Burn baby burn! If you are very aware of the energy that surrounds you and have found your way to smoke cleansing rituals, you may have asked some of these questions...Why do people burn sage and Palo Santo wood? Is there a difference between the two? Better to burn one or the other for a particular reason? These are all questions I get asked on the daily.
For many cultures, smudging has been a long-standing tradition. This plant medicine approach will help to dissipate old, lingering (and new) energies by combining the powers of fire, earth, and air.
Sage was used in Native American rituals to fend off evil spirits and purification and cleansing ceremonies, while Palo Santo (also known as "holy wood") dates back to the Incas of South America.
It is important to remember the true meaning of these activities because there are ways to disrespect them. It's also important to know where your things come from, as some sources of palo santo and sage are causing overharvesting on preserves and protected property. Using illegally sourced or stolen plant medicine defeats the whole aim, so be careful where you get your sacred supplies.
Sage is made up of the leaves of the sage plant, and when burned, it emits a heavy, plant-like aroma. Sage is the more effective plant of the two, as it can be used to clear out all of the energy in a room. If you have a lot of heavy energy to get out, such as breakups, fights, roommate stress, new places of stressful energy, etc., you can always search for some sage to move it out.
Sage is a heavy-duty way to clear you and your space of everything. The downside is if you have any spirits or positive energy you want to keep, sage will also clear this out. You can invite it back in, however, it is good to be mindful of this before using. Once you are done burning your sage you are not done. You then must put back positivity into the space as after the sage, it is wiped totally clean. This can be positive music, dancing, meditation to set intentions, essential oils, crystal ceremonies, singing to plants, etc…
Palo Santo, also known as "holy wood," grows along Peru's coast in South America. It is harvested after the trees have naturally fallen and laid on the ground floor for 4-10 years (allowing the oils to soak in!).
Palo Santo is better used to cleanse and purify small spaces, yourself, and/or others because it does not burn as quickly and would need to be re-lit for larger spaces. Though sage purges spaces of ALL energies, Palo Santo is said to remove negative energy and welcome in positive energy. It has a light, soft, and delicate scent with hints of mint and citrous.
Medicinally, this wood contains natural terpenes that can have a positive impact on free radical damage. It can also be used as a healing tool for the flu, asthma, and a variety of other health elements. Palo Santo also makes a fantastic mosquito and bug repellent!
Palo Santo is what I reach for daily as it simply encourages positive energy while purifying the air. Because this one adds the positivity back into the space, you do not have to follow up with any additional steps, however, you always want to be very mindful when using both as your intentions are a huge part of both practices.
There’s really not a right or wrong answer when it comes to Sage or Palo Santo. It really depends on you and your rituals, how big of a space you’re looking to purify and your personal preference of scent.
Our recommendation is to use sage on large areas and remember to follow it up with some sort of ritual to bring back in the good energy - and to use the Palo Santo on yourself or when working with a single item such as a crystal or card deck.
And there you have it! Hopefully, a clear and concise breakdown of when to use each and why. As you can tell, both are such intentional rituals so you always want to be mindful, present, grateful, and respectful.