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How to Make Smudge Sticks from Garden Fresh Herbs

“So you’re a witch now?”

That’s the question I got when I made smudge sticks for the first time! It made me laugh out loud, because that we had just learned that the tiny town we moved to is rumored to have a huge witch population! Weird, but cool! ?

Unfortunately, I only aspire to be cool enough to be a witch someday! The real reason I made smudge sticks was because we had sage growing out our ears! I had already dried and preserved about 5 mason jars worth for tea and still had tons left over. Making DIY smudge sticks to use throughout the year seemed like a fun new way to preserve the sage and create a handmade gift to give to friends.

DIY smudge sticks

What is a Smudge Stick?

A smudge stick is a bundle of tightly wrapped herbs that is dried and then burned to “cleanse” an area.

Most famously, Native American culture traditionally burned bundles of white sage and herbs in spiritual ceremonies. The customs and rituals that Native Americans performed by burning sage were highly religious and were performed for a variety of reasons.

2019 Update:

I always try my very best to understand as much as I can about other people and cultures, while realizing everyone’s experiences are different from my own. Over the years, I’ve realized that smudging can often be considered a form of cultural appropriation. To be honest, this makes sense because very little of our modern day use of smudge sticks resembles the highly sacred tradition of the Native Americans. I would never want to try to copy such a special ceremonial practice when I understand so little of this heritage.

White sage, the herb traditionally grown and used for indigenous ceremonies, has been over-harvested in recent years because of the growing popularity of smudging. For this reason, I don’t grow or burn white sage which is considered a sacred plant for many indigenous people. I also now try to refer to the practice as “smoke cleansing” rather than “smudging” to ensure that it isn’t confused with the sacred traditions of indigenous people.

smudge sticks

When to Use Smoke Cleansing:

Smoke cleansing can be used to symbolize anything you want. It can be used to mark a mental starting point after a particularly hard time or break up, to promote “good energy” in a new home, or to perform a blessing. There is even evidence that is now suggesting that smoke cleansing may help clean the air in your home!

For me, smoke cleansing is a way to practice mindfulness. Smoke cleansing at the start of a new season helps prepare my mind and spirit for the changes that are to come. It smells delicious, which is always a bonus – especially after a good spring cleaning! I always feel a little fresher, lighter and more focused after taking a couple of minutes to smoke cleanse my home while breathing deeply and slowing my mind.

How to make  your own smudge sticks using garden fresh herbs:

Smudge sticks can be made in minutes and are a fresh new way to put your garden herbs to use. To make smudge sticks, you will need herbs, natural string (or twine) and scissors.

Some of the best herbs to use for smudge sticks:

  • Garden sage
  • Lemon balm
  • Lavender
  • Sweet grass
  • Rosemary
  • Mint
  • Pine
  • Eucalyptus
  • Basically any herb or plant that smells delicious!
    **Note: Everyone is different and may have allergies to different plants. Stop burning immediately if you notice a reaction to the herbs that were used.**

To Assemble the Smudge Stick:

1. Snip herbs at the base of the stem. You will want them about 6-8 inches long.
2. Bundle herbs together. I prefer to place smaller, more delicate herbs in the middle of the bundle and use the larger sage branches and leaves to wrap them up and hold them securely.
3. Secure the bundle by tying the string or twine in a knot at the base of the stems.smudge sticks
4. While holding the bundle in one hand, use your other hand to wrap the string/twine up the bundle. As the herbs dry over time, they will decrease in size so it is important to wrap the bundle tightly.
smudge sticks5. You can then wrap your way back down the bundle and tie the string off at the base of the bundle. I like to create a little “handle” by wrapping the string around the stems several times. The handle will not be burned (but it is completely compostable!)
6. Once you have assembled your smudge sticks, allow them to dry completely in a cool, dry area with good air flow. Store in a cool, dry location.

smudge sticks

How to use your herbal smudge sticks for smoke cleansing:

Hold the “handle” portion of the smudge stick and use a lighter or candle to light the top of the bundle. Let it burn for a couple of seconds and then carefully blow out the flame. Allow it to smolder as you cleanse the desired area of your home.

As always, be smart and please don’t light your house on fire. Hold a fireproof ceramic bowl under the smudge stick to catch any embers that may fall. Once you are done burning the smudge stick, extinguish it by compressing the smoldering end against the bowl.

