Burning herbs or spices to enhance wellness is widespread throughout the world, as it has been throughout human history.1 Many religious rituals incorporate spice burning, including the Catholic mass and Australian Aboriginal rites.2,3
Recent scientific studies have shown that ancient people were likely on to something – burning medicinal herbs can remove harmful bacteria from the air.4
In this article, we’ll answer all your questions about burning sage, from why you should, to its history. We’ll research the reported benefits of burning sage and analyse the risks. Finally, we’ll advise you how to burn sage safely.
Why burn sage?
Most people today burn sage as part of a New Age ritual, that’s adapted from the ancient Native American practice called smudging.5 The idea is to burn sage at home to clear the space of bad energy and promote relaxation. Many Native Americans are critical of this adaption of a religious ritual that was specific to certain Native cultures.6
History of burning sage
Diverse Native American peoples have burnt herbs and spices as part of ceremonies which bless people, places, and encourage healing, as part of a religious practice known as smudging.7 Some Native American cultures would use sage in these rituals.8
Benefits of burning sage
Burning sage is associated with benefits for health and wellness, which include:
Sage contains compounds that possess anti-bacterial properties.9
Sleep and relaxation
Sage can help you relax at night.10
Supports brain function
Scientific studies show that sage can help maintain cognitive ability, possibly reducing the risk of diseases associated with cognitive decline in older people.11
Sometimes a little aromatherapy is all you need to feel more relaxed and put the worries of the day behind you. Burning sage smells lovely and promotes relaxation.
Risks of burning sage
Those with asthma or respiratory complaints may prefer not to burn sage, as smoke can make it harder for individuals with those conditions to breath.
Fire is a risk of any practice that involves a burning flame, so minimise fire risks by following our tips, provided below.
How to burn sage safely
Enjoy burning sage by doing it calmly and minimise the risk of fire or respiratory distress.
Follow this step-by-step guide to safely burn sage:
- Ensure the area is well ventilated. Open windows and doors so smoke doesn’t gather in your home and cause respiratory irritation.
- Place sage in a dish. Place your lit sage stick in a fire-proof dish made of concrete or ceramic, so embers don’t light any flammable surfaces.
- Avoid inhaling smoke. Do not breathe heavily immediately over the smoke, as it may cause some respiratory distress.
Last updated: 22 April 2021