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What Is Smudging? Types Of Smudging And Healing Properties

What Is Smudging? Types Of Smudging And Healing Properties

June 18, 2021

What Is Smudging?

Smudging is a ritual practice that involves the burning of dried herbs to create smoke with which a person, place, or object can be cleansed of negative energies and restored to the natural balance.

Today, smudging is still used to balance energies, as well as for medicinal and spiritual benefits. Many people use smudging to further their meditation practices, alter their state of mind, or relax.

While many consider smudging to be a modern new-age practice, it actually has origins in ancient cultures from around the world. The western concept of smudging stems specifically from the rituals practiced in Native American culture and Shamanic practices. Many liken the burning of dried herbs that is done in smudging rituals to the use of incense, and while the resulting scented smoke is similar, the practice is a deeply spiritual one that should be approached with respect and understanding of the history behind it.

The History Of Smudging

Since the discovery of fire, humans have been finding ways to use smoke to their advantage. Throughout history, it has been widely used to protect crops and living areas from insects, as well as to improve health, alter mental states, and for cleansing.

In its earliest incarnations, smudging was done using a special bowl to contain the smoldering mixture of herbs and resin, or by placing the smudging materials over hot coals pulled from the fire. In Native American rituals, an abalone shell is the traditional vessel used to contain the burning herbs. The shell was chosen for its durability and flame resistance, as well as its abundance in nature.

As the practice has evolved, many have begun to favor smudge sticks for their portability and ease of use. Smudge sticks are made from lightly dried herbs bundled together with twine or colored thread. They can be made from any herbs, but sage and sweetgrass are the most traditionally used. Sage is said to force out negative energies and influence, while sweetgrass is used to bring positive energy to the cleansed space, object, or person. Making your own smudge sticks is the best way to get the effects and health benefits you desire.

Preparing Your Own Smudge Sticks

Smudge sticks are readily available online and at many alternative health stores, but it is quick and easy to make your own! As we touched on in the last section, smudge sticks are simply dried herbs, gathered together in a thick bundle and bound with a natural string, like twine, or cotton thread.

The wonderful thing about making your own smudge sticks is that you can customize them to your needs, tweaking the blend of herbs to get the scent or medicinal properties just right. Here are the three steps to making your own smudge sticks.

Step 1: Choose Your Herbs

The very first step in making your own smudge sticks, and smudging in general, is selecting the herbs you would like to use in your smudge stick. The herbs you choose will depend on the benefits and scent you want to achieve. If you aren’t sure of the benefits of various herbs in smudging, we have included an extensive list below. No matter what you choose, it’s best to start with fresh herbs to allow control over the drying process.

Step 2: Dry Your Herbs

Before you can assemble and put your smudge sticks to use, you’ll need to prepare your harvested herbs for use by drying them out. The best way to dry your herbs is by hanging them for a day or two after harvesting, though some smudging materials such as pine, cedar, cypress, and juniper can be wrapped immediately after harvesting.

You’ll know your herbs are ready for use when they begin to lose their moisture and flexibility, but are still able to be handled without breaking apart. If your smudge materials are too wet, they will struggle to burn, too dry and you won’t be able to tie them together without them breaking apart. When you’ve reached the proper balance, you can move on to binding your smudge stick.

Step 3: Tie Your Smudge Stick

Fastening your herbs together to form the smudge stick is the most difficult part of the process. If you can, get someone to help you with this step to make it easier. Start by laying out your thread or twine on your workspace without cutting it from the spool. Gather your freshly dried herbs and lay them down over the string, with about an inch of the herbs laying over the string at the bottom. Pull your herbs into a tight bundle and tie them securely together, fastening with a

double knot. Leave a long tail when you tie the knot to use later on in the binding process.

Begin by wrapping the string tightly around the base of the herbs, moving in an upward spiral toward the top of the bundle, and taking care to keep the herbs straight and facing the same direction. When you reach the top of the bundle, wrap the string around the end a few times before beginning to work your way back down towards the base. When you reach the starting point, wrap the string around the end a few times more before tying it off to the tail you left when making the first knot.

Step 4: Finish Drying

Once your smudge sticks have been wrapped and tied, it’s time to finish drying them out. Hang them up again in a dry dark area to keep them from molding as they dry. Depending on the herbs you’ve selected for your smudge stick, it can take as little as a week or as long as 10 weeks for your smudge to be dried thoroughly enough to use.

When storing smudge sticks for later use, be sure to keep scents separated to avoid mixing them, resulting in an unintended and often undesirable smell when burned. To keep your smudge sticks in good condition, wrap them in a cloth or paper towel and store them in similar scented groups in an airtight container. Be sure to keep them in a dark, dry space to keep them fresh for the longest amount of time.

Using Smudge Sticks For Health And Cleansing

Using your smudge sticks is the easiest and most rewarding part of the process! Before you begin the smudging ritual, prepare your space and your mind. Start by opening the curtains to fill your space with natural light. Open your window to allow the air in the room to be refreshed and provide ventilation during your practice. Take a few minutes to tidy the area, removing clutter and creating a space for your smudging bowl.

