A Beginner’s Guide to Herbs & Smudging.

Updated: Jan 30

"Smudging generally refers to the practice of burning herbal material. It can be done for practical reasons or for spiritual or ceremonial purposes. "

It is an ancient ritual originating from Native American cultures, involving the practice of burning bundles of different herbs, mainly sage, during sacred religious and spiritual ceremonies. Indigenous peoples believe the smoke from specific herbs restores the energetic and spiritual balance. They use it for praying and healing ceremonies as well as to purify spaces, bodies, and objects, restore mental clarity, and bring vision.

In non-indigenous societies smudging is not rooted in religious ceremony but has become an extension of the wellness movement; a way of people reconnecting with themselves by taking a pause from the stresses of modern life.

According to yoga philosophy, our whole world is made of vibrations. You and me, the air, the sky, our minds, and everything visible and invisible continuously vibrate. Ancient yogis believed that out-of-rhythm vibrations in the body are the main culprits for diseases. They clog your energy centers chakras and prevent the vital energy prana from flowing smoothly and your mind and body from functioning in harmony.

Smoke bathing and yoga is a perfect marriage. The lingering fragrance from burning herbs amplifies the intention set for yoga practice and aids with the mood. It also helps clear space from stagnant energy so that you could fill it with a good one by practicing yoga.

When burning herbs can help with the Prana?

  • Moving into a new house

  • After you or someone in your house has been sick

  • After a traumatizing event

  • After having visitors (especially if that wasn't a pleasant encounter)

  • Before a yoga practice, meditation, journaling session

  • When feeling ill at ease at your own home.

Or anytime you feel like.

How to Choose Your Smudge?

Different plants carry various properties and benefits. So if you hold a specific intention for your smudging ritual, you should select an herb that resonates with said intention. If you are drawn to a specific smudge, trust that intuitive calling. There is an underlying reason and purpose. Here are come common options.

  • Sage is used in many different ways, it helps the people prepare for ceremonies and teachings. Because it is more medicinal and stronger than Sweet grass, it tends to be used more often in ceremonies, it also has physical healing properties, you can boil sage and drink it as a tea. White Sage is used for releasing what is troubling the mind and for removing negative energy. It is also used for cleansing homes and sacred items. A close relative of white sage, Blue Sage is also good for healing and cleansing rituals. Its soothing, relaxing smell can be used to aid meditation, or burned simply for enjoyment. It’s not as pungent as White Sage, and is more agreeable to some folks who find the strong, bracing scent of White Sage overpowering.

  • Sweetgrass purifies your space and energy, this very special herb's sweet vanilla-like scent is the breath of the Earth mother, bringing the blessing of Mother Earth's love. Sweetgrass is burned to invoke the Divine Feminine. The sacredness of the sweetgrass herb then sustains the smudging process. Use a smudging feather if you need to douse the flame or promote more smoke.

  • Cedar is often used to cleanse a home or apartment when first moving in, inviting unwanted spirits to leave and protecting a person, place or object from unwanted influences. It is a very slow burning and perfect for full smudge rituals.

  • Palo santo is a sacred wood that comes from the Palo Santo tree indigenous to the coast of South America. Shamans have traditionally used it to clear negative energy and increase love and prosperity. It burns fairly slowly, and its woodsy scent is rich and inviting. It aids in healing the physical body, especially after an illness.

  • Bay Leaves have multiple uses from Protection, Healing and Calming to Success, victory and being an Anxiety reducer. The aromatic Essential oil in bay leaves, while smudging is known to work as a mood booster.

A quick warning: The plants listed are not harmful or dangerous under normal circumstances. Still, they can cause irritation and allergic reactions in some people. If you have asthma or respiratory problems, burning anything may not be great for your health. (Consult a doctor or herbalist if you have concerns.)

How to smudge?

All you need is Smudge Stick, Fireproof container, Candle/matches, Way to extinguish, and your Intention.

  • Light one end of your smudge, allowing it to catch fire and burn for several seconds. Once the flame extinguishes, gently blow on the lit end to fan the embers; the smudge will begin to glow and smoke.

  • Lay the smudge on a heat-proof dish, such as an abalone shell, to catch the ashes as it burns. (Safety note: we should always respect the power of fire when using it in ritual.)

  • Fan the smoke over and around yourself and your space.

  • As the smoke rises into the air, picture your intention, whatever it may be. If you are clearing negative energy, picture its density and see it lifting away. Healing? Then imagine the smoke cleansing any illness or injury. Whatever it is, envision it floating away on the smoke. You can pray or chant if you feel so called.

  • Continue to use your hands or a feather/fan to guide the smoke over yourself and around your space.

  • In Native American tradition they begin facing East, then South, West, and North before finally turning East again. Another ways is called “circumambulation”. Start at the front door of the home and light your smudge stick. Then, begin to move around the home. Move mindfully and with care, walking clockwise around the entire perimeter of the home. Be sure to allow the smoke to drift into even the hidden spaces, like inside closets, basements and dark corners. If there are stairs, just go up or down when you encounter them. Then keep moving clockwise until you meet the stairs again. Then continue to go down or up the stairs and resume the main floor. And, if it feels okay to you, it’s helpful to chant a mantra or a prayer that you’re connected to. This is a way to fill the space with more cleansing vibrations. When you arrive back at the front door, chant your final mantra or prayer. Visualize the entire home is filled with bright white sunlight. Then speak your intention one last time to close the smudging ceremony.

  • When finished, extinguish your smudge or let it burn out on its own. It’s often said that it will burn as long and strong as needed to fulfill the intention.

Smudging rituals are a beautiful technique to clear a space. This can be done annually or more often.

Check our SHOP for smudge sticks of your choice.


©2020 by RedForest Retreat, Cambodia.

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