Smudging 101 & Ethical Uses & Alternatives for Sage

Smudging 101 & Ethical Uses & Alternatives for Sage

Smudging 101: What is Smudging?

Smudging, or other rites involving the burning of sacred herbs or resins, is a ceremony practiced by some Indigenous peoples of the Americas. 

Using smoke to purify and cleanse can be helpful for transforming and raising the vibration  of your space or physical being. Plants and botanicals like sage, incense, and even tobacco  are popular ways to smudge or spiritually cleanse an area with smoke.

Typically done to prepare for ritual and spiritual ceremony, smudging can be done anytime you want to reset an area, clean tools, or just relax.

In this post, we will explore popular how to use popular tools like Tobacco, Sage, Palo Santo, and Incense for smoke cleansing.

Reasons to Smudge

The scent released when burning certain plants and botanicals can change, lift, and expand our vibration. Scents travel directly to the brain to trigger emotional shifts and/or evoke deep feelings, and can be one of the fastest ways to imprint an emotional state or invoke a change in how you feel.


Smudging combines earth (plant/botanicals), air (smoke/feather/breath), and fire. The invocation of each of these elements with intention creates sacred smoke that can help us awaken, enlighten, relax, and even fall into a trance-like state of channeling.

As mentioned before, smudging traditionally is done to prepare for ritual or ceremony. Before connecting with spirit in ritual, it is a good idea to first smudge to attract the right energies to properly channel.

If you want to reset or recharge a room with stagnant energy or heavy energy - due to an argument, lack of activity, healing work, depression, etc - lighting a smudge tool can help transform the energy of a room. If you especially feel heavy, the smoke can help lighten you up.

If you work with tools like crystals or even jewelry to raise your vibe, you can smudge these tools periodically to clean the energies and keep the vibes high on your spiritual tools.

As the smoke of smudging rises, so do our prayers reach the Most High. As the smoke of smudging lifts, so do our worries, doubts, and fears. Smudging can be a great ritual to include regularly in to maintain the vibrations in your space, and you may already take advantage of smudging in different ways. 

Now, let’s discuss some different popular, easy-to-source tools to smudge your space, and how to use it.

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Tobacco Smudging

tobacco for smudging and cleansing and purification

My absolute favorite smudging tool is tobacco. My ancestors and spirit guides really like and respond to tobacco smoke. Ever since I was a child, the smell of cigarettes and cigars was intoxicating and warm to me. 

Tobacco is a very sacred plant and is powerful when communicating with Egun (ancestors and spirit) and opening a line of channeling between the physical world and the spirit world. 

When using tobacco, I typically used it in the form of a cigar. You can smudge with a cigar in two different ways. First, you can lick and light the cigar as you normally would, and inhale and exhale the smoke until it fills the room. This is ideal if you are sitting directly in front of your altar and/or working a ceremony that allows you to sit - like a misa or centro in the Lucumi tradition. (By the way, a misa is a ceremony where you work directly with your spirit guides in a controlled setting to get advice and direct channeling. If you are not in the tradition, please be sure to only do this with an initiated Santero.)

Secondly, you can light the cigar and wrap your mouth around the side of the cigar is that is lit, being sure to not burn yourself. With your lips firmly around the cigar, blow until thick smoke released from the side of the cigar you typically inhale from. You can also do this the opposite way if you are not sure about getting burned, but the smoke is much thicker when you blow from the lit end. This is great method for cleaning spiritual tools, corners of rooms, or even people. After completing, let the cigar sit on a glass of water on your altar and let the flame burn out on its own.

Incense Resins for Smudging:

incense resin frankcincense myrrh for purification smudging

My second favorite way to smudge is with incense resins. Resin is basically tree sap and have been used for thousands of years for cleaning, healing, and ritual burning. Resins are not only great for purification, but are perfect for meditation and reaching expanded consciousness.

Popular resins are frankincense, myrrh, copal, and amber. Myrrh is earthy and citrusy, helping keep us grounded and opening our mind. Frankincense is sweet, spicy, and fresh that blends magically with Myrrh. Frankincense offers courage, strength, and lifts the spirit. Amber is infectious and powerful, and only a small amount is needed to soothe and open the heart. Copal has been used for years in the Americas for protection and purification. Its smell is light and woody and helps relieve depression and energy blocks.


