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Smudging is a Native American custom, used for centuries in spiritual practices and purification rituals. I’ve used a smudge stick, or sage stick, for years to clear negative energy from spaces and objects. Recently I discovered that smudging provides health benefits as well.
Sage, an aromatic herb, is typically used for smudging, although cedar and sweetgrass may be substituted. The Latin word for sage, salvia, means “to heal”. Discover the ways that smudging can improve health and create space in your life and home for positive energy to flow.
What is Smudging?
Smudging is the process of burning dried herbs, usually white sage, and using the smoke to cleanse the body, a space or an object. Three common types of sage create a smudge or sage stick: white sage, white prairie sage and garden sage. Most smudge sticks available for purchase are made from white sage or a blend of the three.
Sage is a great anti-fungal, antibacterial and antimicrobial herb. Consuming sage heals fungal infections such as athlete’s foot from within the body. It also clears fungus, mold and heavy metals from the intestinal tract.
Plus, sage offers healing properties when burned.
Purifies the Air
A study from 2007 found that burning sage for an hour decreased airborne bacteria by 94%. And the cleansing effect lasted for more than 24 hours. The smoke also repels insects.
Neutralizes Positive Ions
Burning sage releases negative ions capable of neutralizing positive ions that fill a space due to allergens and heavy emotions. Common allergens include pet dander, pollution, dust and mold. A build up of positive ions, not to be mistaken for positive high level energy, also occurs due to anger, stress and tension.
As the sage smoke changes the ions from positive to negative, a sense of clearing fills the room, along with a lightening of mood.
Dispels Negative Energy
Past traumas, bad experiences, abuse, great sorrow and strongly spoken words can linger in a space, creating a heavy negative atmosphere. The accumulation of positive ions can almost be felt. Think of the expression, “The tension was so thick in the room you could cut it with a knife.”
Smudging clears the air, literally. And into that cleared space, fresh higher level energy can flow.
Items can accumulate negative energy too, just as rooms and houses can. Bathing a vintage piece or a yard sale find in sage smoke neutralizes the energy surrounding them. I am sensitive enough that I can pick up a candlestick at a flea market and tell immediately if there is negative energy clinging to it. I can feel sadness or anger or despair. If the energy is too strong, I won’t buy the item. I don’t want to bring that low level energy into my home.
However, a cocoon of mild negative energy can be dispelled with smudging. I’ll smudge as soon as I get the item home, and then smudge the house, for good measure.
Improves Mood and Soothes Stress
According to a 2014 study, sage is rich in compounds that stimulate certain receptors in the brain. These receptors elevate mood levels, reducing stress and anxiety, and easing depression.
These compounds also help with insomnia. Improved sleep results in increased energy and greater alertness. The compounds also improve brain function and cognitive abilities. Additionally, smudging heightens intuition and raises awareness.
Materials Needed for Smudging
The list is short and simple:
- Sage stick or dried, loose sage leaves for burning in a container
- Fire and heat proof container, such as ceramic bowl or a seashell
- Matches or lighter
- Feather for moving the smoke, if desired
To smudge using a stick:
- Light smudge stick and allow it to smolder. If the stick flames up allow it to die down before using. The stick should have embers and smoke, rather than burn with flames.
- To smudge yourself, carefully waft the smoke around the body, using your other hand or a feather. Start at the feet and work up to the head and then move back down the body again. You are cleansing the energy around your body.
- To smudge a space or a room, start in one corner and move slowly around the room, wafting smoke into all corners and closets. Make sure you move smoke over doorways and windows and over furniture in the room. Carry a fire and heat proof bowl or seashell with you, to collect ash.
- To smudge an item, move smoke over and around the item. Start at the base and move to the top and then back down again.
- When finished, allow stick to burn out naturally or hold smoldering end under running water, making sure all the embers are out. Allow sage stick to dry thoroughly before storing.
To smudge a room with dried sage leaves:
- Light a small circle of charcoal, in a fire and heat proof bowl, and allow it to turn ashen.
- Crumble dried leaves into bowl. Smoke will rise as the leaves smolder.
- Add more leaves, as needed, allowing sage to smoke for an hour or more.
- When finished, allow charcoal to turn to ash and cool completely.
- Do not leave smoking sage unattended.
When to Smudge
These are ideal times to smudge with sage:
- When moving into a new living space
- Before and after having guests in the home
- During and after an illness
- After an argument
- When a house feels heavy or full of negative energy
- When unusual things are happening in the home or it appears to be “haunted”
- After leaving a negative situation…a bad job, an abusive or emotionally draining relationship or an angry person
- Before an extended time of prayer and meditation
I smudge at the beginning of a new year, change of seasons, after any negative experience and when I’m staying in an unfamiliar space. I can’t always carry a smudge stick or dried sage. Flying, for example, is not a good time to pack sage in my suitcase. However, when I stay in a vacation cottage or an Airbnb the first thing I do is smudge the entire space. I don’t know who has been there before me. And I don’t know what their state of mind was or what emotions they carried. Clearing the space means I will sleep better and have greater peace of mind.
Beyond being a spiritual practice, smudging sage clears the air, on so many levels. It contributes to health and wellbeing while raising awareness and increasing intuitive abilities.
Feeling out of sorts at home or fighting allergens? Unsure about the history of an antique you just purchased? Grab a smudge stick!
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