BURNING SMUDGE STICKS: Never leave burning botanicals unattended and always keep out of reach of children or pets. Always burn on a heat-proof surface, and safely dispose of ash only once it has cooled.
ASTHMA: Like many other irritants, smoke from burning smudge can irritate asthmatic conditions. If you or anyone in your family are known asthmatics please consider this before purchasing or using any smudge products.
What is Smudging?
Many indigenous tribes of the US and Canada traditionally perform a purification ritual known as ‘smudging’: using herbal smoke to clear the atmosphere of negative vibrations and fill the environment with positive, uplifting energies.
Smudge Sticks are typically bundled wands made of bound herbs such as White Sage, Cedar or Pine leaves, or other sage variations. The stick is lit like incense, allowing it to smoulder and the sweet, fragrant smoke of the natural botanicals to fill the air. Loose botanicals like Sage Leaves or Palo Santo wood can also be used.
Scroll down for instructions on how to burn a Smudge Stick.
Types of SMUDGE STICKS
White Sage is the most commonly used herb in Smudging, believed to purify the mind, body and spirit before praying, and to cleanse the atmosphere. Sage is believed by many to be a masculine plant that can reduce or eliminate negative energy; some place sage at doorways for protection against evil. The scent will remind you of the desert and the sacredness of life.
Scientifically, papers published in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology have found that burning Sage can act as an air purifier, clearing airborne bacteria by up to 94% – suggesting that the ancient practice of burning powerful herbal material has strong scientific grounding and medical benefits.
White Sage can be used as a bundled Smudge Stick (instructions below), as loose leaves that can be lit as they are, or as crushed leaves that can be burned on a charcoal tablet, as you would with resin incense.
While White Sage is considered to be a masculine herb that offers protection against negativity, Cedar is known as the Mother and giver of life. Cedar is said to be the first tree created, making the trees very old, wise and powerful spirits. Cedar is sacred to many native Indian tribes of the US and Canada, believed to offer protection and attract positive energy, uplift feelings and generally evoke positivity.
Cedar is often used to cleanse a home or space when first moving in, inviting unwanted spirits to leave and protecting a person, place or object from unwanted influences. Cedar leaves can be placed at entrances to a home, or for extra grounding may be placed inside shoes for daily wear. Burned as wands they can be used for protection, purification, cleansing, wealth, healing and prosperity.
Black Sage / Mugwort
The Genus Artemisia is a group of over 200 species commonly referred to as wormwood, mugwort, or sagebrush. Artemisia vulgaris is commonly used in Smudging, usually known as Black Sage or Mugwort. It is also known as ‘Dream Weed’ for its associations as a dream & prophecy stimulant.
The Latin name Artemisia vulgaris comes from its associations as the sacred herb of Artemis, the Greek goddess of the moon, and so is often linked with women, lust and fertility. In Smudging, Mugwort is believed to be particularly strong, useful for divination and seeking spiritual journeys & prophetic dreams.
Blue Sage, also known as “Grandmother Sage”, is an aroma to cleanse negativity and hate, believed to help bring wealth, health, prosperity, healing and coolness to your life. Like all sages, Blue Sage is said to dispel negativity. Blue Sage can be used in a ritual ceremony, house cleansing or simply for aroma pleasure.
Desert Sage (Artemisia tridentata) is best known as the richly aromatic sage that blankets the Santa Fe, Taos area. Its fragrance draws your heart to the wind swept, sun blessed deserts of New Mexico.
Desert Sage’s use as a Smudging herb as a traditional alternative to White Sage is believed to cleanse the mind, body, and spirit, or even a particular place, of unwanted negative energies.
Wild Lavender / Purple Sage
While not related to the Lavender we use in aromatherapy (Lavandula angustifolia), Wild Lavender Sage (Salvia officinalis purpurea – also known as Lavender Sage or Purple Sage) is a member of the Salvia (sage) family. It gets its name from its clusters of purple flowers which make it physically resemble Lavender, especially when in bloom, and its similar clean, flowery fragrance. The leaves are rounded, green, and slightly fuzzy like Common Sage, but darken to gray when dried.
Wild Lavender is known for its calming, peaceful, and sedating effects, and may inspire love and relieve anxiety.
Palo Santo means ‘Holy Wood’ in Spanish. The tree (Bursera graveolens) is from the same family as Frankincense & Myrrh, but is primarily native to South America. The oil was used during the time of the Incas for its reputed spiritual purifying properties, and charcoal from the burnt wood has also been used for ritual smudging. Using the burning wood as incense has traditionally been used against bad energy, or for good luck. Both the smoke and oil have been used for centuries for medical purposes, and the smoke is even used as an insect (mosquito) deterrent.
TO BURN: To burn a Palo Santo stick, light one end until it has caught, then blow out and allow it to smoulder as you would with an incense stick. Place in a suitable bowl or holder, or use an Abalone Shell with a layer of sand or earth as a natural bowl. Palo Santo Chips or Resin can be burned on charcoal tablets as you would with resin incense.
The Piñon Pine is an evergreen tree from the foothills of the American Southwest. Piñon has a smooth, woodsy, earthy pine scent that is particularly strong due to its high concentration of resin.
Burned as smudge or incense, Pine is used to help reverse negativity while giving protection against illnesses and negative influences. As a purifying herb it is often used in cleansing rituals or for new beginnings, to remove negative energies from rooms or spaces, as well as people, objects or crystals, and to prepare the space (or person) with fresh intent. It has also been also used for prosperity and money-drawing, and even fertility.
Long treasured in Native American ceremonies, Sweetgrass can be found all across the U.S. in wet meadows, low prairies, lakeshores and canyons, and its use in smudging is believed to bring about a connection to the land and the Earth. It is known for its unmistakably sweet aroma – Sweetgrass has a dry, sweet smell when burned.
In smudging, just as Sage is believed to cleanse and clear negativity, Sweetgrass is used to bring positivity; to cleanse and purify, and to invite positive, peaceful energies and spirits into a space or ritual. Sweetgrass tends to be used at the end of a smudging ritual to help bring back a feeling positivity and calm.
Also known as Holy Weed, Mountain Balm, Consumptive’s Weed, Gum Bush, Bear’s Weed, Sacred Herb or Sacred Weed, Yerba Santa leaves are considered sacred in Native American and Spanish cultures.
In smudging or as incense, Yerba Santa has traditionally been used for protection, purification and setting boundaries, with a long history of use as an altar offering. It is believed to be grounding and balancing, and can help with empowerment or courage, for grief or shyness, or the release of emotional pain. In the US Southwest, Yerba Santa has also traditionally been used herbally for respiratory issues and healing powers. The scent is pleasant, earthy and uplifting.
How to Burn a Smudge Stick or Palo santo
To use a Smudge Stick, place it in a heatproof dish or abalone shell filled with sand or ashes to keep it upright – use a Tripod Stand for your shell if stationary, or carefully hold the stick against the shell if you wish to move around during the ritual.
Light the tip of the bundle on fire until the Smudge Stick catches, then blow out the flame to allow the herbs to smoulder. Re-light as necessary.
If your stick has become damp or has been in a humid environment it may need to be relit during use, or dried before you use it – try placing in the sun or a warm environment to remove excess moisture.
To extinguish, invert into the sand until the embers are out, and dispose of the ash once it has cooled. As with any incense, never leave a lit smudge stick unattended and take care burning around children or pets.