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Smoke Cleansing 101: What Is It? How to Do It?

Smoke Cleansing 101: What Is It? How to Do It?

In this article, we talk about smoke cleansing, how it's practiced all over the world, when to do it, and how to do it. If you're new to this practice, consider this as your ultimate starter guide! Read on to learn more.

What Is Smoke Cleansing?

Smoke cleansing is an ancient practice of burning aromatic plants, woods, and resins for health and spiritual purposes. But over the years, this ritual has become widely known in the metaphysical world as smudging which is a sacred ceremony specifically practiced by Indigenous groups in North America.

While smudging is unique to the Native peoples (and must be duly recognized as such), the use of aromatic smoke for spiritual healing and warding off negative energies has been a common practice among diverse cultures, customs, and faiths all over the world for thousands of years.

For example:

  • Ancient Romans lit up cinnamon during funerals and rosemary to stimulate healing.
  • In Mesopotamia, the Minoans and the Mycenaeans burned ladanum (a gum resin) and saffron (an antioxidant herb).
  • The Assyrians burned boxwood, cedar, cyprus, and fir in their homes, altars, and healing places.
  • Burning incense is a staple ceremony in ancient Egypt as a way of worshipping their gods.
  • In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), burning agarwood and sandalwood is believed to promote emotional and physical wellness.
  • The Roman Catholic church practices incense burning to amplify prayers so that petitions and intentions would rise to heaven.

These are only a few of the smoke cleansing rituals practiced in many cultures around the world. The breadth of evidence documenting how various countries and groups carry out this ancient practice suggests how inclusive and accessible smoke cleansing is even to this day.

Smudging vs. Smoke Cleansing: What's the Difference?

Let's take a look at the definition of the verb smudge. It is an English word with roots from the mid-18th century which means to smoke or protect by means of a smudge, according to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary.

However, the word has evolved to describe the smudging ceremonies of Indigenous people where herbs and medicinal plants are burned for cleansing, health, and spiritual purposes, the Canadian Encyclopedia states. Smudging eventually became the term specific to the smoke cleansing tradition of the Native peoples.

Smudging and smoke cleansing may use similar elements, but each serves a different purpose. Smoke cleansing can be done to drive away negative energy, elicit a sense of community, mark a sacred space, or induce good sleep.

Also, while smudging has its roots in the Indigenous cultures, smoke cleansing isn't tied to any group or culture. Meaning, anyone can perform it.

Users of both practices must, however, use herbs that are sustainably harvested and are significant to their intention and ancestry.

What's the Purpose of Modern Smoke Cleansing?

Toxins and negative energies in our bodies and environments are invisible to the naked eye, but our soul can always tell something is off.

You've likely experienced this when you walked into a room or a building and you felt a bad vibe you couldn't just shake off. Or when you met with a friend who was seething in anger. And when you parted ways you felt that their anger rubbed off on you, making you a little edgy.

In these situations, your sixth sense is prompting you something wasn't right. Negative energies can build up in and around you and often, it's not enough to get rid of them by simply opening up your doors and windows. In this case, a smoke cleanse is the best way to flush out those bad vibes before they affect your well being.

Smoke cleansing can be used in different ways and contexts:

1. At home - Negative energies can build up in the nook and cranny of your home, especially after a fight or disagreement between family members just ensued. Smoke cleansing can help freshen up the energy in your home.

It will also clear your mind, dispel unpleasant energies, and raise positive vibrations in your space to stimulate peace, harmony, and forgiveness.

2. Before and after yoga and meditation - It's important that you're in a relaxed state when you do yoga and meditation. Burning herbs is the perfect pre-meditation ritual to get yourself in the zone. The relaxing fragrance of burned herbs calms the mind and body. Plus, it sets the room in a tranquil mood.

3. Cleansing and recharging crystals - Other than cleansing people and spaces, herbs are also used to purify and energize healing crystals. Crystals tend to absorb the energy it is exposed to, and this can dull their own energies.

If you're using your amethyst crystal to draw out stress from your body at the end of a busy week, chances are your amethyst is absorbing the negative energy from which it's protecting you. So give your crystal a periodic smoke cleanse to refuel it. You can also smoke newly bought or received crystals to get rid of unwanted energies that may have touched them.

4. Ceremonies and rituals - Smoke clearing or incense burning is very much present in spiritual practices in many cultures to this day. This is performed to ward off bad spirits, send prayers to the spirit realm, or as a pleasant offering to their gods.

You can also do the same at home, starting off with having a dedicated space for prayer and meditation. Choose herbs and resins to burn and play sound bowls/drums to create your own sacred corner.

5. Aura cleanse - Energy workers or those who are involved in energy healing techniques like reiki, tarot reading, and pranic healing would cleanse their own aura before every ritual. This is necessary to remove negative energies that may cloud their vision and wisdom. A white sage stick is often used to detox the soul and aura.

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Smoke Cleansing Essentials: What You Need

Now that you know the origins and purpose of smoke cleansing, let's take a look at the elements needed to perform your cleanse.

Every ritual must have items representing the 4 elements of nature: the plant (earth element), fire source (fire element), smoke (air element), and the shell (water element).

1. Plants - Every herb or plant burned in this practice has unique properties. It's important to understand these properties and to align them with your goals and intentions.


