The Sacred art of Smudging - Herb guide

Smudging is a world wide ancient spiritual practice. Many cultures of the world use a wide variety of different plants and herbs other than sage. One of the most important basics of smudging is seeing ALL plants as sacred.

With so many different herbs available, so many uses and different ways to burn them it can be quite overwhelming knowing which herb may be the best for you and the purpose you intend.

Here at No.9 HQ we have decided to put together a list of different types of herbs, woods and the ways in which we can use them.

Please note: Smudging may not be suitable for people with respiratory conditions or around young children, the smoke is quite heavy and profuse when the smudge is being burned. It is also not suitable for pregnant women, the below is not intended as medical advice but merely as a guide.

The practice of smudging and these plants are considered sacred medicine to many Native American/Indigenous Nations so it is important to understand and respect its history. As a non-native myself, I dedicate myself to purchasing all sacred medicine from companies that work with Native American/Indigenous Nations only.

Starting off, il group some of the herbs & woods together by intention followed by a more in depth summary of each…

Love, strength and growth - Yerba Santa, Rosemary, Lemongrass, Copal. Cleanse - All species of Sage, Rosemary, Copal, Lemongrass, Sweetgrass. Stress, anxiety and depression - Palo Santo, lavender, Rosemary. Relaxation - Palo Santo, Lavender. Protection - Cedar, Juniper, Desert Sage, Mugwort, Osha Root. Blessings, offerings, light - Cedar, Pinion, Copal, Sweetgrass. Congestion, anti viral, respiratory issues - Osha Root, Eucalyptus, Yerba santa, Lemongrass, Red Willow.

Now…for more of an in depth look at various herbs, lets kickstart with the most commonly used one of all;

White Sage - This sacred plant belongs to the Salvia plant family and is most commonly used for its abilities to cleanse not just spaces, but ritual related items too. It hosts a wide range of antimicrobial and antibacterial properties making this an absolute powerhouse for cleansing our space and the very air that we breathe. It is the most powerful herb of all if you are after a deep cleanse and ridding negative energy.

White Sage has an extremely distinctive smell which is like marmite, people either love it or loathe it. So with this in mind and Blue Sage being its closest relative, Blue Sage generally has a less pungent smell once burned so this may work better for you if you think White is too strong.

Blue sage - Cleansing & healing. This herb tends to be more relaxing and less overpowering than white sage so its a great herb to choose if you intend to cleanse smaller spaces. A great choice before meditation work, yoga or any holistic therapies.

Desert Sage - Purifying & protection. This Sage holds the same cleansing properties as white sage but the scent is entirely different; slightly peppery and is a great plant for relieving headaches, anxiety, depression and overthinking. Desert Sage is used to ward off bad feelings, influences and driving out bad spirits. Copal - Copal is tree sap originating from Mexico that is similar to Frankincense. When burned it has a crisp, clean, sharp scent that is almost citrus-like. Copal is sacred to the native peoples of Mexico and considered to be a gift to 'pleasing the gods.' Because copal is the “blood of trees”, it is offered to honour nature and our precious planet.

Burning Copal is best done on Charcoal Tablets. If not, Copal incense can also be purchased (made from the sap, not artificial scents).

Mugwort - From its use as an incense, for smudging, or spellwork, mugwort is a highly versatile plant! In shamanistic practices it is used for purification so it would generally be used at the start and end of a ceremony. This sacred plant has an affiliation with the moon and connects strongly to women and the uterus. It can help relieve symptoms of menopause, help regulate the menstrual cycle and other womb related issues. Due to these powerful, potent womb powers pregnant women must not ingest Mugwort as it may lead to miscarriage.

In Chinese medicine mugwort is used in Moxa therapy to increase circulation and lymph flow.

In some countries the plant can even have hallucinogenic properties.

A truly powerful plant!!!!

Sweetgrass - Attracts good spirits and positive energy. Sweetgrass is long fragrant grass that is usually braided and dried out. Ancient lore states that Sweetgrass is the hair of the Earth and is a sacred plant amongst American tribes, commonly used to invoke honesty, love and kindness.

The best way to burn Sweetgrass is by cutting off small pieces and burn on top of a charcoal disc. Generally Sweetgrass has a hay type smell with notes of Vanilla.

Yerba Santa - Love, purification and growth. A sweet smelling holy herb that has grounding qualities and neutralises diseases. It is generally used to honour our ancestors and invoke peace and understanding.

Yerba Santa is part of the Waterleaf family so it is closely linked to the Water element, great for people who need to release any emotional blockages - great for the Heart chakra!

This plant is also extremely powerful when used in a Tincture to help clear the lungs and support the respiratory system.

Palo Santo - Palo Santo literally translates to Holy Wood in Spanish and is related to Frankincense and Myrrh. It was traditionally used for colds, flu and relieving symptoms of stress. Burn this wood to purify your space by clearing out negative energy and relieve symptoms of anxiety.

Palo Santo essential oil can be used to promote healthy muscles, joints, boost immunity and concentration.

If you are using both a smudge stick and Palo, use the sage of your choice first then Palo after by burning the stick for up to 30 seconds. Once the flame has stopped and it’s smoking, waft the stick around your space.

