Everything You Need to Know About Sage Cleansing

Your guide to burning sage.

Hygiene is super important and hopefully, as adults, we’re up to speed on that. But, while we can all agree it’s important to keep our homes and bodies clean, many of us neglect our spiritual cleaning. There are different ways to cleanse the spiritual energy of a space or your aura, but one of the most popular is through burning sage. Sage has been burned around the world for centuries and is commonly associated with cleansing unwanted spirits or energies. It’s a great practice for witches of all skill levels and particularly useful for empaths, who take on energy from those around them.

Sage cleansing, also known as smudging, is most often done with white sage or Salvia apiana. This type of sage is grown in the Southwestern United States and Mexico, and is often cultivated in Southern California. It’s commonly sold for cleansing in bundles, but can also be sold as loose leaves. Another common type of sage used for cleansing is blue or desert sage.

Palo santo is commonly used for smudging, however, it doesn’t belong to the sage family. Instead, it’s wood from the palo santo tree and is often sold in sticks or chips for spiritual uses. Palo santo is native to South America and has been used by the Incas and other indigenous groups of the Andes mountains for centuries.

Other commonly used smudging materials include cedar, sweetgrass and mugwort.

Smudging not only provides many spiritual benefits, it’s also been proven to provide medical benefits as well. According to studies, burning sage kills bacteria in the air. It also contains many brain enhancing tonics that improve cognitive function and can protect against neurodegenerative diseases. It also can have therapeutic effects, such as helping with insomnia. It’s also a great natural insect repellent.

When acquiring sage, it’s important to buy from companies who ethically source. We recommend buying locally, as most New Age and holistic medicine stores supply quality sage. If you’re looking to buy online, we advise purchasing from verified sellers on Etsy.

A tool you’ll want to have on hand while smudging is a sage vessel. This vessel will allow you to safely extinguish your sage bundle and will not burn. There are specially made sage vessels for purchase, however, ashtrays, ceramic saucers or small glass jars also work fine. Abalone shells are commonly used for smudging and make a beautiful addition to any altar.

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Once you’ve gathered your materials, you’ll need to prepare your space for smudging. You’ll want to open a window or a door before you start smudging, as you’ll need a way for the negative energy, spirits and smoke to leave your space. Once an exit point has been established, hold your sage bundle at a 45-degree angle and light it using a lighter, match or candle. You’ll want to let it burn for at least 20 seconds, then extinguish the flame so that you see orange embers and smoke on one end of the bundle. You can extinguish the flame by blowing on it. Don’t worry about lighting the entire bundle in one go, as a little goes a long way. If your bundle isn’t staying lit, you can loosen the strings to allow more oxygen inside your bundle.

While your bundle is burning, walk slowly around the space and concentrate on high traffic areas—doorways, windows, etc. You’ll want to guide the smoke out of the exit point, as this moves the bad energy out of your space. Don’t forget to also pay attention to corners of rooms and in front of mirrors. When smudging, be aware of what’s going on around you. If any burning embers fall, make sure to ignite them immediately and never leaving burning sage unattended. Although smudging can have health benefits, it’s best not to directly inhale the smoke as it irritates the lungs.

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Once you’ve finished smudging, extinguish your bundle using your sage vessel. Grind the burning end of the bundle into your vessel until there’s no more smoke. Don’t run your bundle under water or get it wet, as this damages the bundle and makes it more difficult to use next time. If smudging feels right to you, follow your intuition on how often you should cleanse your space. For reference, I smudge about once a week, but I have friends who smudge every day.

What do you think of burning sage? Have you smudged lately? Let us know in the comments section on social media.