The Practice Of Smudging - Top 8 Things You Need To Know
When it comes to any kind of healing crystal or energetic work, it’s always important to practice the art of smudging before you do anything else.
That’s because smudging is one of the most powerful and effective ways to clear a space of any unwanted energies and connect to the sacred realm of energy and vibration. (It can also be used to "bless" and call in positive energies).
Now, just so we’re on the same page, smudging is simply the act of burning herbs and using the smoke to help you carry out your intention - whether it be protection, clearing, blessing, etc.
This practice has been done for thousands of years, across many cultures and even religions (for example, in the Catholic Church, incense is often used in masses and funerals).
So now that you have a general idea of this ancient practice, what else do you need to know?
We’ve gone ahead and compiled 8 things to know that will help you get started with your own smudging practice .
1. The herb you choose to burn depends on what your main intentions are.
Mostly, you'll hear about burning sage.
But did you know that there are dozens of herbs you could use, like frankincense, lavender, cedar and copal?
And here's the cool thing -
Each one has different "properties" depending on what it is you want to achieve.
For example, if you want just purification and healing, you'd use sage. If you wanted protection, then cedar would be your best bet.
When you think about how many plants contain healing properties when ingested, it only makes sense that many of these same plants have benefits when burned and their smoke released into the air.
Here are just a few of the different kinds of herbs you can use, along with their properties:
White Sage/Desert Sage - purification and bringing the energies back to neutral. Think of this as a great way to hit the energetic "reset" button so things get back to where they vibrate naturally, without interference.
Cedar - Burn this is you want protection. Part of the reason cedar may be so effective at protection is because one of its healing properties is as a strong disinfectant and powerful against certain kinds of infection.
Lavender - used to help bring peace, balance and calm, aiding in work when connecting with subtle energies and inviting in spirits and angels. Because of its calming nature, lavender has also traditionally been used to help ease anxiety, stress, and insomnia.
Palo Santo - The literal translation for this is "Holy Wood." In traditional medicine, it was used to stave off colds, asthma, headaches, and more. But as a smudging tool, it is a powerful energy cleanser, similar to sage. The only difference, is that instead of just leaving things back to "neutral", it brings in a positive charge to things ... a little bit of light. So if you want a way to cleanse and leave things feeling more positive than you found them, Palo Santo is your tool.
Frankincense - This is not an herb, but a resin (think kind of like amber, or solidified tree sap). Frankincense has a rich history, and has been prized for it's aroma and healing properties. Along with being one of the herbs brought to Jesus by the Three Wise Men as a gift, it's been used by the Egyptians (to embalm their Pharaohs), and the Greeks and Romans used it in religious ceremonies.
Coriander - This is also known as cilantro. This little herb packs a healthy punch, as it has been used to help conditions like measles, tooth aches, join pain, digestive issues, and more. Smudging with coriander is said to help clear a space and bring in an energy of love, healing, and good health.
2. An alternative to burning loose herbs are burning what’s known as “smudge sticks.”
Typically, smudging involves burning the loose leaves of an herb.
But sometimes, walking around with a bowl of loose herbs to try and clear certain areas in your home can be quite the chore.
That's why for the sake of convenience, you can also find and use smudge sticks.
These are typically large bundles of herbs (usually sage) and are rolled up and resemble a stick. With a sage stick, you’d burn the stick directly and point the smoke it emits in the direction you want cleared.
This is a great option when you want to walk around to different rooms or areas of your home, in order to cleanse them.
And while most sage sticks you'll find are sage, you could always make your own with the herb of your choice (options, baby!).
3. Make sure you get a container that can handle the heat of everything you’re burning.
This may seem a little obvious, but it needs to be said.
Because if you really want to clear a space, you'll typically hold the container in your hand and allow the smoke to get to the areas of your space that you want.
This is why typically, abalone shells are used. They are easy to lay in the palm of your hand, as you move around to the areas you want to cleanse.
Now, because abalone shells are all-natural and come directly from the ocean, you'll find them in a wide array of sizes, ranging from 3" - 7"+.
Ideally, we recommend you find one that's 5-6" so it'll fit a good-sized smudge stick. This way, it'll be super easy to rest the stick as its burning on the shell, without risk of it falling or rolling out.
Alternatively, you can use incense burners designer for burning herbs and other kinds of incense. There are plenty out there you can find, in a wide variety of sizes and designs, so they can look great in your home when you're not using them!
But at the end of the day, it's up to you. Use the container you feel best about, so long as it doesn't transfer any heat onto your hand (need to keep those fingers and palms safe!).
4. The use of burning charcoal is a common way to get your herbs to “smoke.”
Normally, when people think of burning incense for smudging, they think of directly lighting the herbs. This definitely works.
But sometimes you'll want the herbs to burn slower.
Also, there are other things that don't burn well when exposed directly to flame. An example of that would be resins, like frankincense, myrrh, and copal. Remember, these aren't herbs, but instead are solidified sap from the particular tree it comes from. So it'll have a soft, plastic-y feel to it. Because of that, they won't burn easily if you just try and put them next to a match or lighter.
That's where charcoal comes in. The charcoal burns very hot, but distributes the heat better, allowing the sap or resin to slowly burn off, giving off the smoke and aroma you want.
So for charcoal-burning method, you fill a heat-proof container with sand or rocks. You then place a small piece of burning charcoal on top. Then, you can place the loose herbs or resin on the charcoal so that they’ll start to burn.
The other benefit of using charcoal is that it will stay hot for about 45 minutes to an hour, allowing you to simply keep placing more herbs on top to keep the smoke going for long periods of time, or allowing you to burn the resin for a good while as well.
5. Large feathers are often used to fan and spread the smoke in a space.
One of the things you'll find when you first start smudging, is that the smoke doesn't go where you want it to!
So in order to move the smoke and nudge it in the direction where it's needed, folks will often use a large, somewhat curved feather to help the smoke waft where you want it to go.
Of course, you don't need a feather to do this (although it makes it easier). Feel free to use a hand-held folding fan (but be careful not to let it get close to the burning incense!) or you can even simply use your hand to fan the smoke out.
6. Science shows us that smudging literally CLEANS the air.
Who says that smudging is JUST for spiritual and energetic purposes?
Now science is showing us that it really DOES help purify things.
A 2007 study published in the journal Ethnopharmacology found that smudging with sage KILLED up to 94% of airborne bacteria. So yes, smudging quite literally purifies the space you are in., physically and energetically.
7. Smudging helps clear your mind and ground you to the present moment.
That’s because it works with your sense of sight and smell.
The smoke and aroma of the herbs you burn bring you back into your body, thereby grounding you energetically and preparing you for the spiritual or healing work you’re about to do.
8. Always set an intention beforehand.
This is SO important.
Before you begin clearing a space, know specifically what it is you want to accomplish. Then, as you light the herbs and start to see the smoke rise, think of your intention and feel it in your emotional body. This will help ensure that the smoke does its job and you move forward successfully in the work you are about to do.
Smudging is definitely something you’ll want to do on a regular basis. And if you work with crystals, you’ll want to let them get cleansed in the smoke of the herb(s) you burn - in this case, white sage is preferred).
And remember, feel free to explore and experiment. Try different herbs from time to time and see how they change the energy of your space … and notice how they make you feel.
In time, you’ll find what works best for you, depending on what you want to accomplish.