Smudging is an ancient herbal practice
The earthy smell of burning sage, quickly releases the knots in your stomach as you breath it in, while the light, relaxing scent of lavender dispels your headache. After just a few minutes with the smoke of smudge wafting all around you, your negativity simply disappears and you feel renewed.
Smudging is an ancient Native American spiritual practice of burning dried and bundled sage and/or other herbs to dispel negative, harmful energies. The word smudge can be used as a verb to describe this spiritual practice or it may be used as a noun to describe the bundled herbs that are burned in the ritual of smudging.
Traditionally smudge is burned to remove negative energies from people, places and things. While smudging is an ancient Native American ritual, like the ancient catholic ritual of burning incense or the ancient chinese ritual of burning moxa, smudging is still practiced today by people with different cultural and spiritual backgrounds. The bundled together herbs, also know as smudge sticks are commonly burned in a large abalone shell and it's smoke is gently wafted around a space, person or object using a feather. Spiritual practitioners oftentimes use smudge to cleanse sacred tools, amulets and spaces. Smudging is believed to create a safe and positive space for meditation and spells. It also is said to help spiritual practitioners connect with the spirit realm.
Actual benefits of smudging
While all of this may sound to some like a lot of silly hocus pocus, there is some science that backs up these magical claims. The chemical thujone, found in sage and many other plants, is known to be mildly psycho-active. Burning sage releases the thujone into the atmosphere around us, which can give us a sense of heightened intuition. In addition sage contains natural microbial and anti-bacterial properties. Burning it, releases these, helping kill off airborne bacterial, fungal and viral pathogens.
In 2007, a scientific study proved that burning sage or smudge for one hour, eliminated 94% of the airborne bacteria in a room, and the results lasted up to 24 hours. Furthermore, sage naturally repels insects and other pathogens which can cause disease. Burning sage also releases negative ions into the atmosphere. These negative ions neutralize harmful positive ions, such as pet dander, pollution, dust, mold and etc. Therefore, burning sage can especially help people with allergies, asthma or other chronic respiratory problems. These negative ions released by burning sage, are also a natural anti-depressant and insomnia remedy, helping you attain a deep, restful state of sleep.
Smoke-based natural remedies are delivered to the brain via smoke and inhalation immediately and they are absorbed by the body faster. However, any kind of smoke can also have harmful effects on the lungs and other parts of the respiratory system. If you are particularly sensitive to smoke, avoid over- exposure to smudge smoke, or burn smudge to purify a space only when you are not in that space.
Making smudge sticks from your own garden
To make your own garden fresh smudge sticks, you will need:
5-10 sprigs of fresh sage or other herbs, approximately the same length (I usually make mine no shorter than 4" long but no longer than 8" long.)
First collect your preferred herbs from your garden. It is important to make smudge sticks only with fresh, organic herbs, as burning herbs which have been exposed to chemical pesticides or herbicides can be harmful to your physical, mental and metaphysical health. Lay all the sprigs of herbs in the same direction next to each other so that the cut stems are all even, this will be a sort of handle. Tie a loop of cotton string around these about 1/4-1/2" down from the cut end of the stems. I like to then wrap the cotton string around this point several times to make it more like a designated handle. Then slowly wind the cotton string down around the bundled herbs, while applying gentle pressure to create a tight bundle of herbs. However, do not apply so much pressure as you wind the string around the herbs, that the natural juices of the herbs are pressed out. Wind the cotton string around the herb bundles down to the tip of the sprigs, then wind it back up to the cut stems/handle and tie off and cut the string. You can leave a little extra length of string for hanging the smudge stick.
After you have bundled and wrapped your herbs with cotton string, you will need to dry your smudge sticks. I personally use my express speed food dehydrator when I dry any of my herbs. You can place your homemade smudge sticks on the trays of a food dehydrator, or you can dry them over extremely low heat in an oven or grill, or you can simply hang them to dry. Burn smudge sticks as needed, once they have fully dried out.
Some traditional smudging herbs
Traditionally native american smudge sticks are made with the herb sage, however in China they make similar herb bundles to burn during spiritual rituals, called moxa. Moxa is comprised mostly of the herb mugwort. In the catholic religion a similar act of burning incense made of frankincense and myrrh is a common religious practice. Regardless of tradition, your homemade smudge sticks can be made out of whatever herbs you choose to use. Below I have listed several herbs that you can use in your smudge sticks, as well as their beneficial properties.
White Sage- meditation, cleansing, purification, positively affects mood and energy levels, dispels negativity, promotes peace and tranquility
Lavender- cleasing, healing, purifying, protection, promotes psychic abilities and clairvoyance, increases happiness, tranquility, peace of mind and promotes restful sleep.
Mugwort- cleanses energy and chakras, dispels negativity, stimulates psychic or lucid dreams
Palo Santo- purifies the spirit, inspires creativity, aids in physical healing, deepens one's connection to the divine
Juniper- purification, invigorating
Heather- banishes negativity, promotes happiness, new beginnings and self-love
Frankincense- natural insect repellent especially repellent to mosquitos, promotes a connection to the divine, relieves headaches, insomnia, bronchitis, indigestion troubles, depression, anxiety and hypertension
Rosemary- purifies spaces and auras, increases mental sharpness, anti-aging, fights cold and flu
Thyme- dispels negativity, heals physically and emotionally, restores courage
Mullein- dispels negativity, promotes healthy respiratory function, aids in physical and emotional healing
Cedar- dispels negativity, promotes good influences, protection, grounding, renewal and rebirth
Sweetgrass- healing, purification, dispels negativity
Sagebrush- promotes physical and emotional healing, specifically good for headaches, colds, and wounds (physical and emotional)
Basil- purification and calming, promotes luck and wealth, fights cold and flu, as well as respiratory illnesses
Pine- spiritual cleansing and purification
Balsam Fir- spiritual cleansing and purification
Rose- meditation, love, luck, relieves stress and grief, promotes healing
Yarrow- eliminates toxins from the mind and body
Peppermint- healing, protection
Eucalyptus- promotes peace and relaxation, dispels negativity, stress and headaches