The ancient practice of smudging is a powerful cleansing technique where certain herbs are bundled together and burned to restore balance and ease to an individual or group, a sort of ‘spiritual shower’ said to wash away spiritual and emotional negativity. Traditional smudging bundles most commonly consist of a combination of white sage, sweetgrass, cedar, and mugwort. While smoke therapy has had a place in many early civilizations, it has only been during the last hundred years that the West has begun to adopt these age old practices, or more accurately re-adopt. Many skeptics call into question the efficacy of smudging and believe that any health benefits of attributed to the practice is a reflection of ‘magical thinking,’ however, modern science continues to uncover evidence that proves otherwise.
Published in 2006 in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology, a review titled “Medicinal smokes” looked at single and multi-ingredient herbal and non-herbal remedies that are administered in the form of smoke. They used remedies from 50 different countries across 5 continents and, to their surprise, discovered a fascinating overlap worldwide. In addition to a healthy spiritual state, medicinal smokes are used by most of these cultures to address specific organ systems such as pulmonary, neurological, and dermatological. The review conclusively stated that modern medicine ought to investigate smoke as a drug delivery system, for they found that “the advantages of smoke-based remedies are rapid delivery to the brain, more efficient absorption by the body and lower costs of production.”
A remarkable review by the title of “Medicinal smoke reduces airborne bacteria” was also published in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology, this one in 2007. In this study, researchers have empirically proved that smudging could be one of the most powerful antiseptic technologies known to man. As stated in their findings:
“We have observed that 1 hour treatment of medicinal smoke emanated by burning wood and a mixture of odoriferous and medicinal herbs (havan sámagri=material used in oblation to fire all over India), on aerial bacterial population caused over 94% reduction of bacterial counts by 60 min and the ability of the smoke to purify or disinfect the air and to make the environment cleaner was maintained up to 24 hour in the closed room. Absence of pathogenic bacteria Corynebacterium urealyticum, Curtobacterium flaccumfaciens, Enterobacter aerogenes (Klebsiella mobilis), Kocuria rosea, Pseudomonas syringae pv. persicae, Staphylococcus lentus, and Xanthomonas campestris pv. tardicrescens in the open room even after 30 days is indicative of the bactericidal potential of the medicinal smoke treatment. We have demonstrated that using medicinal smoke it is possible to completely eliminate diverse plant and human pathogenic bacteria of the air within confined space.”
After just one hour of smudging, a given environment can experience up to a 94% reduction of aerial bacteria. What’s more is that after 24 hours, the closed room remained decontaminated and after an entire month, several harmful pathogens were still undetected even in an open room. Considering most urban air contains over 1,800 diverse bacteria types, treating our living environments with an occasional smudge could drastically reduce and prevent the contraction of air-quality related illnesses. It is upsetting to think that this practice has been around for so long, but it has received little to no attention in Western society as an effective method for improving life.
With this scientific understanding as to what these agents actually do to the air of an environment, it is clear to see how these ancestral smoke remedies have received their reputation for cleansing areas of their ‘negative energies’ and ‘evil spirits’. However, this empirical understanding does not take away from these medicinal smoke’s reputation of affecting the body’s subtler energy systems through their aroma-therapeutic properties, enhancing one’s mood and outlook. In the past, we have also investigated the psychoactive antidepressant properties of burningfrankincense as well as the antiproliferative effects of burning palo santo, all which aid in the argument that smoke therapy holds potentially ground breaking, yet virtually ignored applications in western medicine.
H/T: Wake Up World
Brodie, Eoin L., Todd Z. DeSantis, Jordan P. Moberg Parker, Ingrid X. Zubietta, Yvette M. Piceno, and Gary L. Andersen. “Urban Aerosols Harbor Diverse and Dynamic Bacterial Populations.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. National Academy of Sciences, n.d. Web. 02 Nov. 2015.
Mohagheghzadeh, A., P. Faridi, M. Shams-Ardakani, and Y. Ghasemi. “Medicinal Smoke May Have a Broad Range of Therapeutic Applications and Benefits.” Green Media Info. Journal of Ethnopharmacology, n.d. Web. 03 Nov. 2015.
“Geospatial Resolution of Human and Bacterial Diversity with City-Scale Metagenomics.” Science Direct. N.p., n.d. Web. 02 Nov. 2015.
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