SAGE AND SMUDGING
Burning sage, also known as “smudging”, has been traditionally used to help clear negative energy. It’s one of many methods practitioners continue to recommend for relaxation, focus, and combating everyday stress. Burning dry sage can help clear the air and promote mindfulness.
Sage is an aromatic plant that’s long played roles in the worlds of both medicine and food. Ancient Romans called sage a salvation plant (literally, salvare, meaning “save” or “cure”), and sage has been used in ancient Egyptian, Roman, and Greek medicines for its natural healing properties.
While sage has deep historical roots, that doesn’t mean it isn’t relevant in modern medicine. According to recent studies, sage has powerful antibacterial, antioxidant, and anti-inflammatory qualities. Researchers are currently holding it under the microscope as a natural treatment for a whole host of issues, including:
- heart disease
Dried sage, especially white sage, was traditionally used by Native Americans for a whole host of benefits, most specifically as a method of purification. This is the term that most often springs to mind when we hear the word “smudging.” Smudging is the process of burning dried plants or other natural elements and then using the smoke to cleanse themselves, objects, or even places,
Usually the dried plants are burned over a hot coal placed in a large shell or on the ground. The person places both hands over the smoke, takes the smoke within her hands, and beginning with her head and continuing downward, ‘washes’ her entire body with the smoke.
This ancient Native American practice remains in popular use today. As it gains more popularity in mainstream culture, however, it’s important to honor and respect the cultural roots of smudging before giving it a go and weigh up the potential ethical concerns with the perceived health benefits.
There’s also research pointing to the possibility that smoke-based remedies are often absorbed more efficiently by the body.
Burning sage can help you in the pursuit of mindfulness.
If you bring more awareness to what you are doing, especially by engaging your senses, you can reduce your stress. Mindful meditation can actually change your brain and help you handle stress, so if burning sage helps you relax and enter a more focused brain space, then it’s totally worth it
Whether or not you believe that energy can be cleared by smudging, the scent alone can have a grounding effect. This allows you to think more clearly, reduces anxiety, and creates a sense of calm in your day-to-day life.
If the scent of sage isn’t your thing, you can also incorporate other aromatics into your smudge stick as well. Lavender, rosemary, cedar, rose, thyme, and yerba santa are all great additions to burning sage.
Many of these aromatics are known for their therapeutic properties. Research shows that relaxing aromas (such as lavender) can help improve how your body and brain work after a bout of stress.
- Belief in intention
So even if you’re on the fence about whether or not burning sage can purify the air, its stress-relieving benefits can be totally great for your health. Having a ritual that is your space and your space alone can be good for you period.
Burning sage can help provide a “grounding effect” that allows you to relax and focus your thoughts. Rituals and routines can help calm us by bringing order and predictability to your life. So whether you believe sage itself has mystical qualities or not, the ritual will almost certainly reduce tension.
Whether you’re smudging for spiritual reasons or simply to relax, engaging in this mindful practice can calm and center.
How to burn sage
Start with using a smudge stick that’s approximately 3 to 5 inches long for a small space or to keep handy in your personal ritual kit. The smaller size also helps avoid being overcome by too much smoke as you learn how to use it.
- You’ll want to make sure to use a heat-proof bowl or abalone shells to hold your smudge stick.
- Once you’re ready to engage, light the end of the sage bundle until it starts to smoke.
- Be sure to light the sage evenly, and after letting it burn for a few seconds the flame should go out on its own. (If it doesn’t, blow it out gently.)
- Repeat your intention throughout the ritual, almost like a smudging prayer.
- Then, you can carry your smoking sage throughout your house to clear your space using the bowl to catch any ashes, of course or carefully move it at a safe distance around your body. Be sure to crack any windows or doors and visualize getting rid of any negative energy to help focus your thoughts.
And, as with any fire or smoke-related practice, be sure you don’t leave a burning sage smudge stick unattended. It’s always better to be safe than sorry. If your bedroom is on fire, it kind of undoes the relaxing effects of a smudge stick.
Make your own smudge stick
- Gather supplies
You’ll need white sage, string, scissors, and any additional aromatics (like dried lavender, cedar, or rose).
- Arrange your bundle
Layer your herbs, starting with the largest as a base, and arrange them however you like. There’s no right or wrong way!
- Wrap it with cotton twine or string
Starting in the center, wrap the string toward the top of the bundle before returning to the base. Be sure to crisscross the string tightly, but not to the point where you crush the contents. Cut off any excess string.
- Let it dry
Hang the bundle upside down in a cool, dry place for at least a week.
Light one end evenly over a heat-safe bowl or abalone shell, and let it burn for a few seconds before putting out the flame. Set an intention and carefully use the smoking sage stick to cleanse your space while practicing mindfulness.