Creative Self-Care with Smudge Sticks

How to Make Personalized Wellness Bundles from Herbs, Plants, and Flowers

by Peg Couch, author of Creating Smudge Sticks: 15 Projects to Remove Negative Energy and Promote Wellness.

“Protect your peace, get rid of toxicity, cleanse your space, cultivate love.”

Author unknown

If you are not already aware, smudging is the act of burning sacred herbs (typically white sage) to clear a space of negative or stagnant energy. Smudging is deeply rooted in Native American tradition but can also be found in many cultures throughout the world. Recently, smudging has become very popular as more people recognize the benefits. However, this rise in interest has spurred a large demand for white sage, causing it to be placed on a watchlist for endangered species (and there is much controversy surrounding the unsustainable harvesting of it for commercial use). The best way to avoid using sage that has been irresponsibly harvested is to buy from a reputable dealer…or to make your own smudge sticks using locally-sourced ingredients instead.

When you make your own smudge sticks, you can combine base herbs with plants and flowers that not only look and smell amazing but also boost the benefits of your bundle. For general purification, start with sage. For protection, add rosemary. If you want to increase happiness and blessings, layer rose petals on top. For centuries, various cultures have associated meanings to herbs, plants, and flowers; there are many excellent resources available to identify them. Below are just a few popular plants along with their common associations:

Popular Herbs, Plants, Flowers and their Common Meanings

Bay laurel – banishment of negativity, healing

Cedar – cleansing, releasing negativity

Eucalyptus – fresh energy, revival, renewal

Juniper – protection, prosperity, cleansing

Lavender – serenity, calm

Rosemary – protection

Sage – purification

Sweetgrass – healing, peace, positivity

Carnation – heart, healing, happiness

Rose – love, beauty, happiness, blessings

Yarrow – strength

Add-ons:

Palo Santo – purification, creativity

Selenite – cleansing, clarity

It is helpful to know these commonly associated meanings, but what is even more important is your own intention. The memories, emotions, and connections you have with various ingredients should be the driving force for your own creations. If the aromatic scent of cedar makes you feel warm and cozy, use it for protection. If the intoxicating aroma of rose brings back memories of lost love, use it to attract romance. The idea is that you can manifest your desires by consciously creating your bundles and focusing on your intentions while burning them.

Here are the basic steps for creating your first smudge stick:

Creating your first smudge stick
  1. Gather Base Materials: Pick up the first step of your base material (typically sage) and position it on your hand. Layer each additional stem, one on top of the other, so that they form a balanced bundle.
  2. Layer Secondary Materials: Layer the stems of any additional herbs or flowers that you wish to include in your bundle on top of your base.
  3. Wrap: Cut a piece of twine approximately three times the length of your bundle. Tie a knot with the twine at the base of your bundle, securing it on the backside. Gently wrap your bundle with twine, moving in an upward fashion, diagonally. When you reach the top, continue wrapping downward diagonally, crisscrossing each layer as you go. Secure a knot at the base of the twine, leaving enough room to create a loop (that you will use to hang your bundle to dry). Trim the base of your bundle so all stems are blunt, and snip any loose or ill-positioned leaves or petals (i.e. manicure it to your taste).
  4. Dry: Hang your bundle in a cool, dry location for four to six weeks or until it is completely dry. Note that your bundle will shrink upon drying, so you may wish to re-tie or adjust any loose strings before using.

Once you are familiar with making a basic smudge stick, you can get creative. Enjoy the process of selecting and harvesting your herbs and flowers. Lovingly trim your petals and stems. Inhale the aromas as you work. Notice the different textures of the various ingredients. Arrange the colors and shapes to create bundles that are pleasing to all of your senses.  This act of consciously creating and connecting with nature is a form of meditation.

When your bundles are dried, it’s time to burn them. Although there is no right or wrong time to burn your smudge stick (as long as you are following safe burning procedures), they are commonly used when you feel the need to cleanse, such as when moving into a new home or office or after a negative confrontation. They can also be used as a form of ritual to create a sense of calm and serenity – like after a busy day, during meditation, or before bed.

Here are some guidelines for burning:

  1. Prepare: Gather an abalone shell or other heatproof bowl, matches, and your smudge stick. Open the windows so that the negative energy can flow outside. Set your intention.
  2. Light: Hold the flame against the end of your smudge stick until it catches fire evenly. Then, gently blow on the end to extinguish the flame. At this point, your smudge stick should be producing a plume of smoke. There should never be an open flame on your stick that could catch something on fire.
  3. Smudge: Walk around the space you wish to smudge, holding the stick in one hand over your shell or bowl in the other (so that it catches any ashes that may fall). Recite your intention as you travel throughout your space. Be sure to smudge in all corners where stagnant or negative energy can collect. Smudge your body by slowly moving the stick around yourself, being cautious not to let it come into contact with your body. (It is common to use a feather to help move the smoke through the air.)
  4. Extinguish: When complete, extinguish your smudge into the shell or bowl so that the smoldering is out. Leave your smudge stick in this bowl until it is completely cooled or until using it again.

Safety first: Never leave a lit smudge stick unattended around children, pets, or flammable objects.

Creating your own smudge sticks is a form of creativity and therapeutic self-care that allows you to nurture body, mind, and spirit. I hope you will enjoy the process and realize the benefits you desire.

Try this exercise before making: Arrange your materials into beautiful shapes or try making mandalas from them. Feel the textures and inhale the aromas. This sensory exercise of “petal play” will help you calm, relax, and get into a creative state of flow that’s good for body, mind, and spirit. 
Courageous Heart Smudge
(with white sage, dried lavender, and yarrow)
Light & Love Smudge
(with rosemary and rose)
House Blessing Smudge
(with cedar, sage, carnation, and palo santo)

Enjoy this brief video showcasing Creating Smudge Sticks:

To buy Creating Smudge Sticks by Peg Couch:

Creating Smudge Sticks by Peg Couch is available from your favorite online retailer and local bookstore, or CLICK HERE to buy!

About the Author

Peg Couch specializes in creating how-to books that focus on creativity, wellness, and lifestyle. She has more than 20 years of experience in book publishing, including Better Day Books, which she founded in 2018. She resides in York, Pennsylvania.