sage

Who doesn’t love a warm, fragrant home? Have you used natural plants to freshen the air? Smudging your home with sage, sweetgrass and palo santo is an outstanding alternative to burning incense or using those awful chemical air fresheners.

As the weather warms and we begin our spring cleaning marathons, it’s natural to turn to incense sticks to clear out old energy and make the place smell nice. But commercial incense can be loaded with unnatural fragrances and may even be harmful to your health.

Called “smudging” burning botanicals in their natural state can be done any time to give your home a fresh and clean scent. Unlike incense, you don’t leave these to burn unattended, but work with the smoke while lit. The scent will linger for a long time, even once it’s stopped burning.

Here’s how to smudge:

Sage: If your only relationship to sage begins and ends at Thanksgiving stuffing, you’re in for a treat. The sage plant has been revered by tribal cultures for ages for its purifying and cleansing benefits and for warding off evil. If the only evil you’re interested in protection from is the odor of a house under winter lock-down, you can benefit greatly from using a dried sage bundle.

What you do: Either wild harvest sage if you have access to it (we find it regularly here in Southern California) or buy a sage bundle. These can sometimes be found at health food stores, farmers markets or online.

Light the end of the sage so you get a good flame going and then blow it out so it’s just smoking. Walk through your house blowing the smoke in all directions. Repeat as necessary. Put out by rolling the lit end into a ceramic dish.

A regular sage bundle should last you many uses.

Sweetgrass: Long treasured in Native American ceremonies, sweetgrass is known for its unmistakably sweet aroma. It can be found all across the U.S. in wet meadows, low prairies, lakeshores and canyons. But if wild harvesting isn’t on your radar, you can find it available dried. It’s identifiable by its signature woven braid that keeps the grasses together.

What you do: If you’re using a new sweetgrass braid, cut the end off if it looks more dried out than the rest of the braid. You want it to be slightly green when you burn, and often the ends are more dried out.

Lighting sweetgrass is best done with a long-stem lighter as it requires a longer time to light than sage. Hold the braid in the flame and rotate so all sides get lit. Give it a good blow and a shake. You should see smoke and no flames, and smell a sweet, almost vanilla-like fragrance. Follow the same smudging technique as with sage, moving around your house.

Palo Santo: A tree related to frankincense, myrrh and copal, Palo Santo (“holy wood”) grows in the coastal regions of South America. This sustainably harvested tree has been used in shamanic ceremonies for its cleansing and healing benefits. And you can find it now for sale in the U.S. In our neighborhood a local artisan store sells it and so does a crystal shop. You can also find it online. The fragrance is sweet and has hints of mint and sage to it but is really a scent of its own.

What you do: Light a stick of Palo Santo holding one end in the flame, allowing it to burn for at least 30 seconds. Then, blow it out and follow the same smudging instructions to freshen your home with its rich and soothing scent.

Find Jill on Twitter @jillettinger

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Image: Rising Moon