Do's & Don'ts About Sage and Smoke Cleansing Herbs

Smoke cleanings. Sage. Smudging. Energy clearing. Vibes. What does this all really mean?

First things first.

What I am is a trans non binary white queer masc energy worker and healer.

I am NOT a Native/Indigenous person, nor have I been trained by a Native/Indigenous elder.

I am fully aware that this blog post may have some inaccurate information. I am willing to have information and educational readings shared with me. I try to be as accurate and respectful as I can be. I write this post strictly as a self reflection, accountability, and spreading awareness.

So What is Smudging?

Like I said, I'm not an Indigenous practitioner nor have I been trained by an Indigenous elder, so the only correct answer to come from me should be - I honestly don't know. What has been indicated, by various Native folks, is that smudging involves very specific kinds of ritual, herbs, times, and knowledge that varies.

Bottomline: Smudging is NOT what we of the global west have made of it.

Smudging is a culturally specific practice. If you/we/I am not a part of the culture, (or trained in their traditions) than what we are doing is not smudging, it is smoke cleansing/energy clearing. We must stay vigilant and purposeful with our words. Language Matters. So please be accurate and culturally respectful.

Interest in smoke cleansing has grown over the years, putting the white sage species at risk due to over-harvesting in the wild. Not only is white sage an endangered plant, but it is also sacred to Indigenous people. Fortunately, there are many alternatives to white sage for all of your needs.

What is Smoke Cleansing?

Smoke Cleaning is a tradition found all around the world throughout time. Using smoke for cleansing spaces and people. The smoke is used to clear energies and auras. Intended to clear negativity and help foster peace, calm, and wellbeing. The smoke does not have to be from white sage or palo santo. Different herbs and plants smoke cleansing can be associated with all different powers and healing.

Reasons you may want to smoke cleanse include purification before ritual, fostering peace and tranquility, removing detrimental or damaging energy, preparing for trance or other alternate mental states, taking ownership of a new space like a home or apartment or vehicle, protection and shielding, elevating energy levels, supporting sleep or meditation, and so, so many more.

Just like someone’s perfume or cologne, peoples energy can cling to you, your home, and your belongings even after they have left. To rid yourself of these unwanted vibes, you can smoke cleanse.

Bundles Using Other Herbs and Plants

Most non-poisonous herbs can be dried and bundled just like white sage, and used for cleansing in much the same way.

If you grow an herb garden, it may be worth your while to grow herbs you want to use to make your own bundles. Many herbs, like rosemary and thyme, can even do double-duty for cooking, smoke cleansing, and other assorted magical uses.

Making the bundles is simple. You just gather the herbs and plants you want to use, and tie them into a tight bundle using cotton, hemp, or linen string or twine. You will not want to use synthetic string - it will melt and give off noxious smoke you do not want to breath. Dry it out by setting your bundle somewhere warm and dry or even in your oven at a very low temp. When it has dried completely, it is ready to use.

Many other types of sage are actually quite abundant and possess many of the same cleansing properties.

Smoke Cleansing Herbs to use in place of white sage (use on their own or mix some together):

  • Black Sage
  • Garden Sage
  • Autumn Sage
  • Cedar
  • Pine
  • Holy Basil
  • Mints
  • Rosemary
  • Lemon Balm
  • Juniper
  • Myrrh
  • Frankincense
  • Lavender
  • Sweetgrass
  • Yarrow
  • Bay Leaves
  • Cinnamon Sticks
  • Rosebud
  • Spruce
  • Thyme

Alternatives to Using Herb Bundles

Incense Smoke Cleansing

This is my preferred method of smoke cleansing, and the one I use most of the time. I am just starting my garden (Finally!) this year, so I do not have my own herbs to use in bundles. But I do have a wonderful source for handmade organic safe to burn incense. They are also pet safe!

Be cautious of any blended incenses which do not give a specific ingredient list, even if they are locally crafted. Surprise ingredients can cause allergy problems or have unexpected energetic effects.

Loose Herbs

Your smoke cleanse does not need to come in the form of a bundle. You can simply dry out your herb(s) of choice, put in your cauldron (or fire safe bowl- I use a cast iron pot that I call my cauldron haha) and set it on fire to create your smoke. You must be extremely wary of fire danger!

If you want to use loose herbs, I STRONGLY recommend doing so only at your altar over a fire-proof vessel, or in a safe and contained fire. Let the smoke fill the area naturally, instead of walking the smoke around the area. You can drop your whole herbs directly into a fire. This will tend to burn your herbs rather quickly, so plan on adding more as needed for your purposes to keep the smoke going, and expect to use a great deal more plant than you would need for bundles.

Alternatives to Smoke Cleansing

There are so many alternatives to using smoke for cleansing and clearing an area. If you do not want to use smoke, or burning things is inconvenient or problematic, you do have other options which are just as effective!

These are just some of the possible alternatives.

  • Rose of Jerricho water.
  • Use moon water.
  • Ring a bell, use a singing bowl, or play any instrument with intent.
  • Sing with your own voice, or just make tonal sounds that resonate for you.
  • Use a feather or broom to sweep unwanted or unneeded energy out of the space.
  • Physically thoroughly clean the area with intent.
  • Say affirmations at key locations, or while walking the space.
  • Dance through the area with intent.
  • Firmly demand that things “get out” (cuss words optional – yall know I do!), while ushering them out the open door or window.
  • Place appropriate wards, sigils, or charms in key locations, especially over doors, windows, or other openings.
  • Draw wards or sigils on the ground at the edge of the space.
  • Use crystals.
  • Use a wand.
  • Write down what you want to banish or cleanse on a piece of paper and burn it or carry it outside the space to throw it away.
  • Or even write down what you want to banish or cleanse on a piece of toilet paper, and flush it while saying goodbye!
  • Take a cleansing ritual bath or shower.
  • Have a ritual tea, with ingredients to suit your purpose.

If you ever have any questions (or have more correct information) feel free to reach out to me any time via website or IG!

-Kae Alexander V.