Lavender - the queen of relaxation, this gorgeous smelling plant instantly induces relaxation and peace of mind. A popular plant used throughout Europe as an invitation for the spirits and invite love. In ancient times lavender was an important herb used in mummification and was also given to women in labor as the fragrance released was known to calm the pain. Lavender sachets were also given to married couples to bring good fortune and peace. Lavender essential oil is one of few that’s suitable for pregnant women to use. Although please do seek medical advice before using any essential oils. The best way to burn Lavender is to scatter the buds over a charcoal disc on a fireproof dish. Great for stress, exhaustion and depression.

Cedar - Renewal and Protection - Cedar trees are very old, wise and powerful spirits. It is often used to cleanse a home when first moving in, inviting unwanted spirits to leave and to protect a person, place or object from unwanted influences.

Cedar is a wonderful plant to reconnect with the spiritual and the divine. It is also used homeopathically for those who experience self-loathing, feelings of worthlessness or shame.

Juniper - Juniper has more of a sweet and spicy "Christmas tree" fragrance and abundant blue berries. Like Cedar, Juniper is probably one of the most ancient plants. Juniper is said to have a masculine, protective energy and is used in spells of cleansing and prosperity.

Juniper berries are popular in good luck charms, while the leaves are often used for smudging. Juniper is best used for blessing a new venture and inviting in abundance.

Rosemary - Rosemary is known to to be soothing and encourages a sense of peace within your environment. It helps remove negative energy from places and spaces so because of this, Rosemary is known to be added into a mix with Sage Bundles.

Rosemary is associated with Aphrodite & Venus, so it makes a key ingredient in powerful passion spells. Rosemary and juniper burned together drive staleness from your home after a bout of illness and when infused into a bath it can remove worry and invigorate the spirit!

Lemongrass - Strength, purification and growth. Cleansing is one of the primary attributes of lemongrass, in magickal uses every part of the lemongrass stalk including the blade of grass may be used. Lemongrass may be dried and cut up into smaller chunks for use in herbal mixes, spiritual preparations like baths or anointing oils and for use in love spells. When this is dried out, cut into small pieces and burn on a charcoal disc.

Citronella oil is also produced from a species of Lemongrass.

Eucalyptus - Amazing at relieving congestion, this plant is highly antiseptic, boosts brain function and lowers blood pressure.

You can also burn the leaves individually or crumble them onto a charcoal disc to increase their burning time. Burning Eucalyptus is an important medicinal and cultural tool for Australian Aborigines.

Another way we can use Eucalyptus: Grab a bunch of fresh stems and tie it to your shower head or anywhere else it can hang in the shower - the steam extracts its healing oils from the leaves and disperses its refreshing scent in the steam. What a great way to start your morning!

Osha Root - Commonly known as Bear Root. This plant grows mainly in the Rocky mountains and is used to invite the bear spirit medicine. The Bear takes on strong, grounding energy. Osha is an important medicine often used for infections, a powerful immune booster known to fight off a number of viral infections. A good plant to consider during this pandemic - good for lung diseases and pneumonia. The root is considered a talisman to many native peoples and is carried as a good luck charm.

You can either directly burn Osha root, steam it and ingest as a tea or simply chew on it to prevent colds.

Red Willow Bark - Clearing, a great plant for meditation. Within the Native American culture, it is often used in ceremonies to show respect or give spiritual protection. On a social level it can be shared with close friends and family to promote kinship.

Usually comes loose in a bag, best burnt on top of a charcoal disc. It is also smoked with Tobacco and other herbs, although it is not addictive like Tobacco. Also used in teas, tinctures or simply chewed to relieve headaches and aid a restful nights sleep.

Pine - Healing, protection, purifying - Like all evergreens, Pine is associated with prosperity and good health. In Druid lore, the Pine tree stands for persistence, moderation, and self-confidence. Pine needles were traditionally used to bless a new home due to its cleansing abilities.

The needles and shoots are rich in Vitamin A and C. Use the cones and needles in a bath for breathing disorders, skin complaints, and rheumatic pain. The essential oil is used in aromatherapy for its antiseptic, antiviral and diuretic properties.

Meditate with Pine to help alleviate your dark moods.

It is also good if you suffer from guilt, and if you have a hard time being satisfied with your achievements.

A renewal of energy can be obtained by sitting under a pine tree.

Most plants are burnt in a flame resistant bowl such as an Abalone shell. These shells were believed by Native Americans to combine its spiritual powers to that of the burnt sage to send messages to the gods, it is also connected to the water element / spirits. The Maori people would use these mesmerising shells in all kinds of warrior artwork and when worn, they believed the shell strengthened the heart of the wearer.

Abalone is a type of Sea Snail which is currently massively over harvested specifically for its shell. It’s shell has become widely popular, not just for smudging uses but also for jewellery design. For this reason we have replaced this shell with a more sustainable shell, using the waste from Scallop fisheries that would usually be thrown away.

Notes: Its extremely important to be clear on your intention at the start of your ceremony. Combining your personal will power to the frequencies of the universe we can really tap into higher frequencies to aid a deeper level of healing. Sometimes its best to keep your ceremonies short and to the point (unless you go into a state of meditation) as the mind can start to wonder and you can get distracted. Remember to be present with the smudging process as it's happening and be grateful to the plant for allowing us to use their body to heal us and our space.

Every time we perform a ceremony we are creating more balance within ourselves that enables us to connect and act in a way that is harmonious to other living beings and the Earth. By physically and energetically communicating to our soul we can invoke our best qualities to live out in our daily lives which makes us more compassionate and grateful.

Learn more about rituals and the importance of timing. COMING SOON! Sign up to our newsletter to be notified of new articles.