Homegrown Smudge Sticks: How To Grow And Dry Herbs For Smudging

Homegrown Herb Smudge Stick
(Image credit: Helin Loik-Tomson)

Herbs have been part of sacred ceremonies since the dawn of man. Ancient smudge sticks were primarily derived from the endangered white sage, Salvia apiana. This is different from common sage, which many of us grow in our gardens to feature prominently in our holiday cuisine. You can make a smudge stick and carry out your own rituals by growing this herb and others. 

Smoke cleansing sticks are traditionally made with sage, but can also be concocted with other herbs such as lavender, cedar, sweetgrass, sagebrush, and other herbs with resinous sap. The herbs are lit and the resulting smoke used to cleanse the home or body. It was thought such a practice would remove negative or evil spirits and humors. In effect, it is similar to incense. You can grow your own incense and experience a similar calm, cleansing effect. 

How to Grow Sage for Smudging

Organic herbs work best for smoke cleansing sticks. And the best way to ensure your herbal quality is to grow sage for smudging in your home garden. White sage is a slightly tender perennial that will thrive in USDA zone 6-8. The plant prefers loose, sandy soil and, once established, has a good tolerance of drought. Stratify the seeds for one week and then sow in good potting soil indoors in flats. 

Keep temperatures at least 70 Fahrenheit ( 21.1 C) at night, and 80 F ( 17.78 C) during the day for germination. Keep the flat moist and be patient. Germination can take up to 3 weeks. Plant outdoors when soil is warm and the plants have several pairs of true leaves. 

Grow Your Own Incense

Natural herb incense can also be used as a smudge. The fresh herbs from your garden have potent aromatic essence that releases during burning. In addition to already listed plants, you can use plants like juniper, pine, mullein, catnip, rosemary, bee balm, and yarrow. Many common herbs thrive in the average garden. The discarded stems from using the herbs in cooking or other applications make excellent smudge sticks. This natural herb incense is a zero-waste way to perfume your body and home. Bundle up the stems and light them, blowing out the flame and allowing the embers to gently eat up the stem, releasing fragrant steam. 

How to Make a Smudge Stick

Whether you are using pure white sage or other herbs, smudge sticks are easy to make. You can combine herbs if you wish for different scents. Harvest on a dry, sunny day. Immediately use natural twine or string to bundle the stems. Keep stems the same length and start at the top, tying a knot. Wrap the binding a few times around the stem and tie another knot. Repeat until the whole bundle is trussed. 

Hang the bundles to dry or lay on a wire rack in a cool, dark location to protect the aromatic oils. You can use these immediately once they’re dry, or save them in a container for later use. 

Bonnie L. Grant

Bonnie Grant is a professional landscaper with a Certification in Urban Gardening. She has been gardening and writing for 15 years. A former professional chef, she has a passion for edible landscaping.