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A-Z Guide For Burning Sage: History, Benefits, & How-To Smudge!

sage smudge stick and abalone shell

Sweet sage is one of the most popular herbs for smudging. This aromatic plant has a vivid and long history when it comes to medicine for the body and the mind. The benefits of using sage in smudging or burning include cleansing a space, clearing out negativity, improving your mood, and boosting your brain.

What Sage is, & the different types 

sage smudge stick with amethyst crystal

Sage has been around forever. This potent silvery leaf belongs to the Salvia family. In fact, the Latin word for sage is salvere which means ‘to heal’. It is a potent plant that has a long history in traditional medicine and is used by shamans and healers across the world. Native Americans and other indigenous people have been burning sage for a long time, as part of their spiritual practices. Often called upon to cleanse spaces, shut out negative energy, and welcome wisdom in, burning sage can be a beautiful remedy. It was also used by ancient cultures like the Ancient Romans and the Ancient Greeks who turned to this medicine to help them with everything from digestion issues to sharpening memory tools. 

In our modern world, sage is used in the art of smudging or spiritually cleansing a space. Outside of the kitchen and the sage we use to bring aromatic taste to our thanksgiving dinners, there are many different kinds of sage. Herbalists love this plant for its wealth of unique properties and here we take a look at the different kinds of sage that are common in spiritual practice.

California White Sage - California White Sage is one of the most beloved and popular sage types out there. Silvery and sweet, this sage is often used in ceremonies. White Sage is famed for its cleansing energy and can help sweep bad vibes out of a space and mind in no time. 

Lavender Sage - Take a deep breath, because Lavender Sage is here to completely soothe and soften the edges of your mind. Along with the big cleansing energy of sage, the lavender element weaves in gentle joy, rest, and relaxation. This is a great set-up for those looking to unwind and find their way to sweet sleep. 

Blue Sage - Also known as Grandmother Sage, Blue Sage is often used in rituals thanks to its strong ancient wisdom vibes. This kind of sage has deep links with the Native American community and can be used in all kinds of cleansing practices. Blue Sage can also ward off bad vibes and is excellent for energetically cleaning houses. 

Black Sage - Black Sage is also known as Mugwort and is full of fragrance. This thick, dark and dreamy type of sage is intrinsically linked with the mountains and can be used for removing unwanted energy. It is also a great smudging tool for those looking to deepen their intuition and find their way to clarity. 

Sweetgrass Sage - Rich and sweet and filled with fragrance, this combo is often used alongside sage to bring sweetness and wilderness to a space. This way we can anchor ourselves back to the earth. 

Benefits of burning sage 

close up of burning sage

There are so many benefits to burning sage which is why it's a practice that has been around for centuries. This salvation plant is primed to elevate your well-being across the board - in everything from your physical health to spiritual wealth. Soothe anxious tendencies, cleanse the air around you, and remove any trace of negativity caught up in your space all by simply burning sage. 

Health benefits

Burning sage is one of the best ways to tap into the healing benefits of this wise old plant. The art of burning sage has long been a well-established ritual in various cultures. Take a look at the potent purifying benefits that come from burning sage. 

Purifying negative ions 

When sage is burned, it is said to release negative ions which can help elevate a space and put people in a good mood. Positive ions can build up around us and can block our electromagnetic fields. This can happen for a number of reasons including arguments, stress, or anything that brings bad vibes. These positive ions can block our energy and lead us to feel sluggish, drained, and just downright fed up. By burning sage, a glut of negative ions can be released which will neutralize the positive charge and leave us resplendent in our own energy once more.

Clears air of bacteria 

Scientists have studied the cleansing elements of sage and found that when this herb is burned, it can clear a staggering 94% of bacteria out of the air. That’s huge. By burning sage, you are quite literally disinfecting the air. For those who want to keep their spaces clean right now, sage is your solution. 

