Ever wondered what to do with the leftover stems from your French lavender harvest? Don’t throw them out!
If you’re a herbalist, naturalist, or wellness guru, you’ve probably heard of burning sage, AKA smudging, to cleanse your body and home of bad energies. Despite its growing popularity in many modern wellness practices, burning sage is neither the most eco-friendly nor culturally appropriate way to practice smudging. If you aren’t an indigenous Native American, smudge sticks made of English or French lavender stems are a great way to practice smudging while respecting the cultures that created it.
What is Smudging?
Smudging, also commonly known as saging, is the practice of lighting bundles of herbs or dried plants on fire and using the smoke to cleanse the human body or home of negative spirits. It is a Native American religious ceremony that is practiced by many different tribes. Bathing the body or home in the smoke from burning white sage, sweetgrass, or tobacco is believed to have physical and spiritual healing effects. Today, alongside the growing popularity of natural and holistic healing, smudging has become a common practice among non-Native Americans.
Should we be Saging?
The problem with its newfound popularity is twofold. First, Native Americans were not given the right to religious freedom (which includes spiritual practices such as smudging) until 1978. They fought to have their right to religious freedom back, and once they got it, it was quickly picked up as a practice that is largely removed from its spiritual and cultural origins–in other words, it has become culturally appropriated. Second, white sage is being harvested at an unsustainable rate. This damages the land and makes white sage harder to come by, thus more expensive and cost prohibitive to Native American peoples, who started the practice.
There’s a reason why people smudge! Burning herbs like sage fills the room with a refreshed, calming energy. People smudge their homes whenever they first move in to signal negative energies to leave. It’s also done as a way to remove any negative energies that you may have created in yourself and in your environment. If saging helps you to feel calmer, you don’t necessarily need to abandon it. However, it’s so important to recognize its spiritual history, impact on the planet, and cultural heritage before you use sage. A quick side note — unless you are practicing smudging in its traditional spiritual form, it’s best to just call it smoke cleansing! If you’re looking to find a new herb to smudge that aligns with your cultural heritage, lavender is a sustainable, beautifully scented, and healthful alternative.
English and French Lavender Smudge Sticks
It’s no wonder that white sage became the most popular smudging herb. It is believed to improve mental clarity and awareness, as well as improve moods. It also has antimicrobial properties that can keep bacteria and fungi away. Luckily, lavender has many of the same benefits and has been used in western remedies for hundreds of years. It is most often used to induce a state of calm and promote restful sleep.
The stems as well as the flowers of both English and French lavender can be bundled together and lit to fill your home with soothing and vibrant lavender smoke. Not only is lavender grown and harvested at a much more sustainable rate, it is also a “zero waste” herb. This is because the stems which would otherwise be discarded can be saved, dried, and lit both for smudging and culinary purposes. You can use it on its own or combine it in bundles with other types of sustainable and sweet smelling herbs like the ones listed below.
DIY Herbal Smoke Cleanses
There are plenty of ethical herbal alternatives to help you rid your home of negative energies or just fill your house with the smell of fresh herbs. Try using:
- Juniper, an herb that is said to help rid of negative energies while restoring energy to the body. It has a zesty, almost lemony smell.
- Rosemary, a common pairing to lavender both in essential oils and in cooking. It is also used to help energize depleted bodies.
- Cedar has also been used by Native American as a sacred plant.
- Eucalyptus is another popular relaxation promoting herb.
When choosing your herbs, make sure that they are free of pesticides and are grown using sustainable practices.
To make your own herbal smoke bundle, all you have to do is collect ~15 sprigs of herbs and combine them into a solid bundle. Once you have your bundle, wrap them in twine and trim any flyaways. If your herbs are fresh picked, they will need ~2 weeks to dry, the windowsill is the best tool here. Appalachian Botanical Co’s lavender stem bundles are organic and pre-dried so they’re ready to use whenever you’re ready. Then, all you have to do is light the end and allow the smoke to waft across your body or room. You can run the end under cool water to stop the burning and allow the bundle to dry so you can use it again.
Smudging is a powerful and holistic practice, but when done without the proper understanding of both its history and present impact on the Earth and indigenous people, it goes to waste. Using ethically grown French lavender and other herbs can connect you to your own spirit and heritage while still honoring the cultures in which it originated.
MEET THE AUTHOR / ELIZA TALVOLA is a writer from Pittsburgh, PA who considers herself to be a conscious consumer and traveler, slow fashion advocate, and devoted foodie. She is a firm believer in creative reuse and putting people over profits, and is a long time lavender enthusiast. Her favorite product: Lavender Hand Sanitizer Spray