Smudging is a wonderful ancient practice that causes even the most skeptical people to run around their homes spreading smoke. While some people might think it’s a bit of a weird practice, the truth is there is so much misunderstanding it’s difficult to explain the importance sometimes.
But never fear! This myth-busting article will help ‘clear the air’ of so many misconceptions that are commonly held, you will be searching for the nearest smudge outlet.
1) It was only Used by Native Americans
Most people think smudging is exclusive to Native Americans. This is totally untrue! While many people use their traditional combo of abalone shell and sage, many other cultures around the world practice different forms of smudging. In India, for instance, they use incense instead of sage to bless spaces. Catholics also have their own form of ‘smudging’, though it has a bit of a different use — to symbolize the prayers of the faithful rising to heaven, which, in turn, sanctifies a space. Judaism, Buddhism, and Islam all have similar uses, some of them even using sage and other materials typically used by Native Americans.
2) Smudging was Invented for Religious Reasons
The Native American origin of smudge sticks and sage may have begun because of practical reasons, instead of religious or spiritual. Certain herbs have shown scientific proof as excellent pesticides, while others are known to preserve hides and food (as we’ll see below).
3) Smudging is Only Used Sporadically at Certain Times or Ceremonies
Sometimes smudging rituals are done on a daily basis, while others are used for special or ceremonial occasions. For many cultures, smudging can be like washing the hands before a meal! Those that do usually have a smudge kit. For this, Native American rituals call for four of the five elements representing water, fire, earth, air, and sometimes, spirit. For instance, a shell represents water (as it comes from the ocean), herbs (typically sage) the earth, matches for fire, and smoke representing the air element.
4) It’s not Used by Professionals
Most people think smudging is purely ceremonial or that it’s outdated. This couldn’t be farther from the truth. In fact, many real estate agents use it to cleanse properties before selling them or putting them on the market.
5) There’s no Scientific Support for Smudging doing Anything
Science has proven that the aroma of sage increases the oxygen supply to the brain, producing a physical relaxation of music tension.
Antidepressant – Negative ions created by smudging offer some fascinating antidepressant effects:
Dr. Clarence Hansell, a research engineer who delved into the biological effects of negative ions in the air in the 1930s, noticed that the mood of one of his colleagues changed in response to ions being generated by their equipment. He discovered that his colleague was more joyful when the machine produced negative ions and more sullen when it produced positive ions. In a controlled study focused on seasonal affective disorder, or SAD, that was an extension of Hansell’s work, researchers found fresh air charged with negative ions was an effective treatment and prevention method of depression, thanks to its effects on serotonin levels, similar to the way antidepressant drugs works.
Bug repellent- Just a quick Google search will show the effectiveness of smudging to ward off bugs. It’s considered to be one of smudging’s origins!
Improved sleep- Since we know smudging produces negative ions, it’s no wonder people sleep deeper after burning. After all, studies show people sleep better in negative ion environments.
Clears bacteria in the air- This was a study that demonstrated the anti-bacterial qualities of smudging. Here is a researcher’s take:
We have observed that 1 hour treatment of medicinal smoke emanated by burning wood and a mixture of odoriferous and medicinal herbs (havan sámagri=material used in oblation to fire all over India), on aerial bacterial population caused over 94% reduction of bacterial counts by 60 min and the ability of the smoke to purify or disinfect the air and to make the environment cleaner was maintained up to 24 hour in the closed room.