It seems a lot of people have become interested in burning sage — an ancient practice also known as “smudging,” which has been used for centuries by indigenous peoples to clear negative energy.
Fast-forward thousands of years later, and the modern pressures and stressors of life still exist more than ever. If there was ever a need to promote more relaxation, encourage focus and combat everyday stress, it’s in this day and age.
Sage has traditionally been used in Native American healing practices, but it has a history of use in Roman, Egyptian, and Greek medicine.
But what are the benefits of burning sage today? And is smudging effective to counter present-day stress and anxiety?
If you ask spiritual practitioners, crystal healers, yoga enthusiasts, Reiki masters, and meditation lovers who engage in cleansing rituals, they will tell you that using white sage for smudging helps to purify the air, clear bad vibes, encourage better sleep and promote mindfulness.
So, should you give it a try?
In this post, we encourage you to take a deep breath and read on as we impart some “sage wisdom” on the amazing benefits of burning sage and how to use white sage for smudging to improve your overall health and well-being.
Table of Contents
- What's the Difference Between White Sage and Regular Sage?
- What is Smudging?
- Benefits of Burning Sage
- Burning Sage for Purification
- Burning Sage for Cleansing
- Burning Sage for Releasing Negativity
- Burning Sage for Mindfulness
- Burning Sage for Stress, Anxiety and Depression
- Burning Sage for Mood and Memory
- Burning Sage for Aromatherapy
- Where to Buy White Sage
- How to Use White Sage for Smudging
- How to Sage a House
- Prepare for Smudging
- Set Your Intention
- Light the Smudge Stick
- Immerse Your Space with Smoke
- Practice Safety
- How to Sage Yourself
- How to Sage an Object
- How Often Should You Smudge with Sage?
- Key Takeaways
What's the Difference Between White Sage and Regular Sage?
An aromatic plant, sage is deep-rooted in history as both food and medicine. Its scientific name salvia is derived from the Latin salvere, which translates to “heal” or “to feel well and healthy.”
Closely related, garden sage (salvia officinalis) and white sage (salvia apiana) are both used as medicine — but the main difference between white sage and regular sage is that white sage (or sacred sage) is more commonly burned as incense.
When you think of regular sage, think about the sage that grows in your garden (with greyish green leaves), and what goes into turkey stuffing on Thanksgiving.
White sage, on the other hand, has smooth, white leaves and is used mostly for medicinal purposes, and not as a seasoning in cooking.
Although, white sage is traditional medicine, it does not mean its healing, protective and purifying properties are not relevant today. In fact, using white sage for smudging has become more popular than ever!
What is Smudging?
Although smudging and similar rituals are at times seen as mystical and even new age by those meaning to discredit them, research is showing that there are many benefits to ancient rituals like these that have been known and practiced for thousands of years.
Smudging, or burning herbs and plant resins for medicinal and spiritual benefits has been used for centuries as a means of purification in many cultures and religions.
Frankincense is burned in churches, incense is commonly used in temples, and Palo Santo or “holy wood” has been burned for centuries for ceremonial cleansing that can be traced back to the ancient Incan civilization in South America.
As the sacred herb or resin is burned, the purifying smoke that arises, sets the mood and environment for ceremonies, prayers and rituals.
Next, we’ll explore the many benefits of smudging with sage.
Benefits of Burning Sage
Burning sage, or smudging, involves the burning of dried and bundled sage leaves and letting the aromatic, stimulating smoke waft through the air, purifying and cleansing a living space, an object or yourself.
Studies have shown that “medicinal smoke” such as the type released when sage is burned can have powerful antibacterial properties, can boost mood and improve cognition, repel insects, and help insomnia.
Spiritually speaking, smudging with white sage is used to dispel negative energy and prepare a space or object with positive fresh vibes and intent.
It is also great for ceremonial use and for cleansing crystals. When used on yourself or another person, burning white sage can help cleanse the aura and remove “stuck” energies when preparing for any type of energy work.
Some of the key benefits of burning sage include:
- Purifying the air
- Improving mood and cognition
- Reducing stress and anxiety
- Warding off negativity
- Promoting mindfulness and intuition
- Supporting better sleep
- Cleansing spaces, objects or your own energy
- Repelling insects
Burning white sage for smudging helps you to clear the slate to allow more positivity into your life. It helps purify not only on the physical level, but also mentally, emotionally and spiritually.
Next, we’ll take a detailed look at the top 10 amazing benefits of burning sage.
Burning Sage for Purification
Besides being used for spiritual purification, a few studies have shown that burning sage for purifying the air is good to dispel germs and microbes.
Burning Sage for Colds
White sage is known to have antimicrobial properties and “is native to southern California and parts of Mexico. Some Native American tribes local to this region consider S. apiana to be sacred and burn the leaves as incense for purification ceremonies. The plant has been used to treat sore throats, coughs, chest colds, upper respiratory infections and poison oak rashes.”
