Burning sage and other herbs — also known as smudging — is a ritual focused on cleansing the energy in the space around us.
What is Smudging?
The process of burning dried sacred herbs often wrapped together in twine is one that has been practised by indigenous cultures for thousands of years.
The smoke has a direct effect on reducing our stress response and has also been proven to contain antibacterial properties which keep infectious bacteria and viruses at bay. Since smudging is an ancient and ceremonial practice, it’s best to do so with awareness and in a mindful manner.
SMUDGING HAS SCIENTIFIC BACKING
Like so many other ancient practices the concept of smudging has in many ways been veiled as a ‘woo woo’ practice without really acknowledging it’s real potential benefits. The translation of smudging by new age spiritual communities like so many other rituals have awarded it a bad rep. Medical Researchers have now risen to the task of testing the truth behind practices like smudging- and the results do not invalidate smudging but in fact support that ancient cultures may have legitimate uses for smudging all along. A study published in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology writes that smoke from burning sage ‘Demonstrated to completely eliminate diverse plant and human pathogenic bacteria of the air within confined space’.
5 Cool Facts About Smudging
1. Smudging is AIR PURIFYING
White sage in particular has proven antimicrobial properties when taken internally and applied on the skin. Studies also suggest that it may also be purifying to the air when burned . It has also been suggested that is is successful in repelling insects .
2. Smudging is ANTI BACTERIAL
Due to its remarkable ability to clear pathogens in the air researchers believe it could hold promise as a pulmonary and dermatological agent. This is in basic terms a tool for clearing bacteria and other pathogens from the respiratory tract and skin. Our Stoned in-house Naturopath Maddie Lewin says ‘For centuries sage has been known as a scientifically proven remedy in teas and tinctures used by modern naturopaths and herbalists to treat coughs and colds.’
3. Smudging is reported to AID BREATHING & SLEEP
The air we breathe contains positive and negative ions. Common positive ions include allergens (which are NOT good) such as pet dander, pollution, dust and mold. Though not yet scientifically proven burning sage is thought to also release negative ions (which are GOOD) and help to neutralise positive ions. In a controlled study focused on Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD researched found air charged with negative ions balance levels of serotonin, balance sleep patterns, promote restfulness, and improve physical performance. There are many reports by sufferers of respiratory conditions such as asthma, allergies and bronchitis that find relief in burning sage.
4. Smudging REDUCES STRESS
As the world looks to the past to find natural therapies that can bring down their stress levels smudging is slowly rising in popularity. It is a holistic approach that offers calming and relaxing effects known to help lower blood pressure and relieve stress. Scent is one of our most powerful senses that helps to reduce anxiety and stress by keeping us focused on the present moment. A ritual focused on cleansing a space and bringing in positive thoughts and intention can be directly linked to the practice of mindfulness and reducing stress.
5. Smudging REMOVES NEGATIVE Energy
First and foremost the purifying smoke is known for its use in eliminating the negative or spare energy in spaces or things.The concept is that certain sacred plants call on a spirit that helps you to eliminate energies within a space. For us the law of attraction and intention is what is most powerful about an energetic cleanse. Have you ever had someone enter a room and their energy was felt before you even saw them arrive? Just like the feeling you have when visiting a sacred space, church or holy place the smoke emitted from smudging instantly shifts the energy within a room and instils positive energy in its place.
What to Do with my Smudge?
- Always open a window before smudging, so that all that negative energy has a way to leave the space. Light your smudge bundle at one end.
- Keep a fireproof bowl or surface nearby to catch any embers as the smudge burns out.
- If the smudge has a crystal inside remember to remove it before your burn. Most tied smudge bundles will have the ability for multiple burns.
- Burn the smudge stick and hover over your chosen space or crystals to cleanse of negative energy. Keep your focus on setting positive intentions for whatever it is your are cleansing. As the smoke rises into the air picture your intention and imagine the density of negative energy slowly floating away.
- You can pray or chant and use your hands to guide the smoke. If you are cleansing a space a good clean may burn more of your bundle but should engulf the entire place including the corners of every wardrobe, bathroom, hallway and basement.
- Palo Santo is a good alternative to burning sage of floral bundles if you are looking to do a small cleanse of a limited space. As they burn for only a few minutes they are also ideal for cleansing crystals.
- Be careful when inhaling the smoke during your burn as it may aggravate the chest. Wait until the smoke clears a little before breathing too deeply.
The 7 Best Times to Smudge
- To celebrate a new beginning, venture or relationship.
- To find closure with an old relationship or chapter in my life.
- Moving into a new home or office space.
- Before and after guests/ housemates have left my house, especially if there has been some negative events conspire.
- In my sacred space when practicing yoga, meditation or any other healing practice.
- Whenever I am struggling to let go of something with it be an argument, internal thought or illness.
- After returning from a crowded space or situation.
It’s amazing to think that science is finally beginning to confirm the ancient wisdom of the east!
 Aroma Effects on Physiologic and Cognitive Function Following Acute Stress: A Mechanism Investigation. Journal of Alternative & Complementary Medicine. Sep2016, Vol. 22 Issue 9, p713-721. 9p. 2 Diagrams, 4 Charts, 2 Graphs. https://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/meditation/in-depth/meditation/art-20045858