Improves sleep 

Cleansing the air, softening your mood, and slicing through stress - it’s no surprise that burning Sage can be a beautiful bedtime ritual. This silent night herb contains compounds that can activate receptors in the brain, which can reduce signs of stress and pain. If you tend to be kept up at night with toxic thoughts, the churn of the monkey mind, or even aches and pains, burning sage could be just the lullaby you are looking for. 

Brain booster

Sage is also said to be brilliant at encouraging clear cognition and giving your brain a boost. Perhaps that’s because it does such a good job at soaking up all that negative fog and smog around you. When we aren’t clouded by certain thoughts or stress factors, we are better equipped to see clearly. Some promising studies have also shown that sage does have potential cognitive-enhancing properties which may even help in the treatment of dementia and Alzheimers. 

Spiritual Benefits 

sage stick and lavender 

The body and the mind - each affects the other. While burning sage can encourage sleep, enhance cognitive thought, and mop up bad bacteria in the air, it also comes with a whole host of spiritual benefits too. The spiritual elements of sage are what has cemented it clearly within cultures that connect with spiritual practices and cleansing rituals. Here we look at a handful of ways in which sage can benefit your soul.

Remove negative energy 

As we now know, sage is truly an air cleanser and ever ready to neutralize positive ions and bad energy. If you feel like the space around you or within you could do with a spiritual spring clean, light up some sage and let it work its magic. Sometimes we can get too caught up in the energy of others or lingering vibes that stay in a room. Sage is an energetic cleanser and should be called upon to do this all-important task. 

Calms anxiety/stress 

Full of gorgeous grounding properties and here to tether you back to the here and now, burning sage can be a beautiful remedy for clearing stress and anxiety. Not only is the scent of sage super relaxing, but the act of burning the sage can help us to direct our energy and set an intention. All of this adds up to less stress which is why rituals can have so much positive power in our lives. Sage can also bring with it themes of wisdom and turning inwards for the answer. Knowing that we have solutions tucked in our hearts can also bring a sense of trust and healing and can reduce any anxiety. 

Cleanses crystals and other energy objects 

As a mega cleanser, sage can also be used in harmony with your other healing objects. For those who call on the power of crystals, wands, worry stones, and any kind of energy object, sage could help keep them cleansed and charged and sparkling in their power. Cleansing crystals is important if you want to keep them working at the top of their game. Sometimes, these healing stones can become full of collected energy and will need a complete discharge and recharge to get them working again. Simply smudging the stone with sage can sweep away that stagnant energy and infuse your gems with high vibrations once more. 

What is smudging, & what does it have to do with sage? 

Burning sage is known as smudging. It is a practice that has been passed down through the ages and is closely linked to various indigenous communities. It’s a deeply spiritual ritual and practice that dates back to prehistoric times. It is often used ceremonially for energy clearing, purifying, and chasing out unwanted spirits. The practice of smudging clears a person, group, or space and helps to bring the balance back. 

It’s important to be respectful to sacred communities and ancient cultures when burning sage. The best way to do this is to always enter the act with intention, mindfulness, and with purpose and thought. Another important element to consider when bringing mindfulness into smudging is to make sure that you are buying your white sage smudge stick from places that have sourced the sacred plant in ethical ways. 

How to smudge/how to burn sage 

smudge stick burning against blurred ocean backdrop

Taking some time to learn how to burn sage and welcome the art of smudging into your space will help you to cultivate the best results. The ritual of sage burning starts with finding the right high-quality sage, setting the stage, connecting to intention, and participating in the act with gratitude and reverence to the sacred herb as it gets to work clearing out bad vibes and bringing its cleansing energy. You can use a sage wand or turn to a smudge kit to ensure you have everything you need. Traditionally, people would also use a pearly Abalone shell and a feather to hold the sage and to waft the smoke. You should be able to find similar items in any good smudging kit. 

The act of smudging involves holding the smudge stick and letting the smoke waft through a space so it can effectively cleanse, purify, and change the energy in the room. Whether new to the practice or looking for a little refresher, we have a quick guide to help you stay connected and present when smudging your sage. 

