Health Studies, Prevention

Science Proves Smudging Kills Bacteria

The ancient ritual of smudging has regained popularity in the modern world. In recent years, people have used plant smoke to “cleanse” a space, clarifying the energy of negativity. The practice involves burning herbs and plant resins for spiritual and medicinal reasons, and it was used by indigenous peoples around he world.

Early humans believed smudging unlocked the spirits of plants, to restore balance to a space, individual or group of people. Some practitioners compared smudging to a “spiritual shower” that washes away emotional and spiritual negativity. Now a new research study has proven the practice actually offers tangible health benefits.

A 2006 review was published in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology examined single and multi-ingredient herbal and non-herbal remedies delivered in smoke, from 50 countries in five continents. The scientists found commonality in results throughout the world, where medicinal smoke is used as a treatment in “pulmonary (23.5%), neurological (21.8%) and dermatological (8.1%)” conditions.

The researchers found “ambient smoke,” the inhaled smoke from smudging or incense, is considered an “air purifier.” The review recommended more research into the use of smoke as a drug delivery system, because it reaches the brain rapidly, is efficiently absorbed by the body, and has low production costs.

Another study in 2007 found the smoke produced by burning herbs and incense is a powerful antiseptic technology.

Of course, many are skeptical of assigning health benefits to burning incense or sage, believing it is a superstitious vestige of the past which has been adopted by the “New Age.” Critics also say modern people have appropriated this tradition of indigenous people conquered by their ancestors. They decry this as a form of cultural imperialism.

To further complicate the issue, there are Western religions, particularly Catholicism, that incorporate the burning of incense in their worship rituals.

Most of the people who now use smoke for smudging are not employing it to kill germs or as a drug delivery system. Absent further research, mainstream scientists will probably remain unconvinced of the health benefits of smudging. But those people who practice smudging in personal or religious rituals now have another reason to do so.