Have you heard of smudging?
It's not a strange kind of finger paint art. Smudging is the ancient spiritual practice of burning sage, an herb that's related to other pleasant-smelling plants like basil, rosemary, and oregano. This purifying and cleansing ritual has been done for centuries by cultures around the world, including Indigenous cultures of North America like the Lakota and Chumash tribes.
The aesthetic and spiritual significance of burning sage is enough to prove its value. But the long-standing popularity of this tradition has us wondering: are there any health benefits to burning sage?
We looked to the research to find out.
3 Benefits of Burning Sage
1. Improves Air Quality
Research including a 2007 paper published in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology found that burning sage and other types of "medicinal wood" for even just 1 hour can reduce airborne bacteria by as much as 94%. The purifying effect can last for as much as 24 hours!
Researchers point to sage's antimicrobial and antibacterial power when explaining its air-cleansing power, and traditional cultures have long used sage as a natural treatment for sore throats, coughs, and respiratory infections. And with cold and flu season approaching, now's as good a time as any to take advantage of sage's properties.
2. Relieves Stress and Boosts Mood
Studies including 2016 research from the University of Mississippi suggest that compounds in sage like flavonoids may activate certain parts of the brain called CB1 receptors that alleviate stress and ease symptoms of anxiousness and depression.
According to the university research, white sage (salvia apiana) may even help alleviate pain. The healing and calming ritual of smudging itself may also be an effective self-care tool.
3. Helps You Sleep
Could smudging at night boost your Zzz's? A 2016 review article out of Shahrekord University in Iran suggests that burning sage may help you fall asleep more easily and ease sleep disturbances, especially if performed as part of a calming bedtime ritual, which research shows can improve sleep.
A Note on Burning Sage Safely
When burning sage, be mindful of those around you! Anyone with respiratory sensitivities like allergies or asthma, or even your household pets, can become irritated by the smoke. Plus, you definitely don't want to disrupt the calming and relaxing mood by setting the smoke alarm off! So, keep some windows open and always practice basic fire safety.
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