Burning sage is also known as smudging and is an ancient spiritual ritual.
It has been established as a tribal practice, especially in Native American cultures, which include the Lakota, Cahuilla, and Chumash.
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The smoke from the sacred fires or herbs was used in a ceremony to purify the individuals and even heal them.
Smudging was looked up to as a bridge to reach the higher realms and was also an avenue to get rid of emotional negativity that had found its place in a person.
This ancient practice was performed before a ceremony or even after a fight to clear the air.
The spiritual benefits of these practices were met with skepticism but their benefits were proven by science. Burning sage neutralizes positive charges and also bears antiseptic properties.
Burning Sage: Looking Through The Scientific Glasses
A paper was published in 2006, namely Medicinal Smokes, which reviewed information from 50 countries over different continents and found that smoke, when administered medicinally, can be used to assist lung, brain, and skin function. It was also seen that passive fumes could be used as air purifiers.
In another paper, the Journal of Ethnopharmacology, 2007 came to the conclusion that smudging was an antiseptic while offering several health benefits.
They observed that an hour’s treatment of smoke (Havana Sámagri) in a closed space reduced airborne bacteria by 94%.
Studies showed that:
“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 are 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.”
It also added that “the advantages of smoke-based remedies are rapid delivery to the brain, more efficient absorption by the body, and lower costs of production. This review highlights the fact that not enough is known about medicinal smoke and that a lot of natural products have the potential for use as medicine in the smoke form. This review argues in favor of the extended use of medicinal smoke in modern medicine as a form of drug delivery and as a promising source of new active natural ingredients.”
Physiological And Neural Effects Of Smudging
The Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology published a study in 2008, that talks about how burning incense activates ion channels in the brain to get rid of depression or stress.
Raphael Mechoulam, who was one of the researchers, stated:
“We found that incensole acetate, a Boswellia resin constituent, when tested in mice lowers anxiety and causes antidepressive-like behavior.”
It has also been said that burning sage may act as a blessing for individuals with bronchitis, allergies, and asthma. Inhaling the smoke during the process of smudging can aggravate your respiratory conditions, so wait until the smoke clears before entering the room.
People also believed that burning sage can help you achieve a healing state. This, too, has some scientific basis as sages like salvia sage and white prairie sage contain thujone. Thujone is slightly psychoactive and can enhance intuition.
Burning sage can also lift your spirits and banish negativity.
A 2014 study documented white prairie sage (also known as estafiate) as an important traditional remedy for treating anxiety, depression, and mood disorders in certain cultures.
Another study from 2016 by the University of Mississippi established that Salvia apiana is rich in compounds that activate certain receptors in the brain. These receptors are responsible for elevating mood levels, reducing stress, and even alleviating pain.
Burning of sage has several benefits with proper research backing the claims related to antimicrobial properties and enhanced alertness.
You must treat these practices with respect as it is still a sacred religious practice in several Native American cultures.