Smudge sticks are tightly bound bundles of dried woody, resinous herbs, that are slowly burned as a way to purify and cleanse the air. While the roots of burning a smudge stick, or smudging, is in North American Native purification rites and ceremony, they can be used by anyone to bring the woody smell of the outdoors inside.
If you have a garden, chances are good that you have enough ingredients to make at least one smudge stick. The traditional and most popular herbs used in smudging ceremonies are white sage (Salvia apiana), Cedar (Thuja), Sweetgrass (Hierochloe odorata), sagebrush (Artemisia californica), and mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris). However, in my travels I have noticed that the smudging sticks available vary by region and there seems to be a lot of opportunity to branch out (so to speak) with other woody, resinous herbs including, but not limited to:
Thyme (Thymus vulgaris), lavender, yarrow, juniper, pine, mullein (Verbascum thapsus), rosemary, lemon balm (Melissa officinalis), mint (Mentha), Bee Balm (Monarda), and catnip (Nepeta cataria) to name a few.
On Growing White Sage in a Cold Climate: The other day I harvested a large white sage (Salvia apiana) plant that I have been growing in my garden’s sandy, dry bed. This plant is on the cusp of hardy in my area (I am in zone 5-5bish and its hardiness begins at zone 6), but this year I decided to free it from life in a pot to see how it did in the ground. Unlike the specimens I saw growing wild in Northern Mexico, my plant grew gigantic leaves, most likely the result of the wet season we’ve had. Still, it has a very strong, medicinal odour typical of the plant. I’ve left enough in that soil that should we have a mild winter, it just might live through to the next season.
When Choosing and Harvesting Herbs: Please be careful as some herbs — even the culinary types — don’t lend themselves well to burning and can be toxic or set off dangerous allergic or asthmatic reactions in some people. I have often seen common garden sage (Salvia officinalis) used to make smudges. Years ago I tried to burn some and did not like the smell. I have since read that this is not a safe herb to burn despite its safety in a host of other applications. When in doubt, burn a very small amount outdoors, in order to test the smell and indicate whether you might have a problem with a particular herb. I also have a dangerously strong negative reaction to yarrow, so again, please use caution with this herb.
Harvest herbs on a sunny and dry day. Moist herbs will grow mouldy inside the bundle where there is very little air. Pick herbs on the day you plan to use them; resinous herbs tend to dry very quickly and are nearly impossible to wrap tightly once dry. A final note that when harvesting from the wild please leave enough plant behind that it may live on happily and healthfully. Use a sharp knife or clippers to cut stems and never dig up the root.
Choosing String: Remember that anything you use to bind the bundle will eventually burn so it is advisable to stick with natural materials that will not give off a toxic fume or compete with the smudge smells. I try to use as little string as possible to avoid creating a strong burning string smell. I suggest using thin, organic cotton string when you can. Embroidery floss separated into 4 threads (they typically come as 6 threads) is strong enough. Use a single color of string or experiment by mixing colors. I like using a simple color to bind and a subtle colour that compliments the foliage to make the handle. Red is a common colour for ceremonial usage, which is why you will see many commercially sold bundles bound with it.
How to Bind an Herbal Smudge Stick
The key to making a successful smudge stick is in binding tightly. I liken it to cigar making in that a tight bundle of leaves burns more slowly. I also find that the plant materials shrink as they dry and a loosely tied bundle is more likely to lose bits and pieces along the way or fall apart completely. With that in mind, grasp plants firmly and give the string a tight yank each time you turn or tie.
- Step 1. Clip herbs into similarly sized lengths. Don’t skimp out — thick bundles smoulder slowly and are better looking. Pluck off any diseased or ugly leaves. Arrange the stems into a bundle and tie a tight knot around the stem end to secure. Wrap the string around the stems a few more times and then tie another knot to secure.
- Step 2. Grasp the bundle with one hand and begin winding the string on an angle up to the tip of the bundle. Try to use as little string as possible and pull tightly as you go. I find that large-leaved herbs don’t need much binding, while very thin leaved herbs, especially conifers require more winding to prevent the leaves from falling out. You can leave the foliage loose at the end or fold under to keep everything tight.
- Step 3. Turn the bundle around and begin winding down back to the start, creating a criss cross pattern overtop the first strings.
- Step 4. You can choose now to either go back up and down again, retracing the path you took with another layer of string, or you can bind off and complete. I find that the pass tends to create a tighter bundle and is a good way to pull in and secure any pieces that got away the first time around. Wind plenty of string around the base of the bundle to create a handle. You can use as much string as you want here since this part will not burn. Tie off and clip any loose strings to create a neat and finished look.
