All Of The Ins And Outs Of Burning Sage In Your Home

The ancient practice of burning sage, also known as smudging, is a sacred spiritual ceremony. It is still performed in many religions and cultures today, most notably by Native Americans and Indigenous peoples.


The goal of smudging is to clear out stale, negative energy and welcome in the spirits of one's ancestors. It is also commonly used as a way to bless your space, protect yourself from harmful spirits, or purify the soul from others' bad energy or negative intentions. According to Legends of America, burning sage is also used by many tribes and cultures for medicinal purposes.

Such practices were once banned in North America, per Willy Street Co-op. This ban forced native peoples to practice them in secret until as recently as 1978. Since then, burning sage has grown in popularity amongst non-native cultures.

For example, many people find burning sage in their homes is a valuable tool for clearing and cleansing their space. They use it to remove negative energies, promote healing, and invite in ancient wisdom. The ceremony is more complicated than it appears, leading those who wish to perform it to feel overwhelmed by the many steps and its cultural importance.


Now, let's discuss the ins and outs of burning sage in your home, paying special attention to the sacred aspects of the ceremony it stems from and how to honor its history as you sage your living space.

The basics of burning sage

From the outside, burning sage for ceremonial purposes is relatively simple. A smoke stick is a bundle made up of various plants and herbs and tied together with string, twine, or ribbon (via the Chestnut School of Herbal Medicine). The smoke stick is ignited with a flame, which can come from a match, a lighter, or the flame from an already lit candle.


The flames are left to burn on the edges of the smoke stick for a short period before being blown out. The resulting smoldering embers release the sacred smoke, which can be wafted around a person, place, or object in need of clearing. Many people do this around their homes whether once they purchase a new home or after a big life transition, such as after the passing of a loved one. Others may even opt perform this ritual in their workspace or other arenas where they want to start anew.

Choose your smoke stick

The most important item for burning sage in your home is the smoke stick. This bundle of sacred plants and herbs varies depending on the culture, tribe, and location, although white sage, Salvia apiana, is the most common ingredient.


Other herbs, each with their spiritual significance, are also present. These include cedar, lavender, rosemary, pine, sweet grass, tobacco, and juniper, among others. Other types of sage such as garden sage are also common. According to Chopra, in a traditional smudging ceremony, these plants are viewed as gifts from Mother Earth and represent the earth element.

Smudge sticks can be purchased online or in alternative healing shops. However, if you're feeling crafty, you can make your beautiful bundle with dried herbs from your garden and a bit of twine. What's more, the Chestnut School of Herbal Medicine notes that the increased popularity of burning sage has led to overharvesting and unsustainable farming practices of white sage. If you choose to buy a pre-made sage bundle, it is important to purchase from sustainably sourced farmers, preferably from shops owned by Native Americans.


Prepare your space

Burning sage is as much of a mindfulness practice as it is a healing and cleansing ceremony. Per Chopra, you should aim to create a tidy, distraction-free space before you begin burning sage in your home. Clearing your home of major messes and clutter is scientifically proven to help increase focus, reduce stress, and help achieve better peace of mind. 


A vital part of the sage burning ceremony is making sure the negative energy you clear has a place to escape. It is important to go around your home and open the windows and doors before starting. Doing so lets in plenty of light and fresh air, while also acting as a direct exit for the trapped or negative energies. You don't need to do a deep, top to bottom clean of your home before you burn sage. A light clean-up of any big messes is more than enough to help the process along.

Set your intention and prayer

Before you begin burning sage in your home, it is important to set your intention for the ritual. This can include your desire to clear a specific type of negative energy from your space, such as ongoing anxiety. It could also be a general acknowledgment of gratitude for your home, your health, or your ability to live with balance and harmony.


According to Chopra, there are many ways to go about setting your intention for spiritual practice. Some people view this type of purposeful intention-setting as a form of prayer or meditation. You can write down your intention for the sage burning or simply state it aloud.

It is always best to state your intention in a positive way and to embrace being open and welcoming of what the universe has in store. An example of a positive intention might be "I cleanse my home of negativity and toxic thoughts" or "I am grateful for this safe space I call home."

Native Americans and Indigenous peoples believe this sacred ceremony connects humans to the divine. You don't have to be a religious person to appreciate the spiritual aspects of the ritual or to set a prayer-like intention. However, opening yourself up to the ancient wisdom of the universe and choosing a respectful intention during your practice honors the origins of the ceremony. It also honors the people who practice it.


