Burning Sage: Everything To Know About This Ancient Ritual
8 minutes read
It’s no surprise that a chaotic covid-stricken world has led many of us to try unconventional ways to push negativities out of our senses and spaces. Cue the ritual of burning sage.
If burning sage has always piqued your interest, this expert-approved burning sage guide is for you. We’ve consulted with leading traditional Chinese medicine practitioners for tips to make burning sage work for you: from how to burn sage and its physical, mental, and emotional well-being benefits down to basic burning sage ritual tools.
What does burning sage do?
Katie Brindle, a Chinese medicine practitioner with over 20 years of clinical experience and author of the best-selling book Yang Sheng, says: “Burning sage, also known as cleansing or smudging, is a centuries-old ancient ritual used by people across many cultures as a way to cleanse, purify and heal both living and sacred spaces.
It is said to dispel negativity, promote healing, enhance energies, and instil wisdom by connecting to higher realms.”
In its modern appeal, burning sage has been widely used as part of one’s self-care practice to purge oneself, their space, and their surroundings of negativity, including bad experiences, negative energies from people or past traumas. In addition, many experts recommend burning sage for relaxation, focus, and combating daily stress, frustrations, and anxiety.
There are scientific pieces of evidence to support these claims. When it comes to banishing negativity and promoting overall wellness, a study revealed that white sage is an important traditional remedy for treating anxiety, depression, and mood disorders in certain cultures. A separate investigation by the University of Mississippi found that white sage elevates mood levels, reduces stress, and even alleviates pain.
How does burning sage work?
According to one estimate, we will meet 10,000 (and possibly more) people in our lifetime. That’s a lot of people, and we humans emit energies- good and evil. Certain people radiate positive energy and others negative energy. These vibes can become infectious.
Have you ever noticed when you wake up on the wrong side of the bed or had an argument with someone, you can feel it like it’s a tangible layer of heaviness on you?
Burning sage is a good practice to banish lingering negativity and allows you to cleanse and reset yourself.
“Every human aura contains positive ions, but that does not necessarily mean positive energy. Positive ions behave like dust and influence our behaviour; our daily life can dictate our future. Burning sage gives off negative ions that neutralise the positive ions.
White sage, in particular, knows by itself where it is needed. When burned, the smoke from white sage seeks out an energetic field or person, just as if white sage knew where healing energies where needed. When the field has been cleansed and harmonised, it stops burning, or the smoke seeks another target,” explains Emilia Herting, Traditional Chinese Medicine Practitioner and Escapada Co-Founder.
Simply put, sage eliminates bacteria in the air. Sage is proven to have anti-microbial and anti-bacterial properties. “Sage smoke quickly enters the brain and is efficiently absorbed by the body. When sage is burned, it releases negative ions that put people in a positive mood,” Herting says.
Who is burning sage recommended to?
Burning sage can be a valuable ritual for people embarking on their spiritual journey. It can be helpful to have a focus for setting intentions and a cleansed sacred space for meditation and introspection practices. It is also valuable for experienced healers who may be acutely attuned to the energies and frequencies of their clients and need to clear their workspace.
Keep in mind that burning sage creates smoke and breathing in smoke carries some possible risks. While it is generally safe to practice around children and pets, be aware of any possible respiratory conditions they might have. Wait until the smoke clears before allowing others to enter the room.
What are the health benefits of burning sage?
Although scant hard evidence supports burning sage as a means to better health, Brindle says: “It’s certainly becoming increasingly popular as a way to boost mood, relieve stress, and even improve sleep.”
She adds: “In fact, the name sage comes from the Latin ‘salvia’, which means to feel healthy. So it is far from being a new fad; the practice has been used in some form for thousands of years for health and well-being.”
Sage has been used since ancient Egyptians and Romans to treat digestive issues, memory problems, and sore throats. Other benefits of burning sage include imparting wisdom and clarity and increasing spiritual awareness.
In skincare, sage is widely known for strengthening damaged skin barriers and clary sage extract (sclareolide). It’s proven to soothe, calm and repair weakened skin and improve its tolerance. Clary sage is the key ingredient in the Clarins Calm-Essential range.
Expert-approved tips for burning sage and tools you need
1. Get your tools ready
The good news is that you only need a few tools to get your burning sage ritual started. Brindle says you need: “Just a sage bundle, which can be purchased from metaphysical and new age shops or easily made at home, and a suitable container to safely catch the ash – a clay bowl or a small cauldron would be ideal.
Some people like to have feathers or a fan to hand so that the smoke can be guided around the space being smudged.”
There are several types of sage in the market. However, experts recommend using white sage as this is widely used in the field of healing and has proven benefits.
“Genuine white sage has the botanical name salvia apiana, also known as California white sage, sacred sage, and bee sage. This sage is usually silvery-white in appearance and colour and can vary from light green, to lavender, to grey depending on the season and amount of rain. The wonderful aroma of salvia apiana smells earthy, minty, and herbaceous. Remember that the intention and cultivation of this product are just as important as buying organic food.”
2. Set your intentions
Burning sage can give you a positive environment for meditation or other rituals. “Before the burning sageritual, it is helpful to take a few deep, mindful breaths and set an intention of what you want to release from your life or even what you would like to attract into your life,” says Brindle.
3. Prep your surroundings
“Before lighting the white sage, open the door or window so the unwanted energy has a way to get out,” says Herting. This way, heavy smoke can easily be dispersed.
“Hold the sage at a 45-degree angle, light it, let it burn for about 20 seconds, and then gently blow out the flame so that you see orange embers at one end. Then you can begin to cleanse your room. Once you have aired the room and lit the sage, walk around the room, including the corners and ask the unwanted energy to leave the room, both in your mind and by speaking aloud by saying, ‘Any energy that is not for my highest and best good should leave’,” advises Herting.
Brindle adds: “Allow the dense smoke to be wafted around your body and all around the space you want to cleanse. After your ritual, make sure that you completely extinguish your sage stick by dabbing it into your bowl.”
If you are on the go, Herring recommends taking a ‘sage spray’ with you.
“It is my favourite alternative when I am in a smoke-free zone. It’s easy to carry around, and it smells great. Also, I love using sage spray in hotels – think of how many people have used their energy in a single hotel room.
My favourite spray is from Paper Crane Apothecary, £25.60. It’s called ‘Clean Slate’ and is a smokeless mist. It contains sage oil, crystal essences and palo santo oil, another plant that helps clean a room.”
When is the best time to burn sage, and how frequently should it be burnt?
According to Brindle, a burning sage ritual can be performed at any time, especially when you want an ‘energy reset.’
“If you are holding a meditation session, or perhaps you have had people in your home who you feel have left a negative atmosphere. The ritual can be performed as often as desired but do bear in mind that not everyone can tolerate smoke, so be aware of anyone who may have respiratory sensitivities,” she advises.
Disclaimer: Burning sage may have certain benefits and has been long used in traditional medicine and spiritual practices.
This article is for informational purposes only. It is not, nor is it intended to be, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment and should never be relied upon for specific medical advice. To the extent that this article features the advice of physicians or medical practitioners, the views expressed are the views of the cited expert.
Breathe positivity into your life. Read next: Relaxation Breathing Techniques To Create Serenity
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