European Herbs to Use for Smoke Cleansing

close up of juniper berries

In European cultures, smoke cleansing often had more practical or medicinal applications than the spiritual practices of Native people. Here’s a list of appropriate herbs to use. 

smoke rising from a bundles of herbs

photo from Mother Earth News


Smudging is the spiritual practice of North Amercian Indigenous people of burning white sage, but using smoke cleansing with aromatic plants is something shared by almost every culture, throughout the world. This smoke can be used for spiritual, meditation, ritual, or practical home keeping.

As mentioned in my last post, I am not interested in smudging with white sage because it’s an at-risk plant and cultural appropriation. Being of European ancestry, I have been most interested in the plants that my ancestors may have used.

a clay chalice with burning incense

photo from Marisa Pfenning

Smudging verses Smoke Cleansing

The word smudging relates to the use of sacred herbs and is a practice that is passed down from ancestors and is part of a ceremony. Smoke cleansing is something that can be done with or without ritual and ceremony and is the more appropriate term to use for burning European herbs.

In European peasant cultures, smoke cleansing often had more practical or medicinal applications than spiritual. Smoke would be used for clearing of parasites and bugs from domestic animals and the home and to clear ‘bad air’. Fumigation by smoke would also have been performed as a medicinal practice. 

While the sticks or bundles may be the most familiar with us today, herbs were often dried as loose leaf and burned on charcoal or thrown onto fires.

Any aromatic plant can be burned, and those local to your area and to your ancestral people will likely be the most powerful to you. While I have not personally made any of my own European smudge bundles, I’ve enjoyed researching the herbs, and look forward to clearing and cleaning with them in the future.

sunlite sage and thyme in a garden

According to conversations with wise women and this source, here are some herbs to try:

European Herbs to Use for Smoke Cleansing

Juniper is said to be calming, protective and clears out negative energy. It also helps ward off viral infections and airborne illness.

Pine is said to be grounding, cleansing, purifying and helps to bring forgiveness. It helps to deepen the breathing and clear phlegm and strengthen the adrenal glands.

Mugwort is considered to be a messenger plant and help with lucid dreaming. It is especially cleansing and used to treat parasites. There are varieties of Mugwort native to both the Americas and Europe. 

close up of juniper berries

Vervain is said to be used for balance, inner strength, and peace. It is a nervine tonic which works on the liver and heart and digestion.

 Culinary Sage is not a native to Northern Europe but is commonly grown in the garden. It is associated with clearing, cleansing, fertility, healing, wisdom, mental clarity and longevity.

Rosemary is not a native either, but another common garden plant. It is said to strengthen the memory, helps with energy flow, binds the soul into the body, promotes fidelity and protects space. It also protects against airborne pathogens.

Thyme protects against airborne pathogens as well and is often combined with Rosemary in smudge bundles. It promotes courage and confidence and lifts heavy moods, bringing an increase in energy and vitality.

Lavender is native to the Medetrainean area, but another common garden herbs. When burned, it may impart relaxation and a sense of calm. It can be used to let go of trauma and grief and to help manage anxiety.

bundles of dried lavender hang upside down

Want to make your own smoke cleansing bundles? I’ll get it together and document the process one of these days, but until then- here is a good guide!

Any herbs you like to use? Leave me a comment and let me know!

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