Gather your materials

Once you have prepared your space and readied your mind for the spiritual practice of burning sage, you can begin to gather the rest of your materials.

The Spruce notes that, in addition to a smoke stick, there are several important supplies to have on hand during your clearing ceremony. Traditionally, the smudging ceremony calls forn abalone shell for holding the smoke stick, which represents the water element; fire from a match, lighter, or lit candle to light the sage and represent the fire element; and a feather to represent the air element and waft the smoke around the room (via My Lumina).


If you don't have an abalone shell, a fireproof container such as a clay bowl will also work. This bowl is used to catch the ash from the smoke stick. Waving the smoke with your hand can also be substituted for a feather. It is also wise to have a bowl of sand nearby to properly extinguish the smudge stick when you are finished clearing the space.

Alternative materials

Depending on where you are, it may not always be possible to complete the full ritual with your sacred materials. For example, if you are traveling, it is unlikely that you will be able to complete a clearing ritual with a burning smoke stick in your hotel room. Finding appropriately sourced materials from native-owned shops can also be a difficult task, depending on where you live.


In either case, there are plenty of alternative materials that you can use as a backup for on-the-go or spontaneous clearing rituals, as explained by energy practitioner Colleen McCann to Vogue. Sage spray is a smoke-free mist that contains sage oil. Many sage sprays are blended with other sacred herbs and oils, such as copal or palo santo oil. You can spray the mist around your home in the same way you would waft the smoke, ensuring the windows are open to allow the mist to carry the negative energy out.

Some people don't like the scent of burning sage or the way it lingers in their homes. Luckily, there are a handful of alternative plants and herbs like sweet grass, lavender, or cedar. According to Legends of America, all of these natural plants and herbs have a symbolic role in clearing ceremonies. If you can't find these scents, focus on selecting scents with fresh, uplifting properties like orange or citrus.


What's more, tuning forks and other sound vibration tools are great alternatives to burning sage in your home (via Sage Goddess). They are helpful for transmuting negative energy into positive energy.

Light your sage bundle with care

Once you are ready to begin, hold the sage bundle at a 45-degree angle and light the end using a match, lighter, or other sources of flame. Once lit, allow the bundle to burn for 20 to 30 seconds before gently blowing out the flame (via Legends of America). The resulting embers will smolder and produce a steady plume of fragrant, sacred smoke.


Lighting your sage bundle in this manner is ideal for keeping the stick from sputtering out halfway through your clearing ritual. However, if your smoke stick does go out or stops producing smoke, simply repeat the original lighting steps to get the smoke flowing again.

According to Eco Age, if you want to lean into a sustainable smudging routine, you can burn a leaf or two of the herbs you have at a time. In this instance, you will need to light the leaves and let them burn for a moment before blowing out the flame. You can place the smoking leaves in a fireproof bowl and carry them with you as you move about your home.

Clear your body

Clearing the negative energy that clings to your mind, body, and spirit should be done before you begin walking through your home with the burning smoke stick. Think of this step as metaphorically washing your hands and body before laying down in a clean bed.


According to Body + Soul, you will need to take the smoking sage bundle and carefully bring it close to your body to complete this step. Allow your body to invite in the sacred smoke, bringing the smoke stick down both sides of your body from head to foot. It is an important step that can be done in conjunction with choosing an intention or mantra for the ritual.

Do not rush this process. Be sure to use slow, controlled movements and be mindful of the fact you're holding a burning object. If you have a feather, you can use it to waft the smoke around your body.

Begin burning sage in your space

Start at the front door of your home and move clockwise around the interior footprint, allowing the smoke to drift into every corner of the space. A 2018 research study published in Architectural History & Theory shows how this type of circumambulation is a ritualistic element that has been used for centuries. 


As you move about the space, use your feather or hand to waft the sacred smoke into hard-to-reach places like ceilings and under furniture. Be sure to direct the smoke around mirrors, resting spaces, and even technology, like cell phones and computers, in your home. It is important to thoroughly sage the most highly trafficked spaces in your home, including doorways and hallways as well.

As you move about your home, keep your fireproof container beneath the burning smoke stick. This container will catch the falling embers or ashes. In many native smudging ceremonies, the collected ashes are returned to the soil when the ritual is complete. Indigenous Corporation Training Inc. explains that this is a respectful symbol of letting go of what no longer serves you and returning the negative energy back to the earth.


