The Science and Sacredness of Smudging


When I was introduced to smudging a few years back I had no idea what I was doing and definitely didn’t fully grasp how powerful the ritual can be when done with pure and positive intention. At first, I would smell the burning sage during yoga or meditation class and think it smelled a little bit like... something funny. (Ok you got me; I thought it smelled like pot!) Over time, smudging has become part of my weekly if not daily practice to cleanse my mind, body, spirit, and physical space in my home and I can't imagine life without it. (That sounds a little drastic, but I really do love it!).

Smudging is known traditionally to be deeply rooted in ancient and Native American cultures and involves burning sacred herbs and/or resins to create a purifying smoke that cleanses the the surrounding air and space. It can be done very simply or as a more lengthy ritual depending on your intention and desire behind it; however, no matter how it’s done the results are similar. The smoke bath created by burning the sacred herbs is known to turn positive ions in the air into negative ions, leaving the smudged space feeling noticeably lighter; when used to cleanse the aura of a person, this change in ions has been attributed to creating a positive mood. Scientifically, smudging has also been proven to clear the air of airborne bacteria in a confined space (how cool is that?!).

Smudging is often completed with the use of white sage with the potential to include other healing herbs depending on your ritual and preference. Some of the more common additions include: lavender, which is said to have powers of protection and cleansing and promotes positive energy; cedar, which comes from a sacred tree and is believed to have healing properties; and sweet grass, often used for blessings post-smudging. Palo Santo, otherwise known as holy wood, is another option for smudging if you don’t particularly care for the scent of burning sage, or if you just want to mix it up.

Initially I was introduced to simply burning sage but have also grown to love the sweet scent of Palo Santo and often alternate depending on my mood and preference. I've also recently began burning combinations of herbs, like sage and lavender, to amplify the healing and cleansing properties of the ritual.

Sidenote: The purity and healing power that sage is known for is part of the inspiration for my business name!

You can perform a smudging ritual any time, however some events when it’s especially a good idea include:

  • Any time you are feeling bogged down in your home, car, office, etc. or feel like your energy is low;

  • Upon moving into a new space;

  • Before meditation or yoga;

  • Before and after a healing session such as reiki;

  • Before and after guests enter your home; and

  • After an illness or argument to clear the air (pun intended ;) ).

There are different variations and practices out there when it comes to smudging and I’ve outlined a very simple one below. This practice can be amplified when done in conjunction with meditation (setting the stage and intention prior to the ritual) and other tools such as stones and crystals may enhance the experience as well.

  1. Cleanse yourself. Light your smudging wand or loose herbs in a fireproof container. (Traditionally, abalone shells are a go-to but I personally use a small cauldron like this one. If you use loose herbs, they work best when burned in a pot with a charcoal burning disc.) Gently blow or fan out the herbs so that it’s left to smolder and smoke but there’s no active flame. (You may need to relight it several times throughout the ritual.) Use a feather or your hand to waft the smoke bath over yourself from your toes to your head and back down again. Feel free to close your eyes and take a moment to connect to the energy in and around you and if you choose to recite a smudging prayer you can begin that now. Be sure to say it with intention and conviction.

  2. Begin moving around the space with your smudging herbs, reciting a prayer if you choose to incorporate one and diffusing the smoke into every corner and crevice of each room. Visualize in your mind’s eye the space being cleared of any negative energy as the smoke dissipates.

  3. Once you’ve completed cleansing all areas you’d like to, you can either let the sacred herbs burn out on their own or gently press them out.

If you're new to smudging or are just looking for some additional tools for your sacred toolkit I’ve created a fantastic bundle that's available here. Not able to burn sacred herbs, or just don't like the smoke factor? I've got you covered! Check out my smokeless smudging spray to banish those bad vibes wherever and whenever you want to uplift yourself and the space around you.

If you have any questions or additional suggestions for cleansing rituals please comment below - I'd love to hear them!