Let's Get Clear: Smudging, Sage and Palo Santo

If you know me or follow me on Instagram, you know that I LOVE sage and palo santo. I love the practice of smudging (more on what that means in a second) and the way they both smell and make me feel. But I am also aware that most people don’t know why they would even want to burn these “sticks,” how to burn them, and if any of it means anything at all.

Let’s start with the term smudging. Smudging is the burning of herbs or incense and is a practice that came about centuries ago when Native American tribes used it as a ritual for healing, cleansing and purifying. This spiritual cleansing technique can be used on the body, aura, energy, a space or even an object. It is interesting because even though a lot of people think that it is a “new agey” practice, it has really been around for thousands of years. And it seems these Native American tribes were onto something….

Modern science has actually proven the benefits of smudging. Basically, the energy around us and our environment is called the electromagnetic field. When there are too many positive ions in that field, we will feel fatigued, sluggish and burnt out. Smudging, with sage in particular, releases negative ions, neutralizing the environment and therefore affecting our energy and the energy around us, making us feel lighter. This can explain why people refer to smudging as “energy clearing” because it is literally cleansing the energy of our aura and environment.  

When it comes to what you are burning, the two most common things that people seem to be using (myself included) are sage or palo santo, and they are actually the perfect pair.  While both are energy cleansing tools, they do have some differences. First off, once you burn them you will notice they have different scents. Some people prefer one over the other, I honestly love both. Sage is said to be more of a “deep cleaning” tool meaning it will clear out all energy good and bad. Therefore, you need to add in good energy after you are done. You could do this by burning incense, sweet grass or an herb. Or…palo santo! Palo santo translates to “holy wood.” It will purify but also add good energy. The smell is quite sweet, so it also leaves a very uplifting vibe. This is why these two make the perfect pair. You can burn your sage first, then follow with palo santo.

Here are some reasons/ways to use sage and palo santo: (***anytime you are smudging always open a window or door to allow for circulation. This is because you are moving/clearing energy so you wouldn’t want it to get stuck***)

1.     Cleansing your space: Maybe you just moved into a new home, or said goodbye to an old roommate who wasn’t great vibes, or maybe had a really unpleasant house guest. Or maybe you just want to “lighten” up in your space and “clear the air.” Regardless the reason, first open a window and light the sage or palo santo until it starts to smoke. Move the stick throughout the space and be sure to smudge every corner, entryway, and crevasse – basically all over!

2.     Cleansing an object: If I get a new piece of furniture, plant, new crystals, etc. I always like to cleanse whatever it is so I am bringing good energy into my home. Everything holds energy, and you have no idea where that has been or who has touched it before it got to you, so why not just cleanse it, right? You would light the stick, allow it to start burning and just move it around the object, letting the smoke fall onto it/encompass it for a few seconds.

3.     Cleansing yourself: I love doing this before meditating, especially if I am meditating towards the end of the day after I have probably come in counter with a lot of different people (and energies). It is also nice if maybe you have a not so positive interaction and want to clear it off. I light whichever stick I am using, and once it starts to smoke, I start at the top of my head and simply bring it all around my body. I will make it a point to go around each hand and foot, as well, in a circular motion.

Aside from the few things I mentioned (like bringing back good energy after using the sage, and keeping a window open to allow for circulation) there really are not many rules to smudging. One thing I try to remember when I am doing it is that since I am technically energy clearing, and my thoughts are energy, I do like to think positive thoughts while using my sage or palo santo. Some people go as far as to recommend repeating a mantra or positive affirmation as you smudge, but that is a personal preference. Also, if I had to say which I used more, I would probably say palo santo because I feel like sometimes I need a “quick clean” or “light clean” and I know it does the trick!

Both sage and palo santo can be purchased on Amazon, at local meditation and yoga studios, as well as herb stores. I hope this helps clear the air on smudging, sage and palo santo and – as always – if you have any questions at all feel free to comment below or reach out via my Connect page!

With love,


Nicolette FicchiComment