As a family herbalist, my education left me well versed in the traditional medical uses of many plants. However, it has only been recently that I have really cultivated a deep appreciation for sage. Sage is a plant with silvery-gray leaves that is often used in savory cooking. Although native to Europe, sage is widely enjoyed throughout the world both for its culinary and medicinal properties.

The first time I encountered sage outside of the kitchen I was celebrating Samhain, or Halloween, with a group of friends. We were preparing to do a ritual to honor our ancestors and commemorate our deceased loved ones. The sage was said to purify us and our environment for our ritual.

I have to admit, I was skeptical. I wondered how burning a bundle of leaves could purify anything. It seemed a bit “woo” to me.

There is so much that we mere humans do not know about the world around us. Some things we can see with our physical eyes and hear with our physical ears, but other things require a deeper sort of knowing. Our ancestors intuitively knew what our modern science would eventually prove. According to a study published in the Ethnopharmacol Journal, burning medicinal sage reduces the bacteria in the air by up to 94 percent.

How to practice smudging.

Smudging is an Indigenous American practice that involves burning sage-or any other sacred herb- for cleansing and purification. Smudging can be as simple or ceremonial as we would like it to be. All that is needed is a “smudge stick” (a tightly bound bundle of sage), a fire proof container, and a lighter or matches. Begin by lighting the smudge stick. Let the stick burn and then put out the flame while allowing it to smolder. This may take some practice. Begin at the front door and walk clockwise around the room or home being smudged. Don’t forget to put out the smudge stick when the ritual is completed! This is a wonderful practice to perform when preparing the energy in a room for change. For example, smudging before moving into a new home or office space cleanses the area of old energies and prepares it for the new.

Some people smudge daily. For example, before they leave their home in the morning they smudge their bodies. This ritual is simple, grounding, and really allows us to set our intention to embrace a new day and let go of the previous day’s energy. Upon returning home in the evening, it can be nice to smudge our bodies to release any unwanted energy we have accumulated throughout our day.

Using sage allows us to make a conscious decision to live in the present moment. It gives us an action to take to release our attachment to the past. As we purify ourselves of the negative baggage we are bringing with us into the present moment, we become the space through which a beautiful future can occur.