How to Smudge with White Sage

Burning sage in a room is helpful if you have a sick family member. My tip is designed to help clear out microbes from a room where someone has pneumonia, or influenza… and you want to clear the air space of these pathogens. White sage has antimicrobial properties that may reduce your risk of contamination from infectious bacteria, viruses, and fungi.

If you work in nursing homes, clinics or hospitals, you might want to go home and smudge yourself to help deter infection from pathogens that hitched a ride on your clothes. (If you don’t want to burn it, drinking sage tea is an option, and of course, there are dietary supplements as well).

A 2007 STUDY found that burning sage for an hour reduced the levels of bacteria in the air by 94 percent, and this benefit lasted for 24 hours. That’s kind of amazing, but keep in mind (especially if you’re new to burning sage) that there is an aroma that comes off the plant, and after a few hours or a day it will be gone.

So while you’re cleaning your air space, you are introducing a new scent, that not all people love. It’s personal, the way perfume is personal. Again, it will eventually go away, especially if you open windows to let fresh air in.

The scent of sage can linger for days, even weeks in your home, but this is only if you burn it for a long time, say over an hour or two. Most people don’t do that. Since I don’t mind burning cedar, palo santo, white sage or frankincense, I actually think a little bit of this can be quite peaceful, perhaps burning it 5  or 10 minutes … then I put the sage bundle out (by dipping it in sand). I feel like this process provides me with a chemical-free air freshener and odor-controller. But I like sage. Some of you won’t. The scent of sage in my home goes away after a few hours, but again, I only have it lit for about 5 minutes only.

As I mentioned previously, two of the most common ways to use sage are as a tea or by burning it from a bundle, termed smudging. Here’s a little more detail on this, and of course you can look online for videos, or check at your local health food store. You can learn more about the health benefits in my other article, by CLICKING HERE to read, 11 Incredible Medical Benefits of White Sage.

Drink Sage Tea
Drinking sage as a tea lets you take in most of its beneficial compounds, and gargling with it can even help cure a sore throat. You should be using regular sage leaves, not from a bundle, for example, THESE from Amazon, which come from California, and you can just pinch off or cut a CLUSTER of LEAVES for your tea.  You can buy the tea at any wellness store, or make your own by pouring one cup of near-boiling water over two tablespoons fresh (or one tablespoon dried) sage leaves. Cover the tea and let it steep for about 10 to 15 minutes before straining the plant material and drinking right away. Sweeten with honey, sugar or coconut nectar if desired. Alternatively, some of you may want to just put one or two leaves into your water bottle and sip from that all day. The taste and effect will be mild.

Speaking of tea, it’s not just sage tea that has incredible healing effects. CLICK HERE to read my article How To Make Herbal Tea for Your Troubles. Or HERE to read What Can Green, Black and Lemongrass Tea Do For You?.

Burn Sage Bundles
Burning (smudging) sage can be as simple or complicated as you choose it to be. Rather than burning leaves individually, you will make or buy sage bundles, which are tightly packed sage leaves tied together. You can buy sage bundles online from many e-tailers including AMAZON, or from almost all health food stores and apothecaries. Some churches, or places of worship as well as local meditation centers, sell them too. They’re just tying together multiple stalks and leaves into a single thicker stick used as part of a cleansing ritual. I’m sure you’ve seen them, they’re sold everywhere, including a few popular grocery stores.

Here are a few that I found on Amazon, that are highly rated:
1. 5 sticks of sage and 5 sticks of palo santo (this is nice because once you clear the space with sage, you can follow up with palo santo right after. I think it’s a good idea to follow up with this herb, or sweetgrass).

2. Sage, lavender and sweetbrush smudge stick (this is nice because you have all the herbs in one bundle, and the scent will be less peppery, more pleasing).

3. Bundle of 3 large sage sticks from California (this is a lot of sage, and has mostly good reviews)

To use a sage bundle, ignite the tips of the leaves at the top of the wand. Blow out the flames as soon as you see them so that the package smolders slowly. You are going for embers and a little bit of smoke. This should not be left lit up like a candle, blow the flame out.

Next, place the smoldering bundle down in the bowl with the unburned end on the lip of the container. Use your hand, a feather, or small piece of paper to waft the smoke throughout your space. You can walk around your home and sage the doorways and rooms if you want to lighten the space. You can actually sage a person, waft the sage bundle from front to back, you can do the bottom of the feet too. Say positive things or pray, or say a mantra or not… it’s your call. You’re wafting medicine, so intention is everything, it’s akin to taking a pill, or having a procedure … you think positive when you’re doing it. You pray for a positive outcome, or call forth healing from the body.

So long as you are careful and respectful during the process, you are likely to come away from the saging in a better frame of mind.

Notes on Safety for Sage Smudging
When it comes to white sage, too much at a time is potentially damaging for your health. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services states that the plant contains thujone, a compound that potentially increases your heart rate to the point of mental confusion, vomiting, restlessness, and even kidney complications. This isn’t to scare you, it’s just that you don’t want to overdo sage by burning it all day long, while drinking tea, and/or taking supplements! You’ll need to burn massive amounts to experience these effects, so a bundle or two at a time should work well.

To ensure you stay safe while burning any plant material, it’s best to follow these tips:

  • Burn sage in a heatproof bowl to prevent accident
  • If you’re walking through your home with a sage bundle, be careful because sometimes the sparks fly.
  • If you just bought an older home, and you’ve moved in, it’s nice to sage the place. It might feel more like you’re own afterwards.
  • Keep the air as still as possible while smudging to reduce the fire risk (no sage burning near fans or open windows)!
  • Always monitor the sage while it burns in a pot (or over charcoal), and have water nearby in case things start to escalate. It’s not unusual to set off smoke alarms, so consider planning accordingly if you are in a public building. This has never happened to me, my sage burns for all of 5 or 10 minutes and it’s always supervised.
  • If you have asthma or other respiratory conditions, you might be more sensitive to the smoke and should consider alternatives to burning sage. You might want to read up before saging the air space.
  • To put it out, do not wet the sage bundle, it will be very difficult to light it back up again one day. It’s better to snuff it out by putting the end with embers into a dish that contains sand.
  • Some recommendations for smudging with other medicinal herbs are palo santo, cedar, lavender, frankincense and sweetgrass. These are all sold online, on Amazon and at health food stores.