Smudging With Herbs

Smudging With Herbs

Smudging is the burning of certain herbs to create a cleansing smoke bath, which is used to purify people and space. The effect of the smoke is to banish negative energies. Smudging, done correctly, can bring physical, spiritual and emotional balance. The term Smudging originated in the Native American culture.

Part of the spiritual work of the plant is to work with human spirits. When you have the intention to be partners, it enables the plant energies to work actively with you and much more of their magic manifests in your life.

Smudging itself takes many forms. Sometimes herbs are tied in a bundle called a ‘smudge stick’ and allowed to dry. Some herbs lend themselves to braiding. Loose dried herbs may also be placed directly onto the burning wood in an indoor fireplace or crumbled between the fingers over a piece of charcoal. The container used for the charcoal and herbs needs to be fireproof. Ceramic or glass bowls with a layer of sand or salt work well. Especially nice is an abalone shell with a layer of colored sand in the bottom.

The idea behind burning herbs is to release their energy and fragrance, not to fill the room or your lungs with smoke. Make sure the bowl/vessel you use can support the heat that will be produced so it will not crack. Avoid smudging in the room when infants, pregnant persons, asthmatic or allergy-prone people are present. Never leave your smudge sticks, candles or charcoal unattended to avoid fire hazards. When burning a smudge stick or braid, they will eventually go out on their own, but should you need to put them out quickly, you can tamp the end out in sand or soil, shaking off the excess. Using water is messy and not generally recommended.


There are many herbs that can be used for smudging, but the principle ones traditionally used are:

Cedar Cedar is used for purifying, healing and protection. Confusion can arise because some of the botanical Junipers are called cedar.
Sweetgrass Sweetgrass is used to attract and welcome positive energies. Often used in conjunction with, or after sage.
Lavender It is used for smudging in conjunction with, or after sage, to create harmony and tranquility. A nice combination to use for areas of high stress.
Copal Copal is a type of resin. The word is derived from the word ‘copalli’, meaning incense. It is good for psychic work.
Sage Sage is used for purifying – to clear negative energies, spirits, emotions, intentions etc. It is also a very protective herb and is used to protect sacred areas during rituals.There are many varieties of Sage, but the main genus Salviia generally used for smudging. Salvia has two main varieties, namely S Officinalis (Garden Sage) and S. Apiana (White Sage). Both are acknowledged for their healing properties.


Ways to smudge
To produce the smoke, you need to set light to the smudge stick, braid or loose herbs. You might find that a match isn’t quite enough for the job, in which case use the flame from a candle, lighting taper or cigarette lighter.

Directing smoke
Once the smudge stick is smouldering nicely, you need to direct the smoke. You can achieve this by using your cupped hand, a fan, or more usually, a large feather. Actually blowing on the end of your smudge stick is frowned upon, as you are then contaminating the stick. Fan the end to keep it burning, or carry a lighter with you in case it doesn’t want to be coaxed!

Cleansing objects
Passing them through the smoke, in a spiraling or a figure eight motion can clear crystals and other sacred objects. Both are sacred symbolic movements: a spiral represents an ever expanding and focusing energy; a figure eight on its side is the symbol of infinity.

Smudging the self
There are many ways to actually smudge. One ancient way is to start by drawing on the power of the five elements, by burning your smudging herbs in a shell. An abalone shell represents Water and the flowing and filling power this element offers us. The sacred herb is a gift of Earth and represents her creativity and strength. When we light the herb we are invoking the transmute element of Fire and the smoke that rises represents Air, carrying and releasing our cleared intentions and prayers. Through our deliberate action, we ourselves bring the fifth element: ether or life energy.

Next we offer the smoke to the seven directions: east, south, west, north and up, down and center. Returning to center we are now ready to purify ourselves. Start by holding the shell in front of you and gently fan the smoke up to your heart. Pass the shell up along the center of your body, encircling your head. Be aware of how you feel through out this process. Are there places that you feel a desire to clear and honor? It is important to follow your own inner guidance.

Cleansing an area
Working in an anti-clockwise spiral, start at the centre of the area and slowly work your way out to the outer edges, this way the smoke is always being directed outward and away from the area, be sure to get into every nook and cranny. If cleansing an entire room, leave the windows and door ajar, so the smoke can escape and take with it all the negativity.

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