Smudging With Plants And Herbs: Scientifically Sound For Purifying Air

Research shows that the ancient practice of smudging is also an easy way to eliminate bacteria and odor in the air.

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Although often regarded as a spiritual act, research shows burning herbs and plant resin is scientifically sound for eliminating bacteria in the air and administering medicinal properties. Smudging has been a tradition among various groups and cultures for centuries, and today is practiced in many homes. White sage, cedar, juniper, lavender, cilantro and eucalyptus are among the most commonly used plants and herbs.

Originally a Native American technique called the “Sacred Bowl Blessing”, smudging has been used to clear negativity and restore balance to physical, emotional and spiritual energies. Herbs burned at high temperatures are also a historical method of administering medicine, usually used to aid or repair pulmonary, neurological and dermatological functions. Furthermore, the advantages of smoke-based remedies are “rapid delivery to the brain, more efficient absorption by the body and lower costs of production”.

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Research shows that the smoke emitted from herbs can be used to eradicate bacteria in the air.  Studies in ethnopharmacology, which examines ethnic groups and medicinal herbs, tested the “ancient knowledge on antibacterial activity of the medicinal smoke during the treatment of a room with the medicinal smoke, emanated by burning wood and a mixture of odoriferous and medicinal herbs… by generating it within confined spaces so as to purify or disinfect the air and to make the environment cleaner.”

A simple traditional smudge stick can be made by tying together a thick bundle of dried sage leaves with thread or twine. Once lit, wait briefly before blowing out, to allow the leaves to become hot and the embers to produce a fairly thick stream of smoke. Walk slowly around the perimeter of your home or other indoor space, allowing the smoke to dissipate in every corner. The study showed that “Not only did the burning of medicinal herbs clear aerial bacterial populations by 94% within one hour, but a full day later, the closed room was still effectively decontaminated. Even more amazing, a full month later, seven other pathogenic bacteria in the open room were still non-detectable.”

Distributing the smoke with certain motions are said to hold various meanings. Crossing the embers over the left side of the body represents femininity, while crossing to the right represents masculinity. Moving clockwise signifies the circle of life, and counter-clockwise means “undoing” or “unwinding” of tension or negative actions. 

Smudge sticks are also perfect for aromatherapy, and are often used to clear and clean the energies of another person or oneself. For calming and soothing purposes, burn lavender. For an extra boost of cleansing power, use eucalyptus. Burning herbs is a great natural, zero-waste way to purify the air and reduce odors without using chemical-based sprays.

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