Here's What Really Happens When You Burn Sage

While burning sage to cleanse a space — maybe a new apartment you want a fresh start in, or a room in your house where something negative took place — may seem to be a fairly new trend in the spiritual and wellness communities, it's actually an ancient ritual that has been adopted by the modern New Age movement and healing modalities. "Smudging," or burning sage as a practice in cleansing and healing, has roots in Native American traditions. In these cultures, the practice is known as the Sacred Smoke Bowl Blessing, which has been used for centuries. Dried herbs, especially white sage, are burned in a bowl and the smoke spreads to help dispel negative energy and spirits and also to promote wisdom and healing (

Sage is from the plant family called salvia, which is appropriate, since "salvere" means "to heal" in Latin (Thought Catalogue). So does burning sage actually help promote positive energy or mental and physical health? It may surprise you to learn that not only would modern new age healers say yes, but science backs up some of these claims.

What science says about smudging

When someone "clears the air" with burning sage, it turns out they aren't just clearing it of spirits or stale emotions; research has proven that burning sage can actually remove a shocking 94% of bacteria from the air (via It's important to note, though, that the sage smoke needs at least an hour to achieve this level of air purification, so waving your smudge stick once or twice in the corner of the room won't cut it for this purpose.

And when people say they can "feel" healthier energy in a room after it has been smudged, there may be scientific reason for that, too. Research has shown that negative ions and positive ions have noticeable effects on the well being of human beings ( Specifically, positively-charged ions in the air, which are often created in artificial environments and environments that house electronic devices (like our homes and offices) can increase stress and trigger allergies and other ailments, while negative ions, which are naturally high at places like a beach or a park, have an antidepressant and healing effect. Interestingly, burning sage increases negative ions and reduces positive ions in the air. Further, a 2016 University of Mississippi thesis suggested that white sage is rich in compounds that activate certain receptors in the brain responsible for elevating mood levels, reducing stress, and even alleviating pain (via Healthline). No wonder a room "feels better" when you're done burning sage!