What is smudging -- or rather, smoke cleansing?
Similar to the practices of burning incense or moxa, smudging is a form of smoke cleansing. Smoke cleansing is a way to clean the air around a person, place, thing, or energy for spiritual, emotional, or physical reasons.
Why do you call it smoke cleansing?
The word smudging originates with Native people in North America and refers to a very specific cultural healing ritual. Many people also associate smudge sticks with white sage, an herb traditionally used by Native people. However, white sage is sacred to those Native cultures and with the popularity of smudging, it is being improperly and over-harvested, which can lead to shortages and diseased/unhealthy plants, as well as loss of vital cultural heritage.
Palo santo is a wood gaining popularity in smoke cleansing practices. Aka holy wood, palo santo is imported from Central and South America, where it’s used by Native tribes. Palo Santo has been added to the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) list, because its overharvesting could lead to extinction.
I believe it is critical to preserve and respect Indigenous cultures. For that reason, I do not use the terms smudging/smudge sticks, nor do I build my creations from white sage or palo santo. There are lots of other herbs out there to use with energies of their own without culturally appropriating white sage or palo santo. I call my creations herb bundles for smoke cleansing. All the plants used in my herb bundles are grown by myself or my friends/family; hand assembled by me with intention and creativity; and only sustainable hemp cord is used to secure the bundles.
The act of smoke cleansing is very ancient and can be traced back to all continents on the planet. While many cultures and religions do have smoke cleansing rituals, the practice itself does not belong to only one religion or group of peoples (unlike smudging or burning palo santo). Smoke cleansing with herb bundles can be your tradition, too.
What is the history of smoke cleansing?
Incense used for smoke cleansing has roots in southern Asia and parts of modern-day China as early as 3300 BC, where it was used for worship and prayer. The first known incense was made from cinnamon bark and sandalwood. There were even buildings created to accommodate the use of smoke in religious rituals throughout Asia and India. Egyptian tombs have been discovered with traces of incense, dating back thousands of years BC. It’s thought that Egyptians used incense to hinder demons and as part of religious rituals.
Made of plants, oils and/or resins, incense is an aromatic that produces fragrant smoke when burned. It’s used like herb bundles for ambiance, therapies, meditation, and smoke cleansing. India is currently the world’s main producer of incense.
In the Bible, the three Magi brought baby Jesus incense in the form of frankincense and myrrh. Some modern Catholic and Christian traditions interpret the smoke of incense as prayers rising to heaven. Almost all cultures on all continents have some history with dried plants or combinations of plants/oils/wood/resin used for smoke cleansing.
Is there any science behind smoke cleansing?
Actually yes! One study presented a scientific abstract in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology. It came to the conclusion that burning dried sage in a room for one hour killed 94% of the airborne bacteria, and the bacteria activity remained low for 24 hours. Read the abstract here.
If you’re worried about airborne insects, it’s well documented that they tend to avoid smoke in general. So a smoke cleansing is likely to cut down on flying bugs. Some people use it specifically for mosquitoes.
Acupuncturists burn dried moxa, a kind of mugwort, for many aspects of healing and treatments in their modern practices.
How do I use Herb Bundles?
Safety first!! Burning herb bundles indoors should be done with both care and intention. Always use a fireproof plate, bowl, or other vessel to carry under the herb bundle and catch embers. Do not burn in the presence of a fan, active vent, or breezy open window, as an ember of dried herbs could fly away and ignite your home/office/space. I strongly suggest you keep a small glass of water nearby in case of stray sparks. Many people like to fully extinguish their herb bundle in a small bowl of sand. I run mine under the sink and let it dry until next use.
1. Before you start, have all items assembled (herb bundle, fireproof container, lighting medium, small glass of water, sand, if using).
Remove label from herb bundle.
2. Set your intention for the smoke cleanse. If you feel comfortable, speak it aloud. Your herb bundle will have a suggested intention on the tag but please be creative and do whatever feels right for you!
3. Stand near an entry way to the room. Light your herb bundle using a candle, match, or lighter.
4. Move through the room, allowing smoke from the herb bundle to ascend and clear the space. Be sure to consider hidden areas,
like corners/basements/empty closets, where old energy may accumulate.
5. When done smoke cleansing your area/home, fully extinguish herb bundle in sand, water, or by another sure means.
6. Repeat as often as desired, even daily, until the energetics of your space/intention feel fully grounded.
What's in my herb bundle?
Your herb bundle will be labeled with all ingredients and bound with a hemp cord. Available herbs/plants vary seasonally.
These meanings are from folklore and legend, not affiliated in any way with the documented botanical science/medical uses for these herbs. As I make and design herb bundles, these are the energies I have in mind, however the plants have more magical associations than what I noted. Use them as it feels best to you.
Basil: Mental calming; promotes career luck and wealth
Bay Leaves: Protection for the home; carries wishes forward; banishes negative energy
Catnip: Attracts helpful spirits and good luck; also attracts cats…
Cedar: Banishes fear and enhances perception; drives away negative entities; ideal cleaner for a new home
Garden Sage: Cleansing; drives away negative energies and influence; invites wisdom and healing
Echinacea: Inner strength during trying times; emotional endurance; increases sense of self
Elecampane: Attracts energy of the light fae/fairies; supports new endeavors; originally used in absinthe distilling
Fennel: Builds confidence and courage; increases fertility; encourages ghosts to cross over
Juniper: Purification to invigorate the mind and body; release from past life pain
Lamb’s Ear: Soft landing in trying times; protection from evil; recovery from illness or loss
Lemon Balm: Drives away ill-intentioned spirits; heal a broken heart; promotes friendship and security; emotional calming
Lemongrass: Protection while resolving problems; recovery/clearing obstacles
Mugwort: Clarity of mind/opens psychic ability; cleanses all chakras; stimulates deep dreaming
Mullein: Aids in emotional and physical healing; keeps nightmares at bay
Orange: Popular in Feng Shui for removing ghosts; said to summon angels; helps find direction and meaning in life; brings inspiration
Peppermint: Lessens fatigue and frustration; removing blockages; restorative
Pine: Spiritual cleansing and purification; increases peace in families; transforms winter doldrums
Purple Sage Flowers (Garden Sage Flowers): Encourages true intentions; Calming
Purple Lavender Flowers: Calm, soothing energy in chaos; attracts supportive love, restores balance & peace; promotes restful sleep
Rose Flowers: Attract healthy love (of all kinds) and domestic peace; healing from grief
Rosemary: Protection from evil, spiritual healing, removes negativity from aura
Thyme: Recall the past without pain; releases fears and worries
Violet: Associated with faith and loyalty; attracts healthy love energy
White Lavender Flowers: Deep spirit healing; attracts calm energy; open crown chakra; promotes restful sleep; wards off the evil eye
Yarrow: Eliminates toxic thoughts and promotes physical healing; strengthens boundaries; aids in divination practices
Burn herb bundles with safety in mind always.
Herb bundles are NOT intended to consume! Herbal tisanes and blends for drinking are available from your local grocer or farmer’s market, as well as online.
Smoke cleansing is not advised for those sensitive to smoke; with delicate lungs/throat; or a lung/throat health condition. Avoid over-exposure to any kind of smoke at all times.
If you have a known allergy/sensitivity to any specific plant, do not use an herb bundle that contains it.
Herb bundles cannot replace advice or treatment from a medical doctor/nurse, psychologist/therapist/coach, financial adviser, lawyer, or any other professional.
Herb bundles are for recreational use only and not intended to diagnose, treat, or otherwise heal emotional, physical, or mental maladies.