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My favorite resin blend is This The Life, which is a blend of frankincense, myrrh, Benzoin, and roses to help purify, sweeten, and attract prosperity. Only a small amount is needed to smudge your entire home with powerful and sweet smells of upliftment, courage, and wellness. 

Shop This The Life Incense Resin here. 

Pine & Cedar Smudging

pine needles and cedar for smudging and purification

Trees hold a lot of information and can be great teachers. Even walking up to an old tree, and putting your hand on or arm around it’s trunk can be a source of healing and wisdom for us as humans. 

Pine & cedar are both evergreen trees, so it represents wealth, prosperity, and longevity. Pine is great for blessing something new, and welcoming prosperity and wellbeing. If you are moving into a new space, add some pine needles into your incense blend to prepare the home for you. Cedar is used for protection and cleansing. Cedar attracts positive energy, and is great to burn after sage. 

To smudge with cedar and pine needles, you can use a mini cast-iron skillet or abalone shell with a piece of lit coal. Place the needles directly on coal, and use a feather to waft the smoke around your home. 

Shop smudging kits here.

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Sage & Palo Santo Smudging

how to use sage to smudge how to use palo santo

Sage & Palo Santo are probably the most popular smudging mediums for general smoke cleansing. If you use Sage or Palo Santo to cleanse, it is important that you are mindful while using these tools for purification. 

You are probably familiar with sage, but you may have never heard of Palo Santo. Palo Santo is a tree found in South & Central America. It literally translates to holy stick or holy wood. Palo Santo is in the same family as frankincense & myrrh. It was traditionally used by shamans in ceremony. I love the sweet, earthy smell of Palo Santo, and I always have a few pieces randomly hanging around if I need to quickly cleanse my space.

Using Palo Santo is easy. Simple light one in of the stick until it ignites. Blow it out, and continue blowing or fanning the lit stick until smoke rises. Continue blowing as needed.  

Sage is a powerful herb that cleansing energy and neutralizing energy. To me, sage eliminates everything - both the good and the bad energies. It is strong, and can be used in a multiple ways to help eliminate and heal.

The intense neutralizing energy of sage should be followed up with an infusion of love, upliftment, and healing love, and positive energy. Burn sage, and follow up with a sweet energy with a sweet smelling resin blend like This The Life, or cedar, or a sweet smelling incense. You can also follow it up with a water based cleanser like Agua de Florida or Rose Water. 

Most people use sage sticks for Smudging because of its simplicity and convenience, but this is probably the most environmentally wasteful way to cleanse with smoke. A much better way to smudge with sage is to simply take a single dried sage leaf or pieces of a sage leaf, and place it on a hot coal in your smudge skillet. Use the smoke to clean your whole home if necessary, and add more sage if needed.

The Dangers or Using Sage & Palo Santo for Smudging

Because of the growing popularity of sage and Palo Santo, these are both overharvested. If possible. Source your white sage and Palo Santo from a farmer that practices ethical harvesting.

If you are someone who smudges with sage on a daily basis - reconsider and think of alternative ways to clean yourself it your space. If you want to work with smoke, use one of the other tools mentioned in this post, but remember smoke is only one way to cleanse an area. Plain water, Agua de Florida, Floral waters and Flower Essences, and even sunlight and wind are other great alternatives for cleansing the energy of a space. If you are needing to clean your home - crack open a window and let in some sunlight and fresh air. If you need to sage your car, spray some Agua de Florida around the car. If you need to clean your physical body, try finding Flower Essences to work with. Get creative and let your guides help you find ways to clean your space with smoke or other alternatives.

Altar work 101

Just starting your spiritual journey and looking for ways to connect with your inner self? "Sacred Spaces" offers a comprehensive guide to creating a sacred space in your home. An altar can be a powerful tool for grounding yourself, setting intentions, and deepening your spiritual practice.

Enhance your spiritual bath rituals by creating a sacred space to amplify their effects. Learn more about creating your own sacred space in "Sacred Spaces"!


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This is a great post! It answered a lot of questions I had about the kinds of smudging and their purposes

Liz Claitor

This is a great read and I believe I brought a bad batch of sage due to the high demand of it now . Great that you showed some alternative ways . I also burn bay leaves

Sheryel hearns

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