What is smudging?
Quite simply, it is the burning of sacred herbs (usually Sage, though others such as Sweetgrass and Cedar are also used) to rid a person or an area of negative energy. It is a practice that has been around for thousands of years.
At one time, these herbs were crushed into a special bowl and burned, as the smoke surrounded the person or the area needing to be cleansed. Later, these herbs were bundled together into sticks and became known as “smudge sticks”.
The concept was the same… letting the herbs burn and cleanse an area of unwanted energy.
Smudging is also the common name given to the indigenous American tradition known as the Sacred Smoke Bowl Blessing. This is a powerful spiritual cleansing technique which calls upon the spirits of various sacred plants to drive away negative energy and to restore balance to an individual, a group, a space, or all three.
Personally, I like to smudge any new place that I move into to clear out any bad energy that may be left behind from the past tenants.
Not to mention, I think sage smells really good.
It turns out that this is not just ancient practice, but modern research has something to say as well about the positive effects of its use.
A 2006 study titled “Medicinal Smokes,” published in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology found solid evidence for the benefits of smudging.
By observing the effects of “burning wood and a mixture of odoriferous and medicinal herbs”on the “aerial bacterial population” in a closed room for 60 minutes, researchers found 94 percent of the aerial bacteria were eliminated.
As they noted in their findings, “The ability of the smoke to purify or disinfect the air and to make the environment cleaner was maintained up to 24h in the closed room.”
Ultimately, the research concluded that in addition to potential health benefits, smudging is a viable, and strong, antiseptic.
The final sentence in the study’s abstract states, “We have demonstrated that using medicinal smoke it is possible to completely eliminate diverse plant and human pathogenic bacteria of the air within confined space.”
Using research from fifty different countries, the research team found “inhalation of smoke is typically used in the treatment of pulmonary and neurological disorders and directed smoke in localized situations, such as dermatological and genito-urinary disorders.”
However, the key finding was that in those traditions, “ambient smoke is not directed at the body at all but used as an air purifier.”
8 Surprising Benefits of Smudging
In addition to cleansing the air of unwanted bacteria, the benefits of smudging, and producing negative ions are many, including:
Increasing your sense of well-being and improving mental focus. Smudging removes the debilitating effects of excess positive ions in the air in a way that’s been described as a natural antidepressant
Clearing negative energy. The smoke helps to change the molecular structure of both the air and energy, which produces a cleansing effect. As the sense of smell is strongly linked to memory and instinct, smudging is very effective for combating feels of anger, fear, anxiety, grief, and depression.
“Nature’s anti-depressant.” It seems that the negative ions produced from smudging offer serious anti-depressant effects – so much so it’s said to be at least as effective as a prescription antidepressant without the side effects.
Dr Clarence Hansell, a research engineer who delved into the biological effects of negative ions in the air in the 1930s after noticing that the mood of one of his colleagues changed in response to ions being generated by their equipment, discovered that his colleague was more joyful when the machine produced negative ions and more sullen when it produced positive ions.
In a controlled study published in 1998 in the Archives of General Psychiatry, focused on seasonal affective disorder, or SAD, that was an extension of Hansell’s work, researchers found fresh air charged with negative ions was an effective treatment and prevention method of depression, thanks to its effects on serotonin levels, similar to the way antidepressant drugs works.
Clearing the air. In addition to bacteria, smudging can help clear the air of pollen, pet dander, dust, mold spores and other potential allergens to improve allergy symptoms.
Cleansing objects. Not only can smudging cleanse a room, but it can cleanse objects. Whenever you bring a new object into your home, especially something like an antique that’s likely to have been exposed to negative energy over the years, you can use a smudge stick, allowing the smoke to pass over the time to help clear it so that it doesn’t affect you or your environment.
Relaxing effects. Smudging can offer calming, relaxing effects that are known to help lower blood pressure, relieve stress and tension and normalize breathing rates, as the negative ions produced are absorbed directly into your bloodstream – they may even help to fight off damaging free radicals that can lead to premature aging and disease.
Increased energy. Studies have found that the negative ions produced also help to normalize serotonin (that well-known feel-good hormone), in the brain, which can help boost one’s mood, improve focus and create a more positive outlook.
Improved sleep. An Italian study showed that negative ions can help improve sleep patterns, also have positive effects on regulating serotonin production.
How to Perform Smudging
Just before you begin, open up a window for ventilation and then place the herb bundle onto your heat-, fire-proof surface. Light it with the matches or a lighter, and then gently blow out the flame, allowing the material to smolder. Focus your energy on the smoke.
If a true flame appears, shake the bundle slightly, or blow on it until it turns to embers and smoke. You may need to re-light the bundle a few times during the smudging process.
Once you have a good amount of smoke going, use your hand or a feather to direct it over your body, moving from your feet all the way up to your head and back again, staying connected to your breathing throughout the session.
You may also want to visualize the smoke removing negative energy from your life and home. If you feel comfortable with it, you can also repeat the following incantation: “Air, fire, water, earth. Cleanse, dismiss, dispel.”
This is considered to be a sacred sage ceremony that allows you to shift energy at will.
Now you’re ready to smudge your home.
- Move clockwise around your house, starting at your front door. Gently wave the smoke into your air, focusing especially on the corners of each room, as they’re said to accumulate the most stagnant energy. The entire time, envision the smoke clearing negative energy, waving the smudge bundle up and down as the smoke fills the area.
- Don’t forget about closed spaces, like closets and cabinets – open their doors and carefully smudge the inside too. Be sure to smudge all rooms, including your basement, garage, laundry room and the like. When you reach each doorway, ask that the room be sealed and protected from this point on while you smudge the outline of the doorway, passing through it to keep any more energy from passing while you conduct the clearing.
- Move directly into the next room following either the floor layout along the walls. Remember to pass the wand over the edges of each window and door as you continue through each room of the house or workspace. In order for the smudging ceremony to be most effective, the smoke needs to cover every room, closet, door, vent, and window. The idea is to walk to each entrance, clearing every room so that you’re pushing all the negative energy out toward the front entrance. Since you want all of the negative energy to leave your home, think of it as trying to direct a fly outside your door.
- Once you’ve smudged your whole house, allow the herb bundle to burn out. You may want to bury the remaining smudge in your garden, as a sign of completing the ritual.