What is burning sage?
Burning sage is an ancient ritual utilized by Native peoples for cleansing and praying. It is commonplace to have smudging ceremonies in the Western hemisphere. Burning sage is a beautiful ritual that has been around for centuries. It was used in ancient times to purify spaces, spiritually cleanse people, and heal the sick. Today, you can find it at many spiritual centers and churches as well as homes across America. It has been reported that 150 indigenous groups from North America alone utilize burning sage for spiritual reasons. Smudging is just one way of healing yourself with something natural.
Burning sage has been used for thousands of years for cooking, cleaning, spiritual cleansing, and so much more. In addition to being herbaceous, it helps attract butterflies and hummingbirds while keeping away rodents, making it a great addition to any garden. Although burning sage is widely used by indigenous people, it has become increasingly popular in Western cultures for use with meditation and smudging.
Best Type of Sage:
The best type of sage to burn is white sage (salvia apiana). This specific plant contains high levels of naturally occurring chemicals that are calming and soothing. Other types of sages include sandalwood, lavender, cedar, red or blue lotus, sweetgrass, copal resin, amethyst crystals, and more. There are many different kinds available simply because there are so many different things you can burn. Another type of burning sage is a smudge stick. A Smudge Stick is a tightly bound bundle of herbs that you can burn to purify your environment and yourself with the smoke that it releases as it burns.
A Smudge Stick gets its name because Native Americans have traditionally used white sage to create “smoke signals”. When the leaves of the sage touch fire they release a distinctive aroma, which would be carried far away by the wind as a signal. In modern times, these special bundles are used by those seeking spiritual connection for healing or prayer. You can buy them at most New Age stores or online. A common term used in Western culture is ‘smudging’ which means the same thing as ‘smoke cleansing’. There are also different types of smudge sticks to purchase that are mixed with other herbs or essential oils
Burning Sage can be a spiritual tool:
A burning sage bundle is a staple of many pagan traditions like Wicca because the smoke clears away bad mojo, but this fragrant plant has so many more uses than just getting rid of negativity. Claims about how burning sage affects the body are varied. Many herbalists claim that it can help control asthma symptoms, while others claim that inhaling its fumes can improve memory or improve sensory perception. Some doctors have suggested that the active ingredients in the plant may cause hallucinations if taken in large doses, but to be honest. I’ve never done any research on this matter. The common consensus is that it’s probably safe for healthy people to use in moderation, but if you’re pregnant or asthmatic, you should never burn sage.
Why do people burn sage?
To be honest, it’s not very clear. The reasons people give for burning sage vary widely and no one seems to agree on why the practice is beneficial or necessary. A search of Google yields a wealth of results saying that dried white sage will: “cleanse an area,” “burn out negative energy,” “ward off bad spirits,” and more than a few explanations regarding Native American spirituality and tradition. Some claim that burning sage helps purify the air while keeping away insects, but they do not say how this works when you are burning bugs. One thing we can say with some certainty is how it doesn’t work: Burning sage does nothing to cleanse the body or remove toxins from your organs. All evidence-based scientific research points to the fact that burning sage simply does not work.
What are its benefits?
Again, the results are mixed. Some people say it can be used to reduce stress and anxiety while others claim that burning sage increases stress and anxiety. The same goes for its supposed ability to remove bad energy or attract good fortune; both claims are made by supposed experts, but no one seems to agree on which is true. One thing that everyone does seem to agree on is that smelling like smoke isn’t very pleasant (and neither is spending money when you could simply light a stick of incense instead). Beyond the unpleasantness of the smoke itself, there’s also the fact that burning any plant material releases carbon emissions, so in effect, you’re adding more pollutants to your indoor air quality than cleaning it. So unless you consider headaches, irritated eyes, and a low tolerance for incense enthusiasts “beneficial” then it’s best to avoid burning sage.
It may help boost cognition:
There has been recent research that suggests that the active ingredient in sage, salvinorin A, may have short-term effects on cognitive performance. However, this does not mean that smoking or ingesting large amounts of this plant will reliably improve your cognition. The results are mixed, and generally, this research has involved taking very large doses of the main ingredient in sage. As always when you are looking to use herbal supplements or incense for cognitive purposes, it’s best to stick to what is known to work reliably. If you’re interested in using sage for cognitive purposes, just stick with smoking it because the dosage is easier to control. The research does suggest that there may be something potentially beneficial in using Salvia Divinorum for cognitive enhancement, but more research will need to be conducted before any conclusions can be drawn.
For stress relief:
While these results were promising, they have not been replicated by other researchers so it would be best not to rely on them alone. It is best to stick to what is known and recommended by a large body of evidence-based research. Sage has been shown to have antioxidant properties, which can help fight off free radicals that cause aging. While this does not necessarily mean that sage will slow the process of skin aging, it may be helpful for those who are particularly interested in preventing fine lines and wrinkles. This study showed that treatment with sage extract inhibited the production of certain enzymes involved in creating oxidative stress, but this would likely require ingesting very large amounts of sage every day.
This means that using oral supplements or smoking sage daily would likely produce results similar to drinking excessive amounts of green tea, so if you’re only going on a whim you should probably try vaping instead of burning sage in a stick form.
What are the risks of using it?
Burning sage can cause asthma attacks in people who suffer from respiratory conditions such as asthma, hay fever, or exercise-induced bronchoconstriction (EIB). It also releases carbon particles which can worsen these or any other respiratory conditions. The smoke itself is irritating to many people’s eyes, noses, throats, lungs, and skin. There have even been cases of burns resulting from accidents where people caught their clothing on fire after accidentally touching smoldering herb material that had fallen off of the stick they were using to burn sage. It also poses a risk to pets if they are in the room when you are burning sage or if they walk through your smoldering herb pile afterward; there have been cases of severe burns to dogs resulting from this.
How can you use it most effectively?
While burning sage is not going to help you cleanse your body or remove toxins from your organs, there are a few things you can do to minimize the risks of using this herb:
Be extremely careful when lighting it. Do not hold the lighter in one place for an extended period and be sure that your sage stick isn’t so close to the flame that it catches on fire. If possible use a candle lighter instead of a butane lighter, as it puts out less heat. Once lit, move quickly with your stick over where you want the smoke to flow; don’t wave it back and forth or leave it unattended while burning because either action can cause smoldering herb material to fall off and start a fire (this also applies to incense sticks).
Open your windows or use an exhaust fan when burning sage. This will help remove the smoke from the room faster, making it less likely that you will breathe in too much of it. If you don’t have an exhaust fan then open a window just enough for air to be pulled into the room quickly but not so much that the flame on your stick will be blown out.
Don’t burn sage if there are any sparks or flames in or near your house (a grill close to your home is one example of this). This could include pilot lights inside gas appliances, even if they are turned off because pilot lights can go out without turning off the gas itself.
Keep children and pets away from burning sage. Even if you think they are far enough away that they won’t get hurt, the dangers of this herb still apply to them as well as you.
Use your sage sparingly and don’t leave it unattended for a long period. While it’s not going to do any damage sitting around unlit or smoldering in an ashtray, leaving a burning sage stick unattended is dangerous because it could ignite something else even after you blow out the flame.
Burning sage has no proven benefit and poses an unknown risk during sexual activity. Its only “benefit” is that it makes your house smell like smoke, which seems like an undesirable outcome unless you’re setting fire to one room as part of a Halloween prank. There’s also the very real possibility that using sage instead of an incense stick could increase carbon emissions and worsen indoor air quality rather than improve it as is commonly claimed. In short, there’s no reason to burn sage during sexual activity and plenty of reasons not to.