How to Smudge With Plants and Herbs: A Scientifically Sound Method For Purifying Air

Posted by on March 30, 2017 in Health, Herbs, Seeds & Spices, Prevention with 1 Comment

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Amelia Kinney | True Activist

Although often regarded as a spiritual act, research shows burning herbs and plant resin is scientifically sound for eliminating bacteria in the air and administering medicinal properties. Smudging has been a tradition among various groups and cultures for centuries, and today is practiced in many homes. White sage, cedar, juniper, lavender, cilantro and eucalyptus are among the most commonly used plants and herbs.

Originally a Native American technique called the “Sacred Bowl Blessing”, smudging has been used to clear negativity and restore balance to physical, emotional and spiritual energies. Herbs burned at high temperatures are also a historical method of administering medicine, usually used to aid or repair pulmonary, neurological and dermatological functions. Furthermore, the advantages of smoke-based remedies are “rapid delivery to the brain, more efficient absorption by the body and lower costs of production”.


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A simple traditional smudge stick can be made by tying together a thick bundle of dried sage leaves with thread or twine. Once lit, wait briefly before blowing out, to allow the leaves to become hot and the embers to produce a fairly thick stream of smoke. Walk slowly around the perimeter of your home or other indoor space, allowing the smoke to dissipate in every corner. The study showed that “Not only did the burning of medicinal herbs clear aerial bacterial populations by 94% within one hour, but a full day later, the closed room was still effectively decontaminated. Even more amazing, a full month later, seven other pathogenic bacteria in the open room were still non-detectable.”

Distributing the smoke with certain motions are said to hold various meanings. Crossing the embers over the left side of the body represents femininity, while crossing to the right represents masculinity. Moving clockwise signifies the circle of life, and counter-clockwise means “undoing” or “unwinding” of tension or negative actions. 

Smudge sticks are also perfect for aromatherapy, and are often used to clear and clean the energies of another person or oneself. For calming and soothing purposes, burn lavender. For an extra boost of cleansing power, use eucalyptus. Burning herbs is a great natural, zero-waste way to purify the air and reduce odors without using chemical-based sprays.

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  1. jshlackman@comcast.net' Jed says:

    Burning herbs indoors often creates harmful levels of airborne pollutants and thus pollutes the air, especially a problem for people with respiratory illnesses or congestion. Proper smudging/cleansing requires quickly clearing out the smoke – if you don’t have a well ventilated space it is better to use aroma oil mist diffusers rather than burning dried herbs. Burning things and creating smoke dries out the air (and your skin) and the lack of moisture may be what eliminates the bacteria for a while – however people need a balance of elements and not prolonged dehydration. In cleansing rituals the plant, smoke, feather, shell, fire, etc. represent the elements that combine with our consciousness (the 5th element of spirit) for their effect. I think a more in depth article could help people have a better understanding of these traditions so they could be applied more safely and effectively.

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