, has a two-in-one property similar to makko powder, serving both as a binding agent and a base to help the incense burn more efficiently.

As you explore these substitutes, you’ll discover that you can still create amazing incense even without the popular makko powder.


What is Makko Powder?

Makko powder is a natural, fine white powder made from the bark of the Cinnamomum camphora tree. It has a long history of use, particularly in Japan where it’s been a key ingredient in incense making for centuries. The powder is best known for its binding and burning properties when mixed with other materials in incense recipes. But, what if you can’t find Makko powder or are looking for alternatives? Let’s dive into some suitable substitutes.

What is a Good Substitute for Makko Powder?

1. Nanmu Powder

Nanmu powder is a type of sticky powder made from the bark of the Nanmu tree, which is a type of evergreen tree native to China and Southeast Asia. It is used as a natural adhesive or binder in incense making, particularly for attaching incense powders to incense sticks.

As the sticky powder used in incense making doesn’t have a fragrance of its own, it’s an ideal binder for creating incense. Additionally, it’s a common ingredient in traditional Chinese incense-making techniques.

Nanmu powder is mostly produced in Indonesia nowadays.

2. Elm Sticky Powder

Elm sticky powder is a natural adhesive made from the bark of the elm tree. It is a type of sticky powder that is used as a binder in incense making.

The powder is known for its ability to bind incense powders together, making it an essential ingredient in incense making. Elm sticky powder is also used to create thread incense, which is a type of incense that is made by attaching incense powders to a thread.

The sticky powder helps to keep the incense powders in place on the thread while it is being burned. Additionally, elm sticky powder can be used as a natural adhesive in other crafts and woodworking projects.

3. Laha Sticky Powder

Laha is another natural binder that can be used as a substitute for Makko powder. It’s derived from the bark of the Litsea glutinosa tree and has similar characteristics to Makko.

4. Gum Tragacanth

This natural gum derived from the sap of plants in the Astragalus genus is a fantastic alternative to makko powder when making incense. It’s water-soluble, which makes it easy to work with and provides an even spread when blending with other powdered herbs. Since only half as much is needed compared to gum arabic, it’s an efficient choice for binding incense ingredients together 1.

5. Xanthan Gum and Guar Gum

These gums are also excellent binders when it comes to incense-making. They are often used in similar applications as gum tragacanth, offering effective results while being easy to work with 2.

6. Joss Powder

Another perfect substitute for makko powder is Joss powder, which is obtained from the bark of the Litsea glutinosa tree 3. Like makko, joss powder serves as both a binder and a base that helps incense burn better. It has a two-in-one property, making it a convenient option to consider.

7. Rice Flour

Rice flour is a viable option due to its fine texture and ability to bind ingredients together. It is gluten-free and may be a suitable choice for those with dietary restrictions. To use rice flour as a substitute for Makko powder, start with a 1:1 ratio and adjust accordingly based on the desired consistency of the incense mixture. Be aware that rice flour may slightly alter the fragrance released during burning.

8. Wheat Flour

Wheat flour, which is commonly used in baking, can also serve as a Makko powder substitute. It has gluten, which acts as a binder, and can be easily found in most grocery stores. When using wheat flour, you may need to experiment with the ratio to achieve the desired consistency, as it tends to be denser than Makko powder. Consider using a finer wheat flour, like cake flour, for better results. Note that using wheat flour might result in a different burn rate and scent release compared to Makko powder.

9. Arrowroot Powder

Another alternative is arrowroot powder, known for its starchy consistency and binding properties. It is gluten-free, making it a good choice for those with sensitivities or allergies. To use arrowroot powder as a substitute, try a 1:1 ratio to replace Makko powder in your incense recipe. Keep in mind that it might affect the burn rate and may produce a unique fragrance profile when burned.

10. Cornstarch

Cornstarch is another common ingredient that can be used as a Makko powder substitute. It has a fine texture and good binding properties, making it a convenient alternative. To use cornstarch, start with a 1:1 ratio and adjust as needed. Note that cornstarch might influence the burn speed and scent release differently than Makko powder.

When trying these Makko powder substitutes, remember that each one has its unique properties and might require adjustments to the incense recipe. Experiment with different ratios and combinations to achieve the desired consistency, burn rate, and fragrance in your homemade incense.


In conclusion, keep in mind that finding the ideal makko powder substitute largely depends on the specific incense project you’re working on. By understanding various alternatives and their potential effects, you can make an informed decision that best suits your requirements. Your friendly tone and approach to exploring these substitutes will surely help you create beautiful, fragrant incense in no time.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are some alternatives to makko powder for incense making?

There are several alternatives to makko powder for incense making, such as sandalwood powder, which has been used for at least 4,000 years as a base material. It doesn’t have the binding properties that makko powder has, though. Cedarwood powder, powdered charcoal, and gum tragacanth are other options to consider.

Can joss powder be used as a substitute for makko powder?

Yes, joss powder can be used as a substitute for makko powder. Joss powder is made from the bark of the Litsea glutinosa tree and acts as a binder and natural adhesive in incense making. Since makko and joss powders serve similar purposes, they can be used interchangeably. However, note that the burning properties of joss powder may differ from those of makko powder.

Is cedarwood powder a suitable replacement for makko powder?

Cedarwood powder can be an acceptable replacement for makko powder. It can help bind the incense ingredients together and provide a slow burn. However, it might not have the exact same consistency or burning characteristics as makko powder. You can also try using sandalwood powder or powdered charcoal as alternatives.

What non-toxic binders can be used in place of makko powder?

Non-toxic binders that can be used in place of makko powder include gum tragacanth, which is a vegetable gum derived from the sap of legume plants, and Laha, another natural binder. Both are known to be safe and can effectively bind incense ingredients together.

Can honey be used as an alternative to makko powder in incense?

Honey can be used as an alternative binder in incense making, due to its natural adhesive properties. However, it cannot replace makko powder entirely, as honey doesn’t provide the same slow burn that makko powder does. Combining honey with another alternative, such as cedarwood powder or sandalwood powder, may produce better results.

What are some natural binders similar to makko powder for incense making?

Some natural binders similar to makko powder for incense making include gum tragacanth, Laha, and joss powder. These natural binders can effectively hold incense ingredients together and provide a pleasant burning experience. It’s important to experiment with different binders and ratios to find the best possible alternative for your incense-making needs.

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