Burning incense at home is more of a traditional habit than anything else in many homes. However apart from burning the occasional incense stick; sage smudging can actually be beneficial to a home in more ways than one.
Native Americans, along with a host of other ancient cultures, engaged in the ceremonial art of “smudging,” in which they burned sacred herbs in order to release the plant’s spirit and cleanse spaces of unwanted energies.
Cat Criger, an aboriginal elder-in-residence at the University of Toronto, describes the ritual as “metaphorically washing your hands in the smoke.” But smudging also has a literal relationship to washing our hands with soap and water.
A study published in 2007 by Journal of Ethnopharmacology observed that smudging can “completely eliminate” airborne bacteria in a confined space.
“This study represents a comprehensive analysis and scientific validation of our ancient knowledge about the effect of ethnopharmacological aspects of natural products’ smoke for therapy and health care on airborne bacterial composition and dynamics, using the Biolog microplate panels and Microlog database. We have observed that 1h 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 24h in the closed room. Absence of pathogenic bacteria Corynebacterium urealyticum, Curtobacterium flaccumfaciens, Enterobacter aerogenes (Klebsiella mobilis), Kocuria rosea, Pseudomonas syringae pv. persicae, Staphylococcus lentus, and Xanthomonas campestris pv. tardicrescens in the open room even after 30 days is indicative of the bactericidal potential of the medicinal smoke treatment. We have demonstrated that using medicinal smoke it is possible to completely eliminate diverse plant and human pathogenic bacteria of the air within confined space.”
Sage smudging is better than chemical substitutes for air purification.
Another follow up paper was published in the same journal which explained how medicinal herbs, when burned within a home, helped remove 94% of airborne bacteria which kept a space clean for at least two days. What was even more amazing is the fact that after a month, the same space showed hardly any signs of pathogens that had been removed the first day of smudging sage.
Such a factor was beneficial for households where the air is not as clean as before. The presence of antibacterial-resistant bacteria makes a home vulnerable to infection and disease. Scientists observed that similar advertised chemicals did not work as well as sage smudging in a home. It was the best alternative to purifying and cleansing a home. Besides smudging, sage is also a medicinal plant and could be used for a variety of health benefits.
This physical purification must have been a part of the healing that Native Americans intuited centuries ago. Now, we have the language of modern science to explain this facet of smudging.