- Step 5. Set the bundles aside somewhere dry and dark where there is good air circulation. You can hang them using thin wires or Holiday tree ornament hooks wedged underneath the handles. You can also lay them out flat to dry, but here I suggest setting them on top of a screen or very loosely woven basket that is raised up off of any solid surfaces so that air can flow underneath and around the bundles.
Wait until your bundles are completely dry (this usually takes a few weeks at least) before burning them.
How to Use a Smudge Stick
Holding the “handle” of your smudge stick, light the end (a candle works best), being careful to avoid flyaway ends and falling embers or particularly combustable herbs. Hold the burning end over a clay bowl, ashtray, or other non-flammable container at all times. Allow the stick to burn for a few seconds and when it seems like it is going, carefully, gently blow or wave it to put out the flame. Allow the stick to smoulder for a few minutes; never leave its attendance. To extinguish, smother or crush the smouldering end until it goes out. Try to avoid using this water as this can ruin the stick for further use.
Include directions for use if you plan on giving bundles away as gifts,
It’s touted as helpful in relieving tension, anxiety and more, but it’s not risk-free
By Dennis Thompson
WEDNESDAY, April 25 (HealthDay News) — Aromatherapy is beginning to enter the medical mainstream, with groups as diverse as the American Cancer Society and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs touting the use of fragrance as a therapy that can complement traditional health care.
There’s little evidence to suggest that aromatherapy can directly cure illness, but research has found it can help reduce a wide range of symptoms and side effects in some people.
“Many specific ailments can benefit from aromatherapy blends and treatments,” said Monika Meulman, president of the Canadian Federation of Aromatherapists. “For example, insomnia, nausea, headaches and migraines, and aches and pains are often improved with aromatherapy — just to name a few.”
Aromatherapy involves the use of what are called essential oils, which are very potent distillations of the fragrant portions of plant life such as flowers, roots and bark, said Dr. Hal Blatman, medical director of the Blatman Pain Clinic in Cincinnati and a past president of the American Holistic Medical Association.
These oils are either applied topically to the body, through a cream or a soaking bath, for instance, or are inhaled after they’ve been diffused into the air in a room, Meulman explained.
Researchers believe that the oils trigger smell receptors in the nose, prompting the transmission of chemical messages along nerve pathways to the brain’s limbic system, Blatman said. The limbic system is a part of the brain closely associated with moods and emotion.
“It’s easy to see smells have an effect on the body,” Blatman said. “Smells have deep emotional triggers in people.”
Aromatherapists recommend using different oils for different effects. For example:
- Lavender and rosemary oil are suggested for relieving muscle tension and anxiety.
- Peppermint and ginger oil may relieve nausea and help perk up a fatigued person.
- Eucalyptus oil is considered helpful in treating respiratory ailments — something known by the legions of kids who’ve had Vicks VapoRub smoothed onto their chest.
The oils also can be layered on to get a combination of effects, Blatman said.
“There are all kinds of specific conditions and specific remedies,” he said. “There are a number of reference books for how to use the oils.”
The potential plusses of aromatherapy, however, come with possible drawbacks, too.
For instance, people who decide to pursue aromatherapy on their own need to be careful because the essential oils used are very strong, Meulman and Blatman said. The oils can cause an allergic reaction when touched or inhaled and can prompt an asthma attack in some people.
The quality of essential oils also can change over time.
“Often the oils sitting on the shelf in a health food store are no longer viable — they break down with time — and may no longer have active compounds in them,” Meulman said. “Many essential oils are only effective for several months to a year. By the time they get to an end user, they have oxidized to the point of not being useful and, in some cases, may be harmful.”
People also should be aware that the oils can have an internal effect even if applied to the skin.
“Some essential oils can accumulate in the liver,” Meulman said. “For example, eucalyptus is broken down slowly by the body and tends to accumulate in the liver. If used daily in large amounts, within a few weeks a person can experience signs of toxicity due to this buildup.”
For these reasons and others, Meulman and her association recommend that people interested in aromatherapy consult with a professional aromatherapist.
“For do-it-yourself use, one can use some oils for ambiance, room spray experiences and other such occasional uses,” she said. “For daily aromatherapy use and self-treatment, professional aromatherapist guidance is strongly advised.”
The National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy has more on aromatherapy.
Copyright © 2012 HealthDay. All rights reserved.
- On the Scent (massageenvy.com)
- The Essence of Aromatherapy (everydayhealth.com)
- AromaTherapy: More Than Just a Sweet Smell (massageenvy.com)
- [Aromatherapy, Essential Oils, Extracts online] Posts from Health-and-Fitness:Aromatherapy Articles from EzineArticles.com for 04/30/2012 (earthyessences.wordpress.com)
- How to Get Rid of a Headache: 3 Easy Ways to Relieve a Headache (massageenvy.com)
As the temperatures rise, be sure to give yourself the cooling, minty refreshment that Young Living’s peppermint essential oil provides. One of the best things to do during a hot, summer evening is to rub some soothing peppermint on the bottoms of your feet.
