The modern world is chaotic, and it can be challenging to find your footing. Smudging is an ancient practice that lets you cleanse your space to draw out negative energy and create room for the positive.
But what is smudging, and does it work? To the untrained eye, this practice looks like nothing more than waving burning twigs around. How can you know whether you are smudging properly?
Let’s look closer at the history of smudging with sage and the benefits for your home and health.
What is Smudging?
Smudging is a time-honored practice of burning sacred plant materials to produce purifying smoke. It’s a well-established cultural practice among Native American tribes like the Lakota, Chumash, Cahuilla, and many others, though cultures worldwide follow similar techniques.
Traditionally, smudging is done with sage bundles. White sage (salvia apiana) flourishes in high desert regions like the Mediterranean and the Western American plains. Native elders burn sage to cleanse the air before ceremonies meant to remove negative energies, commune with the spirits, or request blessings, protection, prosperity, and other services.
7 Benefits of Smudging
If you feel drawn out, mentally stuck, or even depressed, you might be weighed down by negative energy. Smudging can release this energy and restore you to yourself. Here are seven other benefits of producing medicinal smoke from smudging.
1. Removes Toxins from the Air
Sage leaves have natural antimicrobial properties, and burning them can keep viruses, bacteria, and fungi out of the air, so they are less likely to get in your lungs and other undesired spaces. These effects are long-lasting. One study from 2006 found that pathogenic bacteria were mostly absent from a room over 30 days after it was cleansed with medicinal smoke.
2. May Improve Allergy Symptoms
Though it sounds counterintuitive, many people find that smudging improves their allergy symptoms from dust, mold, pet dander, and pollution.
The idea is that burning sage releases negative ions that work to neutralize these substances to relieve asthma, allergy, and other respiratory symptoms. The negative ions will bind to positively charged particles of germs, mold, pollen, and other allergens and cause them to fall to the floor, so you don’t breathe them in.
Note that inhaling the smoke directly may exacerbate your allergy symptoms, so it’s best to wait for it to clear before spending time in the room you smudged.
3. Cultivates an Awareness of the Spiritual
Smudging ceremonies are a way to connect with the spiritual realm. The plant leaves produce a cooling, minty scent when burned that can clear your thoughts of distractions. Many people smudge before prayer or meditation sessions to better cultivate an open mindset.
Scientific evidence validates these views—research shows that many sage varieties contain thujone, a compound that acts as a mild psychoactive when burned. You can burn sage when you want to enhance your intuition or solve internal dilemmas.
4. Soothes Stress and Improves Your Mood
The act of smudging can lift your mood and cleanse your mind of negativity. In many cultures, white sage is used as a remedy for anxiety, depression, and other mood disorders. Likewise, research from 2016 found that smudging sage activates receptors in the brain associated with elevating your mood, reducing pain, and quelling stress.
The benefits may go further. One study from 1998 that looked at the impacts of spending time in air filled with negatively charged ions (as smudging does) found that they offered treatment for depression caused by seasonal affective disorder that worked according to the same principles as antidepressant drugs.
5. Boosts Your Cognition
Research suggests that sage plants have cognitive-enhancing properties that can improve your memory and mental focus. Some believe the benefits may go even further and that smudging could be used to treat symptoms of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
6. May Cleanse Specific Objects
Smudging can work for more than rooms or your body—it’s also possible to direct sage’s cleansing smoke on specific objects. If you love to buy used but have concerns about your new-to-you object’s past history, smudging it before use gives it a reset.
7. Promotes Better Sleep
Smudging your bedroom before bed may protect you from negative energy that could interfere with your sleep. Research suggests that sage contains compounds that can ease insomnia and that sleeping in a room with negative ions can improve your sleep patterns for better rest.
How Do You Smudge Properly?
Smudging might seem intimidating, but it’s possible to start at home with some basic supplies. You’ll first need a sage bundle or another form of aromatic herbs. Here at Auravive, we offer California white sage and cedar sage bundles made from sage grown sustainably in California.
Smudging also requires a fireproof container for holding the lit bundle. Abalone shells are the traditional choice, but you can use glass or ceramic bowls. Look also for a feather you can use to waft the smudging smoke in specific directions.
How to Smudge Your Home
Before you begin, set intentions for your smudging session by taking a moment to determine what you are trying to release from your mind or the space around you. Some people choose to send prayers for purity into the room.
Open up curtains and windows to provide some airflow and a release point for the smoke and remove any animals from the room. You can then light the tip of the sage bundle at a 45-degree angle and allow it to burn for 20 seconds. Gently blow out the flame until you see thick smoke billowing from the end instead.
You can allow the smoke to linger around your body, or fan it throughout the room with the feather. The traditional practice is to slowly move around the space, guiding the smoke towards windows and doors so that the smoke can escape, taking the negative energy with it. Pay special attention to collection spots like the front of mirrors, hallways, doorways, and technology like laptops and smartphones.
Move mindfully in a circular direction through your space until you get every corner, and consider chanting a prayer or mantra in the process.
How To Smudge Yourself
If you want to smudge yourself, stand in the shape of a T with your legs slightly spread. Keep the lit smudge bundle at arm’s length and work it up from your feet to your head. Take care not to inhale much smoke, and keep long hair in a bun, so it isn’t at risk of catching fire.
Ending a Smudging Ceremony
When finished, you can extinguish the smudge bundle by pressing the burning tip firmly into the shell or other fireproof vessel. Never use water to put it out, as you’ll damage the end and make it harder to light next time.
You can store the smudge bundle in the vessel for future use. Out of reverence for this plant-based medicine, it’s traditional practice to keep sage bundles in an honored place above waist weight, such as a bookshelf.
There are no set rules for how often you should sage your space. It’s a good practice for when you feel weighed down, so pay attention to your mind and consider a smudging ceremony whenever worry starts to overtake it. Keep in mind that this sacred practice isn’t one to take on lightly. Every smudging should be performed with intention, gratitude, and deep respect for this time-honored ceremony.
Is Smudging Dangerous?
As with any activity that involves an open flame, you need to practice common sense when smudging to stay safe. Always stay present, and tamp down any live embers that fall to the ground. Refrain from inhaling too much smoke, as it can irritate your lungs.
The Bottom Line on Smudging
The sage plant has long been celebrated for medicinal benefits, and burning it in a smudge bundle can connect you to the spiritual. Smudging your home and body helps remove negative energy and leaves you with a sense of cleansing and clarity.
Keep in mind that smudging sage is a profoundly sacred ritual for many Native American communities. Give the tradition your full respect as you perform it, and source your sage bundles from companies that source it sustainably and value its history.