Smudging is Native Americans practiced ancient ceremony historians believe for centuries. It’s the name given to the ceremonial, daily act of purification and cleansing which uses a selection of herbs, often sage, which are bundled together with string to create a smudge stick before being ignited.
The smoke emitted from the herb bundle is thought to cleanse negative energy and purify living spaces. It is also believed to cleanse people as well as objects like tools, home decor, and furniture. The practice is similar to washing your hands before a meal. It helps cleanse a person in an energetic bath of aromatic smoke. Practitioners believe it releases negative ions, which has been linked in studies to a more positive mood as well as other benefits.
Here are five benefits of smudging.
1. Nature’s antidepressant
Research suggests that the negative ions produced from smudging offer some substantial antidepressant benefits without the side effects of modern pharmaceutical medicines. Dr. Clarence Hansell, a research engineer who studied the biological effects of negative ions in the air in the 1930s after noticing that the mood of one of his colleagues changed in response to ions being generated by their equipment, discovered that his colleague was happier when the machine produced negative ions and more melancholy when it produced positive ions. In what’s considered an extension of Hansell’s work, a controlled study published in 1998 in the Archives of General Psychiatry, which focused on season affective disorder, or SAD, researchers found fresh air changed with negative ions served as an effective treatment and prevention method of depression, thanks to its effects on serotonin levels, similar to how antidepressant drugs work in the body.
2. Increasing energy
Studies have found that negative ions also help to normalize serotonin (a hormone associated with feeling good) in the brain, which can help boost one’s mood while improving focus and creating a more positive outlook.
Smudging can also offer calming, relaxing effects that are known to relieve stress and tension, lower blood pressure, and normalize breathing rates as the negative ions it produces are absorbed directly into the bloodstream. They may even help to fight off damaging free radicals that can lead to diseases and premature aging.
Not only can smudging cleanse a room, but it can also cleanse objects. Whenever you bring a new object into your home, especially if it’s an antique that’s likely been exposed to a lot of negative energy over the years, you can use a smudge stick, allowing the smoke to pass over the object clearing it, so it doesn’t affect you or your space.
An Italian study showed evidence that negative ions can even help improve sleep patterns while having positive effects on regulating serotonin production.
How To Smudge Your Living Space
“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,’ ” Criger advises. “Native American medicines must be treated with reverence, so once you’ve acquired the herbs, clear out a bookshelf or an honored place in your home that is above waist height to store them. You may want to find birch baskets to keep them in.”