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A Simple Step-by-Step Guide to Making Smudge Sticks at Home

While there are many places both online and in brick-and-mortar stores for buying smudge sticks, making your own can be rewarding. I’ve been making my own smudge sticks for the past 10 years and I love the whole process.

Collecting the plant material, shaping them into bundles, and letting them dry before using them is a ritual in itself. I always feel like some ancient shaman when I make my smudge sticks!

When I first explored making smudge sticks, I felt quite intimidated until I realized it was quite simple. Read on if you want to learn how to make your smudge sticks at home. I’ve also included a beginner’s guide to using your smudge stick for cleansing your home and self.

What Are Smudge Sticks?

Before you get into the actual process of making smudge sticks, let’s talk more about this cleansing wand. Smudging is an ancient cleansing ritual performed by healers and priests worldwide. It’s done to get rid of negative energies, open up the flow of Qi, and unblock stagnant energy.

Burning smudge sticks is a good way of bringing in good energies both into your home and your body.

Smudge sticks are bundles of herbs or other plant matter held together by string. The plants used are dried before being lit to release their aromatic oils. Smudge sticks are normally made with sage, rosemary, lavender, or imphepho, a plant indigenous to South Africa.

favoriteImphepho is one of my favourite plants for smudging rituals and is a wonderful healing plant for anxiety and stress.

Other popular plants used are the Cedar and Eucalyptus trees, where twigs and leaves are bundled together.

What Are the Benefits of Using Smudge Sticks?

When a smudge stick burns, it releases the resinous properties found in the plant through the smoke. Besides removing negative energies, other benefits include:

  • Calming down an anxious or overwhelmed person

  • Restoring emotional and spiritual balance

  • Enhancing spiritual connection during rituals and meditation

  • Aids in the healing of the body battling with illness and disease

  • Removes evil spirits from the home

  • Bringing back one’s zest for life by increasing physical energy

  • Improves clarity of thought processes

  • Restores positivity in one’s state of mind

I often smudge myself to release the build-up of toxins in my body. I also use smudge sticks when I’m working with clients struggling with anxiety, depression, sadness, and fear.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, many people who caught the virus struggled to recover fully afterward. Smudging yourself is a good way to restore balance in your mind, body, and soul. This applies to other illnesses and ailments as well and can be used to support conventional or alternative treatment plans.

My Simple Step-by-Step Guide to Making a Smudge Stick

Here is my simple step-by-step guide to making your smudge sticks at home. Whenever you collect plant material, set the intention for these plants to act as cleansing and healing agents. When you sit down to make bundles, once again set the intention that every stick is full of healing energy.

Step 1: Identify and Collect Plant Material

Decide which plants you want to use to make your own smudge sticks. If you have sage, rosemary, or lavender plants growing in your garden, make use of them. Cut twigs with leaves and flowers to lengths of about 12 inches long.

Step 2: Make Bundles

Start by bundling the cuttings together in bundles of about 1 to 2 inches thick. If you want to keep the smudge stick long you can keep them at 12 inches. However, if you prefer shorter sticks, cut the 12-inch long bundles in half.

When I’m bundling the plant material together, I use my hands to fold all the leaves, flowers, and little twigs together into a tight bundle. This way, I get a neat wand without pieces sticking out everywhere!

Step 3: Wrap the Bundles With String

Cut long pieces of string. With one hand, hold the bundle of plants, and with the other hand, start wrapping the string around the bundle, working from the bottom, up to the top end, and then back down again. You’ll be creating a crisscross pattern with the string.

I have a little ritual when I start wrapping with the string. I wrap the string nine times at the base before going up the bundle nine times. I then come back down the stick nine times before tying the string together in a knot at the base. This is for the longer smudge sticks which I prefer to use.

Step 4: Leave to Dry

Once you have your smudge sticks neatly tied into bundles, place them somewhere to dry. I normally put my sticks onto a baker’s cooling rack in our laundry room. Another option is to hang them up on your kitchen window railing. The sticks will need to dry over a few weeks, around three to four weeks depending on how dry the weather is.

Tip! If the smudge sticks aren’t dried properly, you’ll battle to get a decent smoke from them when you light them. You can sometimes purchase dried sprigs of herbs (or in my case, rolls of imphepho) which can be bundled together to make smudge sticks. You can then use them immediately.

Step 5: Start Smudging

When your smudge stick is ready to be used, you can start smudging!

A Beginner’s Guide to Smudging

It doesn’t require years of practice to master the art of smudging. It’s really quite simple and once again, I emphasize the importance of setting the right intention whenever you do a cleansing ritual with your smudge stick.

1. Prepare Your Tools for Smudging

Have the following items on hand before you start smudging:

  • Matches

  • Candle

  • A large seashell or clay pot to hold the smudge stick (this is useful to stop ashes falling onto the ground)

  • A large feather

2. Light the Smudge Stick

Light your candle first. Take the smudge stick and hold it over the flame until it catches alight. I rotate the stick so the flame catches on all sides of the end of the stick. Fan the flame out with the feather. It should start to smoke.

3. Start Smudging

If you’re using a seashell or clay pot, place the smoking stick inside. Otherwise, hold the non-burning side of the stick with your left hand. Keep fanning the stick with your feather so the embers don’t die down. A properly dried stick should not die out before the end of your ritual.

Perform the ritual by directing the smoke, with the feather, over the person or around the room, depending on whom or what you’re smudging. Whenever I’m cleansing a room, I walk around the room clockwise, staying on the left side always.

Make sure you waft smoke into every nook and cranny of the room. When I’ve completed one full circle of the room, I then proceed to the open window and direct the smoke (and negative energies) out.

4. Extinguish the Smoking Stick

Some healers hold their smoking smudge stick under running water until it’s completely extinguished. I prefer to take my burning stick outside and placing it, smoking end downwards, into the soil. Most times, this will extinguish the stick before reaching the end of the wand.

Sweep up any ashes that have fallen on the ground and empty them into the garden. Do the same if you’ve got ashes collected in the seashell or clay pot. Never throw it away in the trash can. By tossing the ashes into the soil, you’re honoring the cleansing ritual by returning the plant matter it to Mother Earth.

Final Thoughts

Making your own smudge sticks is a powerful way of adding yourhealing energies to the plants being used to make the wands. By engaging in the process of handcrafting your smudge sticks, your intentions for healing and cleansing become stronger and more meaningful.

However, if you run out of homemade smudge sticks, you can buy them for your next cleansing ritual. Place your store-bought sticks in the sun for a few hours to recharge them with positive energies. And, always remember, you intend to cleanse and heal which makes the smudge sticks extremely effective healing tools.

If you're based in Johannesburg, South Africa, consider booking a smudging ritual to cleanse your body for overall wellness.

This post was updated on March 22nd, 2024.

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