In another study, scientists at the University of Arizona discovered that “chemicals in the white sage can reduce the growth and survival of multiple bacteria species. This biological activity may explain the historical use of the white sage plant as a disinfectant.”
Medicinal smoke has also shown to be a good remedy for colds as it is more efficiently absorbed by the body.
Now that you know that burning white sage may help to keep the air free of infectious viruses and bacteria, it’s a good idea to purify your space ever so often, and especially purify any room where someone has been sick with the flu.
Burning Sage for Allergies
Although not proven, burning sage may also help to release negative ions which can in turn help to neutralize positive ions. Positive ions are common allergens including pollution, mold, dust and pet dander.
So, burning sage may help if you have seasonal allergies, however, it is important to remember to not inhale the smoke which could aggravate a respiratory condition so always leave a window or door open to let the smoke (and negative energy and ions) escape.
Burning Sage for Sinus Infections
Sage contains a compound known as eucalyptol or 1,8-cineole which when inhaled may decrease the pain caused by sinus inflammation. Along with its antimicrobial properties it may also help to kill off contagious pathogens too.
Burning Sage for Cleansing
Smudging with sage is like clearing the slate or using an eraser — it may help to ease the weight off your shoulders, as you cleanse your space and yourself of negativity.
Burning sage for cleansing when done as a ritual means that you are establishing a positive environment and are actively making the choice to “cleanse” and let go of negative thoughts, traumas, past bad experiences and more. Setting this intention and being dedicated to it can be the spark you need to change your mindset and your life, in your journey towards self-improvement.
You can also burn sage for cleansing objects such as second-hand items and gifts, which can help to clear any negative energy or history attached to that object.
Burning sage for cleansing crystals is a highly effective way to clear crystals of any stored negative energy, so you can get their full healing benefits.
Burning Sage for Releasing Negativity
The aura or electromagnetic field around our body, and in our living spaces, can often become blocked with positive ions, making us feel tired, sluggish and outright burnt out.
You can feel this energy during an argument, or simply when someone in your environment is in a bad mood. A constant built up of positive ions due to any type of tension such as anger, stress or conflict causes the energy around us to become heavy and stagnant.
Burning sage may help to neutralize these positive ions (charges) by releasing high amounts of negative ions into our environment. This means that the energy around us, and our own energy will feel much lighter – like a weight has been lifted.
Burning Sage for Mindfulness
Mindfulness simply means to be present in the moment. Being mindful teaches us to respond to a situation or stress while being present in that moment – rather than simply acting on instinct and being oblivious to the emotions and motives driving our actions and decisions.
Burning sage can help to promote a state of mindfulness as it involves and engages all of the senses, thereby bringing more awareness.
Research has shown that mindfulness-based meditation may help to reduce anxiety, stress and depression, and it’s easier to be mindful with an aromatic movement and practice like that of smudging with sage.
In other words, if the process of burning sage helps you to relax and enter a better mental space, it’s a practice worth adopting in the pursuit of building mindfulness.
No wonder the word sage is also used to describe a person with deep wisdom and serenity!
Burning Sage for Stress, Anxiety and Depression
Now you might still be on the fence about burning sage for cleansing or purifying the air, but the benefits of burning sage for stress relief simply should not be overlooked.
Rituals and routines bring a sense of calm and balance, so whether you believe in the spiritual qualities of sage or not, simply the ritual of smudging with sage is likely to help de-stress, provide a grounding effect, and reduce tension.
A 2016 research project showed that white sage (Salvia apiana) is rich in active compounds such as terpenes and flavonoids, which help to promote relaxation and stress relief, and improve acuity and focus.
High stress can also interfere with sleep, and research suggests that some of the active compounds in sage could help to ease insomnia.
Burning Sage for Mood and Memory
Traditionally smudging was used to dispel negativity, in turn boosting one’s mood. Today, sage has shown to not only improve mood, but also enhance memory, heighten awareness, and quicken the reflexes.
A 2010 study revealed that “aromas of the essential oils of Salvia species” can affect cognition and mood.
Another study showed that salvia helped to enhance mood, “with increases in self-rated ‘alertness’, ‘calmness’ and ‘contentedness.’” The same study also demonstrated the cognitive-enhancing benefits of salvia in treating degenerative diseases such as dementia and Alzheimer’s.
From a spiritual healing perspective, the mood-boosting benefits of burning sage can be attributed to ridding the environment and the body of negative energy, which helps to welcome positive vibrations, in turn alleviating stress and fatigue, and boosting mood and energy.
Burning Sage for Aromatherapy
Sage has a divine, uplifting aroma — and being all natural, it works a lot better than chemical-filled air fresheners and odor sprays.
Regardless of whether you believe in the healing and cleansing properties of sage or not, just the invigorating scent of the smoke alone can have a grounding effect, helping you to think more clearly, and creating a sense of peace and tranquility in your daily life.
All you need to do is light up a sage stick and waft the sage smoke around your home to instantly improve odor and leave a lasting, pleasant scent in your environment. It’s also great for repelling insects!
