Sage Uses and Benefits

by Victoria Finlay

What is Sage?

Sage is a fantastic medicinal herb that has been used since ancient times. Sage belongs to the Salvia plant family and it's name is derived from the Latin word 'salvere', which means "to heal, cure or save." Aside from the metaphysical uses of smoke cleansing, research is showing us that sage can also be used to benefit our physical, mental, and emotional well-being.

Sage has a long history of use in Egyptian, Roman, and Greek medicine, as well as in Native American and Chinese healing traditions. Dried sage is burned as a way to heal, protect, increase wisdom, and boost defense against disease.

Benefits of Using Sage

While sage has deep historical roots, that doesn’t mean it isn’t relevant in modern medicine. 

A number of recent studies have shown that medicinal smokes, such as sage have powerful antimicrobial, antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties, can improve mood and cognition, can serve as an insect repellant, and can even help with sleep quality by easing insomnia

Researchers are currently holding it under the microscope as a natural treatment for a whole host of issues including; Depression, Dementia, Obesity, Lupus, Heart Disease and Cancer. 

Sage is known to be great for relieving congestion, coughs, and cold symptoms. In addition to being delicious, sage can also help with common issues such as indigestion and sore throat. 

Using Sage Spiritually

Indigenous woman using White Sage to smudge and meditate

Spiritually speaking, burning sage and other dried plants such as sweetgrass - also known as ‘smudging’ or ‘saining’ - is thought to ward off negative energy and toxicity. You can think of it like clearing the slate for more positivity to enter your space.

“Smudging is the process of burning dried plants or other natural elements and then using the smoke to cleanse themselves, objects, or even places,” According to Rosalyn LaPier, Ph.D., an award-winning Indigenous writer and ethnobotanist. 

“Usually the dried plants are burned over a hot coal placed in a large shell or on the ground. The person places both hands over the smoke, takes the smoke within her hands, and beginning with her head and continuing downward, ‘washes’ her entire body with the smoke.”

Burning Sage

This ancient Native American practice remains in popular use today. As it gains more popularity in mainstream culture, however, it’s important to honor the cultural roots of smudging before giving it a go. 

If you're new to the practice of smoke cleansing, there are a few items you'll need to get started. Traditionally, people use an abalone shell to hold the sage - this could be an incense tray or a bowl to catch the ashes as the sage burns -  and use a feather to fan and spread the smoke around the space once the sage is burning. Be careful not to use a flammable container. 

How To Smoke Cleanse With Sage

  1. Prepare - Gather your tools and open a door or window before lighting the bundle, this gives the negative energy and smoke a pathway to get out.
  2. Set Your Intention - Intentions are central to the practice of smoke cleansing, so take a moment before you light the sage to determine what exactly it is that you're trying to purify or release from your space. Then decide on a mantra that represents this intention, it can be something you come up with on your own, or a phrase you connect with like; “I let go and release what no longer serves me.” Close your eyes, take a few deep, slow breaths and make a clear intention to remove all negative energy, low vibrations, and emotional blockages.

  3. Light The Bundle - Gather your sage in one hand, hold it at a 45-degree angle and light the end of your bundle using a match or candle. Be sure to light the sage evenly, and — after letting it burn for about 20 seconds — the flame should go out on its own. (If it doesn't, use your feather or your hand to fan the flames out.) The idea is to let the flame burn for some time so that when the flame goes out, a red ember will still be there creating smoke. 

  4. Cleanse Yourself First - Cup your hands together and capture the sage smoke as if you’re catching water from a faucet. “Wash” yourself with the sage smoke as if you’re in the shower and continue to think about throwing away the negative emotions and energy weighing you down. Continue to move the cleansing sage smoke all around your head, torso, limbs, feet, and hands. Imagine a warm, comforting white light surrounding your body, your heart, and your mind. Keep cleansing until you begin to feel a positive shift in your mood. When done with strong intent, you should start to feel lighter after just a few passes over your body.

  5. Cleanse Your Space - Slowly walk around your space and allow the smoke to waft around. Guide the smoke—and the bad energy—toward the open windows or a door, so it can escape. Give special attention to areas in front of mirrors, in corners, and in spaces like foyers, hallways, and doorways. You can also cleanse technology like our phones or laptops by holding the sage wand underneath them and then waving it around them.

  6. Extinguishing the Sage - It’s important that you let the sage finish burning on it’s own, if you need to extinguish sooner you can press the burning tip firmly into your fireproof vessel, dirt, or sand until the smoke no longer rises. Don't use water to extinguish the hot embers—it will ruin the tip of the stick and make it harder to light next time. When you are done using the smudge stick, you can keep it in a vessel until you are ready to use it again 

Be Safe - Always stay present! If you see little embers fall on the ground, tamp them out immediately. Never let the burning sage stay unattended for any reason. Also, take care not to inhale too much of the smoke.

Where to Find Sage

As smudging becomes more popular, there has been a huge uptick in sage providers who are overharvesting the plant so it's important to use sage that's been collected sustainably. If it will be used for your energy clearing ritual, it's important for your smudge stick to be deliberately prepared and handled with care and thoughtfulness. 

White sage is the most common variety you'll find in a smoke cleansing stick, since the color is associated with purity but blue sage, and high mountain sage are used in a similar way. You can find our sage bundles here.
Other dried plants such as juniper, cedar, sweetgrass, rosemary, eucalyptus and lavender can also be used to clear energy if sage isn’t your thing. 

Using Sage Respectfully

The practice of burning sage is sacred within many communities and deserves our respect. It's something we should always be doing with intention, reverence, and deep gratitude to those who did it before us.

This ancient Indigenous practice is widespread today, but it wasn’t always. The practice was criminalized and made illegal for Indigenous People by European colonizers for hundreds of years, and it’s only survived through the resilience & strength of First Nations. As it gains more popularity in mainstream culture, it’s important to honour the cultural roots of burning sage before giving it a go.

There is some debate about whether or not non-Indigenous people should burn sage, and unfortunately, it will likely forever be a debate. There are hundreds of First Nations across Turtle Island; some openly share and encourage the practice, while others do not. It's up to each person to ensure they're respectful in their practices and always with good intentions.

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