When you are ready, light the tip of your smudge stick with a match, lighter, or candle. If you are having trouble getting your smudge stick to catch on fire, you may need to hold the tip to the flame for a few seconds. You’ll know it’s lit when the flame flares up and engulfs the tip, when this happens, gently blow the flame out. You should now have a smoldering smudge stick you can use to waft healing smoke around a person, space, or object to purify, heal, or charge it. Gently wave and move your smudge stick around whatever you are smudging.

You might need to light your smudge sticks several times throughout your practice if you are using something like spruce or juniper. Other herbs will burn quickly and completely, so be sure to keep your smudging bowl nearby to catch the falling ash.

Types Of Smudge And Their Healing Properties

Depending on the herbs you use in your smudging sticks, the healing properties of the smoke will vary. No matter what you choose, there are a few widely accepted benefits of smudging in general. For example, a 2007 study from the Journal of Ethnopharmacology found that the medicinal smoke produced by smudging reduces airborne bacteria by as much as 94% in just 60 minutes. The smoke was found to be effective in eliminating Staphylococcus lentus, Corynebacterium urealyticum, Curtobacterium flaccumfaciens, Klebsiella mobilis, Kocuria rosea, and more.

Another study from the Journal of Ethnopharmacology, published in 2006 found that medicinal herbal smoke is used in cultures around the world to address issues with specific organ systems, specifically the pulmonary, neurological, and dermatological systems. For targeted results, you’ll need to select your own mix of herbs.

White Sage

White Sage Smudge

White Sage is the only type of herb many would consider for smudging practices. The herb is considered to be one of the most effective and versatile available for use. It offers a sweet earthy scent that is extremely centering in meditation practices. White sage is also extremely powerful in cleansing and purification rituals and has been proven to be effective at preventing infection.


If you use essential oils, you’ll already be familiar with the healing effects of the plant. When diffused into the air via oil or smoke, it offers powerful anxiety relief. The herb itself is quick to burn and works best when bundled with something else.

Bay Leaves

Bay Leaf Smudge

Bay leaves aren’t just a must in the kitchen, when used in smudging, they can offer relief from stress and anxiety in addition to boosting your mood. It’s commonly believed that Bay Leaves also attract success and good fortune.

Black Sage

Once you’ve smelled the thick heady aroma of Black Sage, you won’t be able to mistake it for anything else. Like White Sage, the herb is extremely powerful when used to aid and elevate

meditation. It is also used to promote inner healing, self-reflection, and a deep restful sleep. Its reputation as a sleep aid is so strong that many know it simply as Dream Weed.

Blue Sage

Blue Sage Smudge

If you love the benefits provided by White Sage and Black Sage, but not the strong scents, Blue Sage is the herb for you! It provides a relaxing experience perfect for meditation, sleep, or cleansing rituals, with a much softer scent that won’t overstay its welcome in your space.

Desert Sage

As you may have noticed, sage in all its forms is a powerful tool in smudging, and Dessert Sage is no exception. The herb burns with a warm, peppery, earthen smell that has been known to relieve headaches and tension, reduce anxiety, and attract positive energies.


Eucalyptus Smudge

The medical properties of eucalyptus are well known, and you can enjoy many of its benefits through smudging. The herb is a powerful decongestant with a pleasant almost minty scent, you’ll find it in many vapor-rub products and muscle relaxing creams. When burnt in a smudging ritual, you’ll find yourself calm, energized, and breathing easily.


Frankincense is one of the holy herbs mentioned across many religious texts. At one time, the herb held more value than gold and was difficult to come by for common people. Today, Frankincense has a powerful role in smudging practices worldwide, reducing muscle tension and relieving stress.


Lavander Smudge

Lavender is an extremely powerful medicinal herb in any form. When burned as smudge, the delicate soothing scent of lavender will fill your space more with each flower that burns. The herb can be effective in elevating meditative states, reducing anxiety, inducing deep sleep states, and even helping to alleviate depression.


Lemongrass has a fresh invigorating scent that is guaranteed to put some pep in your step, providing increased energy and lifting your mood when burned. The herb is also a popular choice for purification and cleansing rituals, especially when the focus is a space. Lemongrass smudge will leave your area feeling airy and full of positive energies.

Palo Santo

Palo Santo Smudge

Palo Santo, also known as Holy Wood, is a sweet spicy scented smudge that might have you thinking of fresh gingerbread, but the herb offers health benefits all year round. Palo Santo has been favored for healing since ancient times, taking a prominent role in Incan healing and cleansing ceremonies. It is known for fighting inflammation and provide a boost to the immune system.

Yerba Santa

Yerba Santa, or the Holy Herb, has such powerful medicinal properties that it was named for them! The herb is a long-favored natural remedy for respiratory and pulmonary ailments, providing fast relief from coughs and congestion. Essential oils and smudge made from this herb can help those suffering from chronic respiratory conditions, as well as those with common but serious ailments, like bronchitis and pneumonia.


Smudging is a great way to tap into the natural healing effects of the world around us. Medicinal smoke has been used to improve both mental, physical, and spiritual conditions in cultures throughout history and around the globe, and the powerful effects are hard to deny. Thankfully, it’s very easy to find or create smudge sticks and begin a smudging practice of your own to reap the benefits.

If you're looking for more spiritual tools, why not think about using a dreamcatcher or chakra bracelet. They go perfectly with your new smudging practice.