There are very few things out there that can soothe and relax while also giving you the clarity, focus, and pick-me-up that you need during a day when you feel just a little off. Peppermint falls into that rare category, which makes it such a vital and outstanding part of your aromatherapy and essential oil options.
Some exciting research has been done with peppermint essential oil that studies an increase of concentration and alertness and even memory. Simply take your bottle of Young Living peppermint oil and place a drop of the oil on your tongue or add it to flavor and cool your water, lemonade, or favorite tea.
Let’s examine a few other exciting and versatile ways you can utilize your peppermint oil and reap the benefits of nature’s living energy:
- Add a drop of peppermint essential oil to herbal tea to help aid normal digestion.
- Massage several drops of peppermint essential oil on your abdomen, place a drop on your wrists, or inhale to soothe the minor stomach discomfort associated with travel.
- Rub one drop of peppermint essential oil on your temples, forehead, over your sinuses (careful to avoid contact with your eyes), and on the back of your neck to relieve head pressure.
- Place two drops of peppermint essential oil on your tongue and rub another drop of oil under your nose to help improve concentration and alertness.
- Apply peppermint essential oil to the back of your neck and shoulders throughout the day to keep energy up.
- Inhale peppermint essential oil, apply topically to your temples or neck, or put a drop on your tongue or in water to jump-start your morning routine.
- Diffuse or inhale peppermint essential oil mid-morning to curb the desire to snack.
- Inhale peppermint essential oil or rub a drop onto your abdomen to soothe minor stomach discomfort.
Keep in mind that Young Living’s peppermint oil is a great way to introduce your neighbors, friends, and family to the wonderful and exciting world of essential oils. Help others see what they’ve been missing by introducing them to the versatile world of peppermint!
—Derek Cullimore, YL Product Marketing Manager
- Congested? Get Steamy (fitsugar.com)
- Peppermint Soothes Gastric Pain and IBS, Study Says (fitsugar.com)
- Jane G. Goldberg, Ph.D.: More Than A Scent: Essential Oils Aid The Immune System (huffingtonpost.com)
Making your own natural bath and body products can be a fun hobby. You don’t have to sniff through aisles of products filled with unnatural ingredients and artificial fragrances; instead, you are in charge. You can mix up your own custom blend that soothes your senses and saves the sinuses.
If you decide to create your own bath salts, varieties of purely natural options are at your disposal. When you’ve found your favorite base, I suggest purchasing it in bulk from an online source, simply because it is much more economical. However, it is important to be aware that not all sources of salt are created equal. Unfortunately, there are providers that blend a small amount of premium salt with a lesser grade, and yet it retails at full price. Sometimes minerals can be removed from the salt thus creating an inferior product. Also, beware of bleached white salt because it is a sure sign that valuable minerals have been removed. Since you are investing time into making your own blend, spend a few moments to make sure you’re using a high-quality base.
As a base, I recommend using Dead Sea salt. It is very economical and has so many wonderful benefits. This salt, originating in Israel, contains over 21 minerals essential to our bodies and has been known to ease many skin conditions. Another favorite of mine is Himalayan pink salts. The color is simply beautiful and the benefits are well worth the extra price. This healing, skin smoothing salt is said to contain over 80 valuable elements. Plus, it is said to be the purest salt on the market.
Once you have found your base, it is time to decide on scent. I prefer to use pure essential oils to synthetic fragrance oils. The crumb cake bath fragrance might smell heavenly, but we are trying to make something as close to nature as possible. Your body will thank you for steering away from the chemical alternatives. It is important to be aware that not all essential oils are recommended for bath products, so do your homework. Some of my favorites are peppermint, rosemary, lavender, grapefruit and lime. You can create your own unique blends by adding two or more essential oils to your recipe.
Your imagination is the limit when it comes to the creative process of blending your own fragrance.
If you would like to give your bath salts as a gift, I recommend reusing glass jars that you might find around the house. If the lid gives away the clue to the jar’s first purpose, simply paint over it with acrylic paint. Another fun thing to do is layer Dead Sea Salt with Himalayan salt. The colors are beautiful, and the presentation is quite impressive.
Pure and Natural Bath Salts
- 4 C. salt
- ½ oz. Pure essential oil
I like to use plastic shoeboxes to mix my bath salt in. Simply pour in your salt base of choice and add your essential oil(s). Blend thoroughly with a stainless spoon and cover with lid.
Note: You might find that you prefer either a lighter or a heavier scent; if so, simply reduce or increase the amount of essential oil you use. Just remember: when the salts dry, the scent will be reduced.
Have fun while creating your own blends and relaxing to the finished product!
- spa products – Kolhapur, India (travelpod.com)