You can save any unused portions of the smudge stick to burn at a later date. Relax and enjoy!

smudge sticks

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Crysti

Monday 29th of November 2021

Hi! I'm turning on notifications for responses to this, because it's important to me. I tried making smudge sticks with fresh coastal mugwort and the bundle dried on the outside and rotted in the middle. What did I do wrong?

Rooted Revival

Tuesday 30th of November 2021

Ugh! I'm sorry! I hate when that happens! When I made the bundles pictured in this post, I lived in the high desert and everything dried SO fast! Now that I live in the rainy Pacific Northwest it isn't quite as easy! I find that using a dehydrator is a HUGE help! You can actually dry the whole bundle in the dehydrator on low or pre-dry the herbs about half way to get them started, then make the bundle and finish drying them. Hope that helps! Best of luck

Amy

Sunday 26th of September 2021

Hey there, this is a great tutorial! I happen to be a Witch and 1/16 Native American both maternally and paternally. I still have a lot to learn about all the cultures that make me, but I do know one thing about smudging. It is a native American tradition ans well as other antient cultural traditions to a degree (burning traditional incense) however when I smudge, I first asked my ancestors (in anyone else's case, who's not Native American, I would ask the Spirit Elders for permission then feel their response) I usually get a sense of calm when I know it's appropriate to smudge before meditating, or setting an intention/spells (some religions would call this prayer, but that's a whole nother conversation on culture).Others, not of a "culture", have used this technique for permission and have felt that same calm. After smudging, I always thank my ancestors for the traditional use of smudging. Again if you're not Native American at all, I would still thank the spirit elders after being granted permission. While some people feel a duty to respect and preserve traditional or spiritual appropriation, I completely respect their feelings on the subject. Just keep in mind, medicine is a modern science but was of ancient traditional origin, of many cultures. We widely use their sacred knowledge for modern times. Consider this... It's like telling a boy he can't wear a dress because he's a boy or telling a girl she can't play football because she's a girl. You certainly don't have to ask permission to do one or the other, but if you don't feel the common doing so, You usually try to avoid doing it or hiding it or whatever. Just because you're not part of a specific heritage doesn't mean you can't follow the path of certain traditions. All you have to do is ask and and you will feel the feedback of Ancient Elders. Sorry that was long-winded, I just felt like my thoughts would resonate with others and encourage respect of traditions while incorporating them into their own lives. Blessed Be. Violet Willow

Rooted Revival

Monday 27th of September 2021

Violet, Thank you so much for chiming in and sharing your insight on this! I am so glad you shared! I really like the idea of asking permission. I often do the same before wildcrafting and foraging (especially with elderberry). I think it's so important to connect in this manner with all those who've gone before us and try to tap into a bit of their wisdom. I agree that any practice can be carried out thoughtfully and respectfully by members outside of the tradition's original practice. But I think the emphasis on understanding the practice and the importance of it is central to doing so respectfully. I really really appreciate your clarity and understanding on the practice and it's definitely helped confirm some things for me as well as bring me some new insight! Thank you and blessed be!

Hayley

Wednesday 19th of May 2021

Can you use bee balm in burn wands?

Project Zenstead

Thursday 20th of May 2021

Yes, you can! It would be a beautiful addition I think!

Gemma midori

Tuesday 20th of April 2021

I was looking forward to reading this, but then you went into that cultural appropriation crap and ruined it for me. Native Americans couldn't care less if you make smudge sticks with sage. In fact, they would probably be honored.

Deanna

Saturday 26th of June 2021

That's not true! Many indigenous cultures have spoken quite clearly about cultural appropriation- perhaps you should check with indigenous people before you speak for them. Kaylee and Lindy are behaving in a sensitive and respectful way. Thank you.

Project Zenstead

Tuesday 20th of April 2021

Perhaps they would. But it isn't my heritage or culture, so I prefer to err on the side of respect because it takes nothing from me to be respectful and considerate of others.

Denise

Saturday 17th of October 2020

Hello. I particularly like your comment about cultural appropriation. Can I quote that section of your post?

Project Zenstead

Tuesday 20th of October 2020

Hi Denise! Thank you for asking. Yes, you can absolutely quote it as long you cite the reference and link back to the original post :) It's an important topic and I'm glad to see it shared! Have a great day!