By Molly O’Brien

As you may know, sage is a cooking spice found in most supermarkets. For many spiritually minded folks though, it is also an herb known for its healing properties.

An evergreen shrub belonging to the mint family, sage has been used since ancient times for burning away negative energy. Native American tribes and early Europeans were familiar with its healing properties. Believers hold that the plant spirit in sage is released through burning, producing a potent woody aroma that transforms the energetic field of the space it occupies.

Called “smudging,” moving a smoking bundle of sage through an area is said to revitalize heavy energy. Used in this way, sage can cleanse an old house of its negative history, banish the effects of conflict in the environment, or simply revitalize personal energy. When used to relieve stress or illness, sage may bring clarity, sharpen intuition and improve overall mood.

Some research has supported the cleansing effects of sage. A study published in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology reported that burning medical herbs such as sage actually reduces the quantity of airborne bacteria by 94 percent.

The smudging process is easy. You can find dried sage at Otter & Trout Trading Co. or your favorite health store. Several loose sage leaves should be placed in a seashell or other organic (not manufactured) container. Alternatively, a bundle of sage leaves may be held like a wand in the hand. The sage should then be exposed to the flame of a match or lighter until it produces a long trail of swirling smoke. Move the burning sage around the areas that need purifying or simply leave it in a container until it has burned out.

Intention is the most important part of the practice. You can clarify in words, thoughts, mantras or prayers the cleansing outcome you seek.