  • Prepare - Gather all that you need to burn your sage such as the sage smudge stick, an abalone shell, a lighter, and anything else you think you need. You will also want to open a window or door so that the smoke (and negative energy) has an exit point to leave the space.
  • Set intentions - Intentions are truly one of the most important parts of smudging as it keeps us present and mindful in the ancient act we are undergoing. Whatever prayer or mantra you have in mind, keep it in your mind and be clear on it before you smudge the space. It also helps to repeat the mantra or say it aloud while smudging. 
  • Light the sage - Hold the sage at an angle and light it with a lighter. It may take a moment to catch. Let it burn for 10-20 seconds and then gently blow out the flame. You should still be able to see embers on the smudge stick and it should also be smoking. 
  • Smudge the area, yourself, or place in abalone shell - As the smoke begins to billow you can either walk around the room (if you are smudging a space) and encourage the smoke to flow, if you can - guide the smoke towards the window or the door and show it the way out. Don’t forget to pay extra care to corners, mirrors, and big spaces where negative energy can cling. You can also simply let your smudge stick burn safely by placing it in an abalone shell. 

Native American smudging prayer 

Smudging holds its roots deep in tradition and is an important part of culture and ritual with certain Native American tribes. To honor the sacred nature of this ceremony, we wanted to share this smudging prayer. 

May your hands be cleansed 

That they may create 

beautiful things.

May your feet be cleansed

That they may take you 

where you most need to be.

May your heart be cleansed

That you may hear

It’s message clearly.

May your throat be cleansed,

That you might speak rightly

When words are needed.

May your eyes be cleansed

That you may see

The signs and wonders of this world.

May this person and this space

Be washed clean 

By the smoke

Of these fragrant plants.

And may that smoke

Carry our prayers

Spiralling to heaven. 

Using palo santo or incense 

woman holding palo santo stick

A sage bundle or sage wand is a wonderful tool for cleansing a space and chasing away unwanted energies. You can also keep the good vibes going by choosing to burn incense or palo santo - both of which offer a longer burn if you are looking for that.

Incense comes in many evocative scents and uses herbs and plants and natural compounds as its base usually. From Dragons Blood for power and energy to Cedar for earthly golden grounding, and Amber for comfort and truth, each incense comes with its own unique healing powers and moods, although all share the element of cleansing, purifying, and shifting energy around a space. 

Palo Santo is also musty magic. Considered to be a holy wood and often used alongside sage or incense for burning and cleansing a space, it shares many healing benefits. Palo Santo also has a long illustrious history in ceremonial rituals and helping to create a sacred space. It brings it’s relaxing scent, cleansing energy, and also helps to fight stress and anxiety too.

Side effects 

When done carefully and correctly, there are very few side effects to burning sage. Smudging is considered to be safe and any discomfort should clear as soon as the smoke dissipates. If you are super sensitive to smoke and can’t be around it for any reason you could look instead to using essential oils to cleanse your space, set an intention, and shift the mood. 

Of course, when there is smoke involved there is always the tiny risk of fire. For those who are diligent, this shouldn’t be a worry. We always encourage you to smudge responsibly and safely. You should never leave sage, incense, palo santo or anything burning or even smoking when left unattended. You can keep your space safe by using an abalone shell to catch any debris. Always ensure your smudge sticks or incense or wood is completely extinguished when finished. Finally, we remind you to keep doors and windows open, not only so that the negative energy has someplace to go but to avoid inhaling smoke.

Smudging sage is a beautiful act that will keep you and your space cleansed and rejuvenated. When our internal and external spaces are kept clear from toxic energy, we are better equipped to thrive. This combined with the antimicrobial properties, the encouragement of better sleep, and lifting the weight of anxiety, means that sage is a sublime choice for those who crave a sacred lighter and loving space. You can smudge with sage whenever you feel the need. 

What are your thoughts on smudging with sage? Share with us in the comments.

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