  • White sage - It is considered the mother of all smudge bundles. With its calming fragrance, white sage relaxes the mind and purifies the body. Its smoke is said to amplify prayers, remove unwanted spirits, and cleanse environments.
  • Palo santo - Palo santo is a Spanish word which translates to holy wood or wood of the saints. What it does is it clears and grounds energies. Palo santo has a citrusy scent with minty notes, qualities that make it the most fragrant of woods. It is also used to invoke blessings.
  • Sweetgrass - The vanilla scent of sweetgrass calms and soothes weary senses. The plant is associated with female energies and is believed to promote harmony within the home. Sweetgrass is often burned after a space has been smoked with white sage to seal the space with positive energy.
  • Cedar - There are several benefits attributed to this ancient wood: it is believed to provide wisdom and protection, and restore the balance among the chakras. Cedar is used in smoke cleansing to boost positive energy in a space and to stimulate positive emotions among its inhabitants.
  • Mugwort - Also called black sage, mugwort has antimicrobial properties that relaxes the mind and body. It is used to create connections with the spiritual realm and to increase protection against evil spirits.
White Sage


  • Palo santo - Mild, woody, and sweet-smelling palo santo clears negative energy and helps relieve pain, stress, and headache.
  • Copal - A fresh-smelling, fast-burning resin used to purify energies, raise vibrations, attract love, reveal invisible energies in a given space, and inspire insights into the Divine.
  • Frankincense - With a piney to lemony scent to it, frankincense induces tranquility and deepens spiritual experiences. It also increases strength and motivation on days when you're low on energy and inspiration.
  • Myrrh - Its warm, earthy, and slightly bitter scent helps enhance spiritual awareness before and during rituals. Myrrh is also used to bring about happiness, confidence, strength, and stability.
  • Dragon's blood - A natural resin produced from the tropical dragon tree, this dark red resin is an excellent option for setting a calm ambiance. It produces a soft and sweet scent (almost similar to amber but sweeter) with some earthy tones that elicit healing and increased contemplation.
  • Benzoin - This herb resin is known for its vanilla undertone with earthy tones. Benzoin resin is burned to clear negative energy, balance the emotions, and soothe sadness, anger, greed, loneliness, and weariness. It's also believed to attract prosperity.

2. Bowl or abalone shell - A heatproof, low-sided bowl is used as a holder for burned herbs. The bowl must be large enough to contain your smoke cleansing tools. An abalone shell is primarily used in place of a ceramic bowl, as the shell symbolizes the water element which unites all the elements in the ritual.

3. Fan for spreading the smoke - For this purpose you can use a feather to spread the smoke all over your body and in various parts of a room. You can also use your hand or a bundle of leaves.

4. Fire source - To light your plant or herb stick, you'll need a match or small gas lighter. For burning resins, use a charcoal puck as a source of light.

How to Smoke Cleanse

With an herb bundle of stick

  1. Light the end of the herb with a candle. Hold it in the flame until the stick is ablaze and a steady stream of smoke is produced.
  2. Using a feather or your hand, gently fan the smoke onto your body. Start smoking your head then move downwards. Include the back of your body, reaching behind as best you can.
  3. After smoking your whole body, breathe in a little smoke to cleanse your insides.
  4. To cleanse your space, hold the stick and walk counterclockwise around the room. Fan the smoke particularly on the corners of the room, where negative energies build up.
  5. Once done, crack open a door or window to release the old energy.
  6. After finishing the cleanse, place the burned stick in the abalone shell (or bowl). Let it fade completely by itself.

Using loose herbs or resin

  1. In an abalone shell or bowl, place a handful of sand/small rocks for slippage prevention and heat insulation.
  2. Place a charcoal tab on top and light it up. Let stand for 5 minutes, or until a layer of ash forms around the charcoal.
  3. Put loose herbs or resin on top. You can use one type of herb or mix different herbs and resin together.
  4. Once a stream of smoke is produced, fan the smoke with your hand or a feather in your desired direction.
  5. Crack open a door or window to release the old energy and smoke. Resin in particular produces a lot of smoke.
  6. After finishing the cleanse, let the incense blend fade completely by itself.

For a more detailed instruction, read this blog on how to perform a smoke cleansing ritual.

Start Your Own Smoke Cleansing Regimen

We hope this post gave you the necessary information you need to give smoke cleansing a try! It will not magically melt away your stressors or resolve your issues. But as you incorporate the practice into your daily life, you'll be more mindful of your thoughts and actions, feel better (about yourself and your environment), and have a more positive attitude.

If you wish to get started with your energy cleansing journey, Peace Streaks can provide you with all the tools you need for your smoke cleansing ceremony. From assorted herbs and resins to abalone shells and feathers, we have a wide selection of tools you can choose from depending on your preference. Check out Peace Streaks today!


*House of Formlab Presents A Magick Guide to Smoke Cleansing. * (n.d.). House of Formblab.com. Retrieved from https://houseofformlab.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/10/Step-by-Step-Guide-to-Smudging-by-House-of-Formlab.pdf

Collins, A. (2018, April 4). Let It All Go: Smoke Cleansing for Mind, Body & Spirit. Cabine. Retrieved March 24, 2022, from https://cabinemonde.com/blogs/journal/sage-smudging-the-where-what-why#a

G. (2020, July 31). Smudging vs Smoke-Cleansing. Greenman Meadows. Retrieved March 23, 2022, from https://greenmanmeadows.com/smudging-vs-smoke-cleansing/

H. (n.d.). Smoke Cleansing Around the World. Mountain Rose Herbs. Retrieved March 23, 2022, from https://blog.mountainroseherbs.com/smoke-cleansing

mindbodygreen. (2021, October 20). A Sage Smudging Ritual To Cleanse Your Aura & Clear Your Space. Retrieved March 23, 2022, from https://www.mindbodygreen.com/0-17875/a-sage-smudging-ritual-to-cleanse-your-aura-clear-your-space.html

Smudging. (2022, March 23). In The Canadian Encyclopedia. https://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/smudging