Smudging is an ancient art that is believed to have been practiced by Native Americans for centuries. It's the name given to the ceremonial, daily act of cleansing and purification, which uses a selection of herbs, often sage, bundled together with string to form a smudge stick before being ignited.
The smoke emitted from the herb bundle is believed to cleanse negative energy and purify living spaces and people and even objects like tools, furniture, and home decor. Like one washing their hands before a meal, it helps cleanse a person in an energetic bath of aromatic smoke. It's also believed to release negative ions, which have been linked in studies to a more positive mood and many other benefits. Negative ions are also created by the effects of sunlight and water. You've probably noticed a wonderful sense of calm when in nature, such as visiting a beach, waterfall, or enjoying a walk in the woods.
In high enough concentrations, negative ions can clear the air of mold spores, pollen, pet dander, odors, cigarette smoke, bacteria, viruses, dust, and other hazardous airborne particles.
They do this by attaching to positively charged particles in large numbers, which cause the germs, mold, pollen, and other allergens to become too heavy to stay airborne. They fall to the floor or attach to a nearby surface, removing them from the air you breathe while preventing them from causing health problems like respiratory issues.
With all our electronic gadgets and household items, our homes have become what some describe as "positive ion prisons." That's why negative ions that occur from smudging can be so beneficial in counteracting these effects.
Smudging your home, office, or even your body is kind of like taking an energetic shower. Or perhaps even spending a day in the mountains, spending time breathing in the fresh air and scent of pine. this offers a direct positive effect on reducing stress levels.
Aboriginal elder-in-residence at the University of Toronto, Cat Criger, says that smudging can also be a way to connect with Native American culture when done correctly.
"To understand the protocol means you have to learn something about aboriginal people. So in a sense, the medicines are working in a kind way, saying 'learn about me and we can respect each other and we can walk together,'" he noted.
If you think smudging is just some kind of "woo woo" with no science to back it up, think again. Research published in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology entitled Medicinal Smokes in 2006 found that burning smudge sticks can cleanse the surrounding air of harmful bacteria. The authors reported: "The most frequent medical indications for medicinal smoke are pulmonary (23.5%), neurological (21.8%), and dermatological (8.1%). An extensive list of pathogenic bacteria was shown to be absent in an open room after a remarkable 30 days following treatment. This lead the authors to conclude, "We have demonstrated that by using medicinal smoke, it is possible to completely eliminate diverse plant and human pathogenic bacteria of the air within confined space."
8 Benefits of Smudging
In addition to cleansing the air of unwanted bacteria, the benefits of smudging and producing negative ions are many, including:
Increasing your sense of well-being and improving mental focus. Smudging removes the debilitating effects of excess positive ions in the air in a way that's been described as a natural antidepressant.
Clearing negative energy. The smoke helps to change the air and energy's molecular structure, which produces a cleansing effect. As the sense of smell is strongly linked to memory and instinct, smudging effectively combats feelings of anger, fear, anxiety, grief, and depression.