Finish your clearing ritual by burning palo santo

Once you have burned sage in every nook and cranny of your home, introduce positivity back into the newly vacated space. According to CB2, this can be done by burning a palo santo (Bursera graveolens) stick. Palo santo is a sacred wood native to numerous tropical South American countries and translates to "holy wood" in Spanish. It has a complex aroma of pine, mint, and citrus that is refreshing in a newly-saged home.


Like white sage, palo santo has been used for centuries in a variety of cultures for medicinal purposes. A 2017 study published in the International Journal of Molecular Sciences indicated the oil from palo santo wood also has numerous reported health benefits, including alleviating stress and physical pain and clearing out negative energy. palo santo wood, spray, oil, and resin can all be used to achieve these effects.

To close out your clearing ceremony with a traditional stick of palo santo, light the end of the stick and let it burn for a moment. Blow the flames out until smoke rises from the stick. Focus once more on your intention(s) to elevate and uplift your home's energy as you move it around your home and your person.


Keep in mind that palo santo has been listed in the last twenty years as an endangered species due to overharvesting and poor farming practices. Although this is no longer the case, it is still important to think about where you buy it and how you use it. Doing your research and choosing a palo santo supplier with transparent practices is vital.

When should you sage your home?

Events such as fighting with your partner, feeling depressed or anxious, or experiencing illness are all great times to burn sage in your home. The healing smoke will help remove trapped negative energy throughout the house. This removal makes way for new, positive energy to flow through your space.


It is also a good idea to burn sage in your home after you have a party or invite people over. When you invite people into your home, you also invite in their energy, negative or otherwise. This energy can linger and mix with other guests' energies, creating a toxic cloud that is detrimental to your spiritual well-being.

Ultimately there is no right or wrong time energetically clear your home. According to Body + Soul, it is more important to consider your intention. If you feel called to clear out negative or stagnant energy, you should do so. Furthermore, if you feel called to connect yourself and your space with divine energy, you could burn sage around your living space. 

How should I store my sage bundles?

When you are finished smudging your home with sage, you must make sure to properly put the smudge stick out. Use the fireproof bowl or shell you carried during the ceremony and gently stub the stick out. Per Healthline, you can also stub it out in a bowl of sand. If you'd prefer to let the stick burn, set it in a fireproof container and let the smoke waft around the room until it burns out.


Because burning sage is both a spiritual and healing practice, how you store your materials is important. Keep the materials on a shelf that is at least waist high and store them in baskets that allow for airflow. The sage bundles used in your home should be used exclusively for clearing the energy in your home to keep them pure. Be sure to keep your sage-burning tools out of the reach of pets and children.

Does burning sage in your home have any health benefits?

In addition to energetically clearing your home and person, research in the Journal of Traditional and Complementary Medicine notes that there are numerous reported health benefits of burning sage.

According to Lifehack, recent scientific studies have found that burning sage in the home reduces airborne and harmful bacteria by 94%. It is also proven to neutralize common household allergens which can affect people with respiratory issues, such as asthma. Many people believe this is because burning sage releases negative ions that interact with and neutralize the positive ions produced by pet dander, mold, or pollen.


A 2016 research study concluded that burning sage may help boost your mood, alleviate stress and pain, and aid with sleep disorders like insomnia. People who struggle with depression and anxiety often notice their symptoms are lessened after burning sage as well. Furthermore, the antioxidant content in sage is useful for combating chronic diseases like cancer, heart disease, and inflammation caused by diabetes.

Are there any risks to burning sage in the home?

Burning sage in your home is a beautiful, sacred practice. According to, this practice comes with dozens of spiritual and reported health benefits. Unfortunately, that does not mean the ritual is entirely risk-free.


For starters, people with asthma and similar respiratory illnesses may find the smoke from the ceremony to be irritating. Particularly if they are stuck inside when the ceremony is being performed. Following the proper ceremony steps and keeping windows and doors open as you burn sage can help alleviate this problem.

Furthermore, releasing smoke in your home may set off smoke alarms. Although this is not inherently dangerous to you or your family, if your smoke alarms are connected to an alarm company, you may end up with a handful of irritated firemen at your front door. These are important risks to be aware of; however, the overall practice of burning sage in your home is safe when done with care, intention, and respect.