The Magic of Smudging (and the science behind it)
For thousands of years, people have burnt medicinal herbs, resins, woods and spices in order to "cleanse" sacred spaces, homes, hospitals and sick-wards. It is an ancient practice found across many tribes, on all continents and within every belief system. Yet many are sceptic about this ancient ritual and happily dismiss it to be one of those "new age fads" - all a little crazy but if it makes them happy kind of attitude.
However, something which has been taken so seriously for eons of time, cannot be completely ungrounded in truth. Our ancestors knew exactly what was good and what was harmful to them. Nature taught them how to survive and stay well by living in harmony with all that their environment had to offer. Medicinal plants were a big part of their culture and helped them stay and get well throughout the ages. Most of us lost touch with Mother Nature these past few centuries, but just because we forgot about the value of some of these practices, doesn't mean they have no truth within them.
Nowadays, we live by the credo of if it is scientifically proven, I will believe it. The wonderful news is that the value of smudging has been put to the the test.
A scientific study entitled “Medicinal Smokes” was published in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology in 2006. The study looked into herbal substances and remedies that were administered by the burning of these herbs.
This research included information from 50 countries over 5 continents and it was found that, when smoke is administered medicinally it mostly aids lung, brain and skin function. In addition, it was revealed that the passive fumes functioned as an air purifier.
A follow up paper published in the same paper, “Medicinal smoke reduces airborne bacteria,” found that the research concluded that, in addition to health benefits, smudging was a powerful antiseptic.
The study stated that:
“We have observed that 1 hour treatment of medicinal smoke emanated by burning wood and a mixture of odoriferous and medicinal herbs (havan sámagri=material used in oblation to fire all over India), on aerial bacterial population caused over 94% reduction of bacterial counts by 60 min and the ability of the smoke to purify or disinfect the air and to make the environment cleaner was maintained up to 24 hour in the closed room.
Absence of pathogenic bacteria Corynebacterium urealyticum, Curtobacterium flaccumfaciens, Enterobacter aerogenes (Klebsiella mobilis), Kocuria rosea, Pseudomonas syringae pv. persicae, Staphylococcus lentus, and Xanthomonas campestris pv. tardicrescens in the open room even after 30 days is indicative of the bactericidal potential of the medicinal smoke treatment.
We have demonstrated that by using medicinal smoke it is possible to completely eliminate diverse plant and human pathogenic bacteria of the air within a confined space.”
It was proven beyond doubt, that burning medicinal herbs cleared airborne bacterial populations by 94%, and the space was still found to be disinfected a day later. What’s more, a month after smudging, much of the pathogens originally found were still undetectable.
There are moments throughout history which powerfully prove this concept. During times of the black death, for example, those who had mercy and tried to ease the suffering made much use of medicinal, purifying smokes and herbal tinctures (the forerunners of today's essential oils) when treating the diseased in their places of healing. The burning of Frankincense, Sage, Cedar, Lavender, Thyme, Rosemary and Bay were common practice in early day hospitals and sick-wards in monasteries. Village healers, midwives and medicine men and women all knew of the protective medicinal powers of sacred smokes when treating the diseased and dying; and so did the ones who did the last honours by digging the graves and burying the dead. But it goes beyond the protection against offending pathogens. Even to this day it is still common practice In churches across Europe and Eurasia to "purify" body mind and spirit with a potent mixture of Myrrh and Frankincense during church service. Homes and people are blessed by stepping through sacred fires and smokes throughout many nations and evil spirits are warded off by ancient rituals involving fire blessings and holy smokes.
What science cannot conclusively prove (yet) is that the practice of smudging not only gets rid of bacteria and viruses, but also cleanses our finer, etheric bodies and energies in our environment. Their wholesome and anti-septic properties extend way beyond the physical realms and transmute anything that is unwholesome and "off". This our ancestors knew too, which is why the practice of smudging is still such a revered ceremony.
This is the power we harness when we smudge ourselves, our homes, our cyrstals, our lives. A powerful process of transmutation is set in motion, which rids us and our environment of harmful physical and non-physical substances and energies.
Below is a list of herbs, resins and sacred woods that you may like to try for your cleansing rituals. Creating smudge sticks from home-grown plants is fun and rewarding. The list below is by no means complete but these will usually give lovely results. If you do make your own, make sure you bind it all tightly and let it dry out completely before you burn them. Only the will they release their full aroma.
Herbs & Flowers:
Californian White Sage, Sweetgrass, Lavender, Rose, Rosemary, Bay, Thyme, Oregano, Mugwort, Lemongrass, Peppermint.
Frankincense, Mhyrr, Copal, Pinon Pine.
Woods and their leaves:
Palo Santo, Sandalwood, Cypress, Juniper, Cedar, Pine, Eucalyptus.
It is good practice to cleanse your home and crystals at least once a week. I tend to do this on Sunday mornings, as this is my "me-time" when I honour myself with some rest and non-doing. Burning a little before any meditations, ceremonies or festive days is a wonderful way to prepare, cleanse and connect with your higher self before stepping into the sacredness of the moment.
If you have a house full of germs and illness, such as the flu and colds which are curently going round, then it is an excellent time to get out the smudging sticks and give your whole house a good blast. Go round each and every room in your home and give it a good smoking, particularly in the corners. Let it do its job for a while and then open all your windows wide for a while, so it can all clear away. You will be surprised how different you will all feel and how all of a sudden, the worst of the disease seems to be over.