The Science of Smudging: How Sage Actually Cleans Bacteria In The Air

The practice of smudging dates back to prehistoric times, and is still very much in use today worldwide for cleansing everything from dwellings to human spirits. However recent research has shed light on the popularity of this activity, revealing that burning certain plant matter actually clears harmful bacteria.

All Western use of burning herbs and plants for spiritual purposes aside, the activity rests firmly in the sensibilities of ancient cultures in that, historically, smudging was believed to put forth the spirits of various ‘allies’ to provide ease and balance to an individual or group.shutterstock_119042176

In this way, the practice was used to clear spiritual and emotional negativity that has built up in a body or a space.

Of course, there are skeptics who belittle the practice as unscientific and akin to magic.

The practice has a negative association to a form of cultural imperialism, where traditions of dwindling indigenous populations are co-opted by the descendants of those who more-or-less conquered them.

The scientific paper entitled “Medicinal Smokes” and published in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology focuses a scientific lens on the practice, which is becoming more and more widely practiced, despite skepticism.

It serves to play against the role that this activity has played in a culturally diverse range of religions and tribal beliefs.

The research study looked into herbal and non-herbal remedies that were administered by the burning of various matter.

The research included information from 50 countries over 5 continents and found that, predominantly, smoke administered medicinally is mostly used to aid lung, brain and skin function. In addition, it was revealed that passive fumes doubled as a sort of air purifier.

The purpose of the study was to see whether or not these medicinal smoke deliveries could be explored by western medicine, because “The advantages of smoke-based remedies are rapid delivery to the brain, more efficient absorption by the body and lower costs of production.”

A follow up paper published in the same periodical, “Medicinal smoke reduces airborne bacteria,” found that the research concluded that, in addition to health benefits, smudging was a powerful antiseptic.


“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 using medicinal smoke it is possible to completely eliminate diverse plant and human pathogenic bacteria of the air within confined space.”

In short, 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.

This has profound implications, as modern air quality in the developed and undeveloped world is atrocious, containing up to 1800 bacterial typesmany of them pathogenic. With an increasing deadly array of antibacterial-resistant strains, we’ll need all the help we can get.

Conventional methods of sterilization often employ chemical cocktails that are typically much less effective than purported. Smudging seems to be an effective alternative, while also being natural and safe to use.

In conclusion, the ancient practice of burning powerful herbal material may be much much more than just a primitive belief that we can simply disregard due to it being unscientific.

Of course, this should not take away from the properties of smudging in the area of energy system and soul cleansing and in the power of aromatherapy.

124 thoughts on “The Science of Smudging: How Sage Actually Cleans Bacteria In The Air”

    1. The Indian Store in Ventura ,Ca. ; Wandering Bull on the East coast or as Patrícia White suggested, google Smudging or Sage Bundles.

    1. You can go to any mystical or general spiritual (not Christian) store. Sometimes they sell them at head shops (tobacco product stores).

    2. Look around for any type of shop that sells crystals, tarot cards and books on self improvement. Chances are, if they don’t sell sage bundles, they will know who does locally. While this can be associated with native culture, it is also a practise that many others do. Wisdom isn’t racial.

    3. Google maps native American trading Post .. one love .. my experience with smudging has been tremdously effective at clearing space and highly recommend doing it at least once a week a nice alternative to sage is Palo Santo ..?

    4. You can google it to see what stores are in your area. There are stores around that sell crystals, sage, and other holistic and spiritual items. Or try Amazon. Good luck, and enjoy smudging!

    5. You can make your own smudge sticks by drying sage, and tying it into a bundle with cotton thread. You can also add other herbs and even flowers like lavender etc. have a google around and you are sure to find some tutorials. Or just head to any health food store and ask, they usually have smudge sticks.

    6. Google sage and you can buy it online from a multitude of sites. Or any new age store in your town will have it.

    7. Find sage bundles for smudging at many health foods stores. Sprouts is one of the most widely located stores where it is sold.

    8. Crazy Crow online. Google Sage and you will find many places that sell White Sage as well as other Plants used by Native Americans for Cleansing and Spiritual practices.

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