You can trace the ceremonial burning of herbs back to a variety of cultures. Though white sage is common and quite popular at the moment, there are far more herbs at your fingertips that can be just as powerful, more environmentally friendly, and related to your cultural heritage.
Every herb has a variety of meanings, uses, and correspondences. Herb sticks can be tailored to your every need. Even better, they’re easy to make, which I’ll outline below.
Before we go any further, I’d like to share a quick word on cultural appropriation. Notice I’m not using the term “smudge.” For many indigenous Americans smudging is a sacred practice, and many feel that the use of the word by non-indigenous Americans is not only misused but hurtful.
It’s easy to use other terms, so why not, if the alternative is causing harm? I try to stick to terms like “smoke cleansing,” “ceremonial herb burning,” and “herb stick.” They make my point without the harm, it’s a win-win!
Before we jump into the steps for making DIY herb sticks, let’s take a quick look at what the benefits are of making and using your own herb sticks.
Why burn herbs and make your own herb sticks?
Most herb sticks that you buy at the store are made using white sage. Though white sage isn’t endangered (yet) it is being overharvested and due to a variety of reasons space for it to grow is being limited.
Beyond the environmental effects and cultural appropriation, using other herbs will give you more uses and scents. You may find that you like the smell of other herbs even more than sage!
The benefits of burning herbs are many but here are a few:
- Cleanse negative energy
- Add protection to your space
- Cleanse your aura
- Bring positive energy
- Balance the elements of your space
- Bring more masculine or feminine energy into your space
- Consecrate items or your space
- Simply for the delicious aroma!
How to make a DIY herb stick
1. Select your herbs. Reference the list below for different herb meanings and uses.
2. Dry your herbs before or after making your stick; it will take longer for them to dry if you dry them after you make them because they’re all smooshed together. If you opt to dry before, don’t let them dry out all the way. Otherwise, it’ll be too crumbly. I like to give my herbs a few days to dry out before I make the sticks, then let them dry the rest of the way for another few days.
3. Arrange all of your items nearby.
- Cotton or hemp string
- Your herbs and flowers, if you’re using them
- A mat or bag to put everything on to make clean-up easier (optional).
4. Cut your herbs to a similar length or tapered, depending on your desired end design.
5. Bundle all of the herbs together. If you’re using bigger leaves or flowers, you can wrap them around the bundle or place them in different areas. You may have to replace them as you tie.
6. Tie a knot at the bottom of your bundle.
7. Wrap string up and around your bundle so anything sticking out is held in place.
8. Tie a knot at the top.
9. Let the herbs dry the rest of the way, about two weeks.
Herb meanings and uses
- Sagebrush: Clear negative energy, soothe headaches, brings air element and feminine energy.
- Lavender: Soothing, calming, balancing, brings air element and masculine energy.
- Basil: Balancing, joyful, positive energy, brings fire element and masculine energy.
- Rosemary: Purify, seal or bond relationships, brings fire element and masculine energy.
- Rose: Love, affection, brings water element and feminine energy.
- Lemongrass: Clears obstacles, brings air element and masculine energy.
- Mugwort: Enlightenment, magic, intuition, brings air and earth element and feminine energy.
- Mint: Awareness, concentration, brings fire element and masculine energy.
- Spruce: Grounding, clarity, calmness, brings earth element and feminine energy.
How to use your new herb stick
Safety first! Before you light anything, ensure that you have a safe place to put your burning herb stick in between wafting and so you have a place to put it when you finish up. You can use an ethically sourced abalone shell for this or any right-sized fireproof dish.
Decide what your purpose is for burning your herbs before you start, so you have the appropriate mindset. Carefully light your herb stick and either place it in your fireproof dish or hold it over the dish while you smoke your space. A large feather can be helpful for wafting the smoke, but your hand will work too.
You can let your stick burn out in the fireproof dish in its own time if you are near it the entire time. If you need to step away from the burning herb stick, extinguish it in water to make sure there are no burning pieces left.
You may find that some herbs burn faster than others as you experiment with them, you can keep this in mind for how you construct them and where you light them in the future.
These DIY herb sticks have become a new obsession for me. I love having the smells of the herbs in the house and seeing them out while drying. I think you’ll find that this is a fun alternative to purchasing white sage!
Cassie Uhl is a published author, artist, intuitive, and founder of Zenned Out. She created Zenned Out in 2012 with the mission to build a brand that normalizes spirituality. In 2018 she self-published her popular and interactive Goddess Discovery Book series. In 2020 her writing and art became more mainstream with Understanding Auras, Understanding Crystals, and Understanding Chakras, published by The Quarto Group. Her writing style and art combine to help marry accessibility with deep spiritual topics. It is her goal to help others understand and live spiritual practices that can change the world. Inspired by her open-minded grandmother, Cassie has been meditating and working with her energy since her teenage years. She received her 200hr YTT in 2012 with a focus on breathwork. Now, her work focuses on energy work, journeying, mediumship, death midwifery, and healing through traditional Celtic shamanic practices.