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The practice of burning sage in the home has been gaining popularity over the last ten years or so. Although it’s an ancient practice, people have been rediscovering the benefit of using natural plant incenses to uplift the mood, relieve stress, and purify the home after a bout of physical illness or emotional depression.
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There’s some science behind this. Sage, juniper, myrrh, and other plants that are used as natural incense contain potent essential oils that kill bacteria and other airborne pathogens. It’s the original form of aromatherapy, and like all types of aromatherapy, plant essential oils uplift the mood and create a feeling of relaxation and positivity.
Burning sage and other plants is called smudging. Smoke from smoldering herbs is wafted around the body and through the home using fanning motions in order to move the smoke around. When smudging your home, you work your way with the smoke from the back of the house to the front, and finish the process by “sweeping” all the negativity out the front door. As long as you don’t use too much smoke and end up coughing, the results are actually quite nice.
California White Sage is one of the most popular herbs used to smudge the home and clear the energy. Aromatic plants from all over the world can be used in the same way.
Native Americans used evergreen branches from juniper, cedar, spruce and pine to cleanse the body and the home. During the winter, people would “wash” their hair with the smoke. Knowing now that the oils from the plant kill harmful microbes, it makes sense.
People all over the world use the aromatic plants that grow near them in similar ways, and for the same reasons: to purify the environment and promote positive feelings.
Native people in Peru use the wood from a tree called Palo Santo, which means “sacred wood”. Pieces of Palo Santo wood are burned in homes, spiritual ceremonies, and in churches instead of frankincense.
From the Amazon comes Breuzinho resin, a gray-colored sap from a tree that’s a botanical cousin to copal and myrrh. The fragrance of Breuzinho is light and clean. Natives of the Amazon Rainforest use Breuzinho resin to heal the body and soul.
Frankincense and Myrrh trees grow in the Middle East and in Africa. To harvest these resins, people make small cuts in the branches, which causes the trees to exude resin in order to heal their own wood. When the resin, or sap, dries, it is collected and either burned on coals, or ground and made into both incense and healing medicine.
A large number of aromatic plants are used in India. Sandalwood is harvested from the heartwood of the Sandalwood tree. Patchouli, a member of the mint family, is also grown in India, where the leaves are burned or distilled to extract the essential oil.
Some of the plants used in Europe include rosemary, wormwood, lavender, bay leaf, and thyme. These plants were not only burned but also boiled, creating a fragrant steam. (If smoke irritates your lungs, this is a great way to enjoy the same benefits!) In Medieval Europe, people scattered these herbs on the floor during times of illness. When someone stepped on the plants, it crushed the plant fibers and released the essential oils into the air.
If you’ve never experienced smudging, try it next time you feel tense or stressed out. I always feel the relaxing effects right away. I’ve been doing almost daily it since I was first introduced to it in 1987. I do it in the morning to get my head on straight and set my goals for the day.
Many people burn sage after a long, hard day, or after an argument with someone. Lots of our customers will burn sage in a new home or apartment in order to bless their new living space and clear any residual vibes left over from previous occupants.
If you’ve curious what it’s like to smudge with sage, here’s a quick little video for you.
Keep the energy fresh and positive this holiday season!