Updated: Aug 4, 2020
My personal favorite herbs for smudging are White Sage, Juniper and Palo Santo. I also have favorite resins, but I will post about that another time.
This is just a brief rundown of information about these sacred plants, so please keep on researching to learn more! There is a multitude of information out there -- from their usage, cultural relevance, sacred spirituality, etc. You'll be stunned at what you will learn.
Smudging is an ancient, spiritual act where you take a sacred herb or resin, burn it and use the smoke to sanctify and purify the energy of a person place or object. ((Please note, smudging isn't advised if you're someone who has respiratory problems or allergies to smoke.))
White sage (aka Salvia apiana) is a wonderfully powerful, sacred herb that is popularly used to cleanse energy. It's native to regions like Baja California and Southern California, and is probably one of the most sought after plants for cleansing (outside of palo santo). Sage is so powerful, it is believed to completely cleanse and dispel negative energy, as well as lift emotions. There are even scientific studies that show the smoke of sage can help kill bacteria in the air, and have medicinal properties! We both grow our own sage, and also obtain through ethical sources that collect sage in conjunction with the land owner. This is done so to ensure it's properly collected and never stripped from the land or over-harvested. Our goal is to have our home-grown sage be abundant enough to be our sole source for sage!
Juniper is what I (personal opinion, others may differ) consider to be gentler in its cleansing vs sage, but that isn't a bad thing! It is great for moving out old energy, attracting positive energy, and can be used for spiritual protection for a safe, cleansed space. If you are moving into a new home and want to clear out the old energy, or if you want to release the energy of last week so to invite new energy from today, this is great for that. It has this amazing, evergreen smell that is reminiscent of a campfire when burned. We collect our own juniper from our family-owned space, with a special ritual we do when asking the tree's permission for its leaves. The specific species of our juniper is juniperus californica.
Palo Santo is literally named Holy Wood. It is used to cleanse, purify and invite good spirits into a space. Coming from the South American coastal regions like Peru, Ecuador and Venezuela (to name a few), this sacred wood is greatly coveted. Palo Santo has a sweet, woodsy scent and is believed to have medicinal properties on top of its spiritual healing abilities.
A remarkable fact about Palo Santo is how it is (properly) collected. Palo Santo is only allowed to be collected from trees that have either died naturally (which can take over 90+ years), or if a branch falls off from it (and only if it's naturally fallen). Then, the tree/wood limbs must be left laying on the ground for 4-10+ years. Only after then can it be collected. Collecting the wood requires a special government permit, which is rarely given out. This is done in order to protect the species, though sadly this hasn't stopped over-harvesting (since it is sometimes hard to enforce these laws. Plus there is the issue of the lands in which they grow being used for cattling).
While Palo Santo isn't officially said to be endangered (though some sources vary on this), it is on the watch-list. Be mindful of where you get yours, and don't be afraid to ask questions. Currently, Ecuador has the biggest population of trees, and works to preserve them. If you wish to look up some places yourself, definitely check out Ecuadorian Hands and Sacred Wood Essence.
Did you know there are other herbs you can use instead of Sage and Palo Santo for smoke cleansings? Juniper is a great one (which is another reason why I love it!), but so is Rosemary, Cedar, Bay Leaves, and Eucalyptus--to only name a few! There are also resins (like Frankincense and Copal) you can burn. More on that in a future post!
These sacred herbs are great in their spiritual usage, and are amazing in their cleansing abilities. It is easy to understand why they is so beloved, but we must remember to always give respect to their spiritual, cultural and ancient history. Many herbs used for smudging have a place within indigenous cultures (ie: the sage and palo santo). Their history and usage deserves acknowledgment, understanding, respect and of course, gratitude. Check out these articles if you want to learn more: Bustle, Indigenous Corporate Training Inc, Grove and Grotto, PowWows, and WeRNative and another from WeRNative.
Thank you for letting me share this brief info with you! Which form of herb smudging do you prefer? Have some information you wish to share? Let us know in the comments below!