Where to Buy White Sage
To start smudging, you’re probably asking yourself, where to buy white sage? You may find it in a local health store or you can simply shop online.
However, there are a few things to keep in mind before buying white sage.
First, remember to sage respectfully. The practice of burning sage is sacred in many cultures and should be something we are doing with intention, respect, veneration and gratitude to ancient customs. Having said that, as sage smudging becomes more mainstream, everyone can benefit from the practice.
Also, make sure the white sage you buy is not only top-quality but ethically and legally sourced.
How to Use White Sage for Smudging
Ready to bring health, healing and good intentions into your life?
Let’s move on to how to use white sage for smudging to release negativity and attract positive energy and intentions into your life.
Whether you are smudging your environment, yourself, or an object, you will need all of the tools mentioned below.
What you need:
- a sage bundle or smudge stick
- a fireproof dish (ceramic or glass bowl, seashell)
- matches or lighter
- feather for fanning the smoke (optional)
How to Sage a House
Prepare for Smudging
- Before you start to smudge, make sure you have all the tools mentioned above
- Next, open a door or window to allow smoke to escape (and the negative energy with it) — this is an important step as the smoke and energy needs to have a pathway to exit your space, so don’t skip this step
Set Your Intention
- Setting your intention is fundamental to the practice of smudging, so take a few moments to identify what it is that you are trying to release from your environment
- Keep this intention in mind throughout the smudging process — you can even say a prayer or mantra that captures your intention
- For example, you could say, “I release all energies that no longer serve me,” or “I let go of all fears and enter the new year with confidence”
Light the Smudge Stick
- Once you’ve set an intention it’s time to light up. Hold the smudge stick over a fireproof dish at a 45-degree angle and light it using a match, lighter or candle
- Let it burn for 20-30 seconds
- Gently blow out the flame and allow the smoke to fill the air
Immerse Your Space with Smoke
- Wave the smoking sage stick in different areas of your space as you walk around
- Hold the smudge stick in one hand and direct the smoke with the other hand, or use a feather
- Slowly guide the smoke (and negative energy) towards open doors and windows, so it can exit your space
- Make sure to smudge around corners, hallways and doorways where energy can stagnate
- Remember to keep your intention in mind as you move from space to space
- Firstly, never leave a burning smudge stick unattended
- Once you’re done, place the stick in a fireproof container and press the tip firmly until it stops to smoke
- Store the leftover stick in a safe, dry place
- Tip: Do not wash the stick! This will make it harder to light up the next time
How to Sage Yourself
Feeling fatigued, sluggish and burnt out? Cleanse and purify the energy around you by learning how to sage yourself to clear your aura and the negative, stagnant energy around you.
- Follow the same steps for how to sage a house above, but keep the focus on yourself this time
- Stand with your legs slightly apart and keep the smudge stick at an arm’s distance from you
- Slowly guide the sage stick from your feet to your head
- Keep your intention in mind or repeat your mantra and prayer (in your mind, or loudly)
- Visualize the smoke clearing away all the negativity from you
- Make sure to extinguish the sage once you’re done
How to Sage an Object
Saging an object requires directing the smoke around the object of your choice, keeping an intention in mind, and can be done for several reasons.
- You may want to sage a second-hand object or gift to release any old built up energy
- Many people also like to sage new items or special objects, such as a piece of jewelry, to attribute the object with a sacred meaning
- Any objects related to a negative memory or experience can also be smudged
- If you use crystals for healing or wear crystal jewelry it is important to smudge the crystals with sage ever so often to get rid of and clear any built-up negative energy
How Often Should You Smudge with Sage?
You can smudge with sage as often as you feel you need to. You are your best guide so pay close attention to your intuition, your own energy, and how you feel in a space. If you feel stressed, worried or weighed down, that’s a sure sign that a good cleansing is in order.
It is also highly recommended to smudge after a conflict or angry outburst in the space, or a run-in with someone in the room.
Smudging with sage as a timed ritual, at a certain time every few days, can serve as a way to mindfully and intentionally experience a shift and release in energy and works very well for those who enjoy a cathartic routine.
Don't have white sage on hand? You can always use Palo Santo! View our post on Sage vs Palo Santo to learn more.
- Smudging with sage is an ancient Native American healing practice that is fast-growing in popularity today for its physical, mental and spiritual healing benefits
- Sage has been known to help reduce stress and anxiety, enhance alertness and cognition, combat colds, purify the air, and more
- In spiritual healing, smudging with sage is known to dispel negative energy, attract positive vibes, and promote mindfulness
- Burning sage is great for cleansing a house, an object or yourself and can be used to cleanse crystals, create sacred spaces, repel insects and as a natural air freshener
- It is important to treat the saging ritual with reverence, and to buy smudge sticks that are sourced with respect to experience all the divine healing sage smudging can help bring into your life
- Whether you’re smudging for spiritual healing, or simply because you want to zone out from the modern stressors of life, be sure to give sage smudging a try!