Why Do We Burn White Sage? The Science and Proof

Updated on March 9, 2018
newbizmau profile image

I am a massage therapist with 15 years of experience. I am especially interested in crystals, energy healing, numerology, and wellness.

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?

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This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.

© 2015 Maurice Glaude

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    • newbizmau profile imageAUTHOR

      Maurice Glaude 

      14 months ago from Mobile, AL

      Thank you Ana Paola.

    • Ana Paola profile image

      Ana Paola 

      15 months ago

      When I first met my husband, I remember him using sage in the house (our house now) that he inherited from his mother. I did not understand what was going on until he later explained it to me. I will be sharing this article with him!

    • newbizmau profile imageAUTHOR

      Maurice Glaude 

      2 years ago from Mobile, AL

      @Cynthia B Turner

      What an interesting conversation? I never thought about scented candles not being sold at one time. Something that is so common today and is an ancient practice like candle making was once not available. Did you know that incense can be used in place of White Sage?

      While White Sage is all but proven to help clear bacteria and the unwanted in the air, incense was also used for the same purpose among other spiritual needs and aromatherapy.

    • Cyndi10 profile image

      Cynthia B Turner 

      2 years ago from Georgia

      Hi again, In answer to the queston, yes, my great-grandmother burned incense as well. I don't remember seeing candles except the utilitarain kind when the lights went out with a storm, but then scented candles were not sold as much, if at all, back then. I know she made soap, so she may have actually made any candles she used. Not sure about that. Take care.

    • newbizmau profile imageAUTHOR

      Maurice Glaude 

      2 years ago from Mobile, AL

      @Cynthia B Turner

      I love to hear stories like that. Real wisdom from our elders has always interested me, especially the things that we no longer use or is less popular because of technology and culture changes. Do you remember anything else your great-grandmother did? Did she burn candles, incense, make her own Holy Water? My grandmother used to make Holy Water. A priest showed her how because he believed you didn't have to be an ordained priest to make holy water. She didn't tell everyone this but she always told me her secrets. I treasure those memories always.

    • Cyndi10 profile image

      Cynthia B Turner 

      2 years ago from Georgia

      This was a good article. Burning white sage is great for cleansing the home. My great-grandmother would burn sage periodically and of course, when you are very young you don't understand much of what your elders were doing. I later understood how beneficial burning sage was and I periodically do the same. I should burn it more often and your article is a great reminder of that.

    • Nadine May profile image

      Nadine May 

      2 years 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


      4 years 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 imageAUTHOR

      Maurice Glaude 

      4 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 

      4 years ago from Orlando Florida

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

    • newbizmau profile imageAUTHOR

      Maurice Glaude 

      4 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 

      4 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!



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