Why Do We Burn White Sage? The Science and Proof

Updated on March 9, 2018
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Maurice's favorite smudge sticks are White Sage but has recently become interested in Palo Santo and Sweet Grass for smudging.

Smudge stick of white sage that has been used to clear positive ions or negative energy.
Smudge stick of white sage that has been used to clear positive ions or negative energy. | Source

The Science of Why We Burn White Sage

Today, it is not uncommon to see a bundle of white sage sold in our local crystal and metaphysical shops and in every conscious home. It is clearly known that this was a common practice passed on to us by the Native Americans that has great spiritual significance and use. So, is there any science to tell us why it is that this common plant is so valued and is most effective when burned?

White sage Plant - Used to make smudge sticks for energy clearing
White sage Plant - Used to make smudge sticks for energy clearing | Source

The reason why we burn sage is that of the negative ions. In science, we learn that positive ions are the actually bad. Positive ions are the cause of many of our health and soil problems. Burning sage releases negative ions, which are thought to be good. The negative ions cancel out the positive ones.

Negative ions neutralize our energy field. Therefore, they naturally improve our health and many other awesome side effects of stimulating the endocrine system. These negative ions can even balance our hormones.

Negative ions also help our brains! They promote alpha brainwaves which increase our brain by giving us a higher awareness level. Even the oil from white sage has great benefits. Sage oil contains flavonoids, tannins, alpha and beta-thujone, camphor, cineole, and rosmarinic acid. These have antifungal and antibacterial functions. This medicinal and ever-spiritual helping herb is one of the greatest gifts of knowledge passed down by the Native Americans.

Thunderstorm | Source

Negative Ions vs. Positive Ions Defined

Negative Ions

Negative ions (anions) are atoms (or molecules) that have gained one or more extra negatively charged electrons. Negative ions are naturally generated by evaporating water, ocean surf, waterfalls, and ionic minerals such as tourmaline.

Negative ions have all kinds of benefits, but most importantly, they naturally purify the air. This is already caused by nature by thunderstorms. A large number of negative ions are generated by electrical discharge and naturally occur in thunderstorms thereby cleaning the air we breathe naturally.

When there is a high enough concentration of negative ions in the air, they will attract floating particles in large numbers. This causes the particle to become too heavy to remain airborne. As a result, the particle will fall out of the air, and will then be collected by normal cleaning activities, such as vacuuming or dusting. Negative ions can also be artificially generated as well. You may have seen air ionizers sold in stores which use an external power source or USB. These can even be plugged into your car to freshen the air in your car.

Postive Ions

Positive ions (cations) are atoms (or molecules) that have lost one or more electrons due to a high-energy impact. Natural forces that generate positive ions include the decay of radioactive minerals, radon gas, forest fires, lightning, and ultraviolet rays.

Proof That White Sage Is Useful

Research and facts are what we look for outside of our cultural and spiritual beliefs in order to back up our claims that our practices are legitimate. What do the facts and research say about white sage and its benefits as a remedy?

"Medicinal smoke can completely eliminate diverse plant and human pathogenic bacteria of the air within confined space."—Greenmedinfo.com

The most important statement in this research concluded that using medicinal smoke to eliminate bacteria in the air and to purify or disinfect the air and maintain it for 24 hours in a closed room was achieved. In my opinion, that is a powerful statement when discussing white sage and other powerful medicinal herbs being used for health benefits by burning them. Our wise ancestors had the answers even without structured research. How they achieved such knowledge is the question we should be asking now. We may never know the how or when, but I am so glad we are beginning to discover the science of the wise ones before us and can now use these healing techniques and medicines without a doubt. As follows:

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.


Medicinal smoke reduces airborne bacteria. J Ethnopharmacol. 2007 Dec 3;114(3):446-51. Epub 2007 Aug 28. PMID: 17913417 Author(s): Chandra Shekhar Nautiyal, Puneet Singh Chauhan, Yeshwant Laxman Nene.

Quiz: White Sage and Positive and Negative Ions

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History and Uses of Medicinal White Sage

Before reading this how familiar were you with White Sage and Negative and Positive Ions?

See results

© 2015 Maurice Glaude

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    • Nadine May profile image

      Nadine May 5 months ago from Cape Town, Western Cape, South Africa

      Great article. We have used sage when we moved into our new home.

    • Fiona Jean Mckay profile image

      Fiona 19 months ago from South Africa

      I have been using sage smudge-sticks for a while now and never knew why they worked. Now I do!

    • newbizmau profile image

      Maurice Glaude 2 years ago from Mobile, AL


      Great I'm very excited that you will be trying it for the first time. May this be an enlightening and freeing experience for you. I hope this will lead to more experiences for you.

    • CatherineGiordano profile image

      Catherine Giordano 2 years ago from Orlando Florida

      An excellent scientific explanation of the benefits of burning white sage. I may give it a try.

    • newbizmau profile image

      Maurice Glaude 2 years ago from Mobile, AL

      @DJ Anderson

      I appreciate your kind words and am excited you think it was entertaining. I will double check the quiz.

      Thanks Sincerely Maurice

    • profile image

      DJ Anderson 2 years ago

      Hello, Maurice,

      I am not an expert on burning White Sage and smudging. Your article

      answered many questions I had wondered about.

      On the Quiz: White Sage and positive and negative ions, you might want to check the second question and answer. You state that the Negative Ions promote Alpha Brainwaves. Yet, the quiz marks that answer incorrect.

      Your hub was both entertaining with the video, and informational with

      your knowledge of positive and negative ions. I look forward to reading more of your hubs.

      Good Job!