What plants are burned for energy cleansing? Where do these sacred plants come from? Some of these plants and their habitats are under threat. How can we use the plants responsibly and with respect for them, their ecosystems and the communities that live with them?
Why burn sacred plants for energy cleansing?
See my post on “Why burn plants for energy cleansing?“
In the post “Why burn plants for energy cleansing?” we dive into why humans have been burning sacred plants throughout history. We also take a look at the different ways of burning sacred plants, and how to make responsible and ethical choices when choosing ritual plants today.
Many plants commonly used today for energy cleansing are sacred for cultures around the world. What is more, histories of cultural persecution surround some of these plants. It is therefore important today to make authentic choices when it comes to burning sacred plants.
Read the article “Why burn plants for energy cleansing?”
In this article “6 sacred plants for energy cleansing”, we’ll look at 6 plants in more detail. Where do they grow? How to use them? Are these plants at risk and is it OK to use them in our spiritual practices?
Here is my list of the most common plants for energy and space cleansing. There are plenty of others; if you would like to see other plants featured here, please let me know!
So, here we go for my list of 6 sacred plants:
6 Sacred Plants to burn for energy cleansing
White Sage (Salvia Apiana)
White Sage is a plant endemic to the southwestern United States and northern Mexico.
Native American tribes in this region use this plant for purification and ceremonies, as well as for its medicinal properties.
Dried sage leaves are usually tied up in a bundle, sometimes with other plants such as Cedar.
Burning white sage drives away heavy or stagnant energies, and thus helps to cleanse space, objects and people’s energy. As an infusion, White sage can also help treat digestive or menstrual issues.
Is White Sage vulnerable?
I think it’s important to know that white sage is currently at risk of being over-harvested in the wild. Herbalist groups such as United Plant Savers in the United States, recommend buying sustainably cultivated sage – instead of wild sage. Even better : buying sage that is cultivated sustainably AND in a way that is respectful of the traditions of the tribes that use it.
Desert Sage (Artemisia tridentata)
Desert Sage is endemic to arid western / northwestern parts of North America, basically in desert areas from Canada to northern Mexico.
Just like White Sage, Native American tribes in these regions use Desert Sage as a medicinal and cleansing herb. Look out for it in bundles of dried stems and leaves.
Is Desert Sage vulnerable?
It is not currently considered at risk, and thus presents an alternative to White Sage – as long as it is not over-harvested! Like for White Sage, look out for Desert Sage grown in a sustainable manner and respectful of the communities to which the plant is sacred.
Palo Santo (Bursera graveolens)
“Palo Santo” means “sacred wood”.
The Palo Santo tree is endemic to Central and South America. It grows in dry season forests.
It often comes in the form of wood sticks, cut from trees that have fallen to the ground (in the best case). The medicine people and shamans in the region burn Palo Santo to uplift energy, attract positive vibes and prepare for ceremonies. The use of the Palo Santo is said to go back all the way to the Incas!
Today, the growing interest in traditional spiritual practices around the world means that many shops sell Palo Santo, sometimes very far from the forests of South America! (All the way to Singapore, where I have seen packs of Palo Santo sticks, much to my surprise).
Is the Palo Santo tree vulnerable?
It is important, I believe, to ask questions about sourcing before buying Palo Santo and Palo Santo essential oil. The tree itself is not considered in danger of extinction. However, deforestation in South America is a real problem that we do not want to feed.
We want to know, for example, if the wood comes from a dead tree that has fallen to the ground, or if the tree was cut down to harvest the wood. If the wood comes from a living tree, you may want to ask if the wood comes from the secondary branches instead of the trunk. The tree in this case will live on. Also look out for ethical sources and farms that support local communities and tree planting.
All these questions are even more important when buying Palo Santo essential oil. Indeed, as for all essential oils, obtaining a product highly concentrated in active ingredients requires a significant amount of Palo Santo to make a few milliliters of essential oil.
Mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris)
Mugwort is endemic to southern Europe, North Africa and temperate Asia. This plant spreads easily, and is often even considered a weed! (No worries of at-risk plants here!)
Traditional Medicine, Chinese, but also European and Native American, has used Mugwort for a very long time. For moxibustion in Traditional Chinese Medicine, the practitionner burns dried mugwort to stimulate acupuncture points and move stagnant energy. In Europe and Asia, Mugwort is the portal to relaxation and lucid dreams.
It comes either in dried fragments or in small bundled bundles (which are more convenient for burning).
Frankinsense (Boswellia sp.)
Frankinsense is a resin that comes from trees from the Boswellia family. These trees are endemic to East Africa and the Arabian Peninsula.
Frankinsense has been central to sacred rites and space cleansing for millennia. Its scent alone is a journey along the Silk Roads, desert caravans and Thousand and One Nights! Frankinsense was also a gift to baby Jesus from the three wise men (along with gold and myrrh, another sacred resin).
Traditional medicine, from the Middle East to China, widely use Frankinsense. Today, it is also a precious ingredient in the perfumery and cosmetics industry.
Frankinsense comes most often in the form of small resin balls, burned on a piece of hot charcoal.
Are the trees that give Frankinsense resin vulnerable?
The forests that produce Frankinsense are currently under pressure. Threats include deforestation and resin harvesting methods that damage the trees. Sometimes too, animals feed on young plants, thus preventing natural forest regeneration. Not forgetting that, often, the men and women who depend on it for a living do not always work in fair conditions.
The best thing to buy this magically scented resin is therefore to make sure it comes from a sustainable and fair trade plantation.
Another suggestion: use scented resins from non-endangered species. Depending on where you live, pine tree resins are great alternatives.
Sandalwood comes from trees called Santalum. (Many other trees are also called “Sandalwood”, but we will talk mainly about the Santalum genus here). Wood from these trees retain their delightful earthy fragrance for a long time.
There are different species of Santalum. They are at home in many places: in the Indian subcontinent, Southeast Asia, Australia and the Pacific Islands. What a big international family!
Many cultures around the world highly prize Sandalwood. Not only for its solid and durable timber, but also for its therapeutic effects and use in religious rituals.
The wood chips are ground into powder. With added water, it makes a paste. The paste is used as is in rituals or with other ingredients (such as saffron). It can also be rolled with other ingredients to make incense sticks. The paste and incense are used to cleanse the body and soul before devotional or meditative rituals. It is also a key ingredient in Ayurvedic treatments as well as in perfumery.
Does sandalwood come from a threatened tree species?
Many species are under pressure and their numbers are declining, especially Indian Sandalwood, Santalum album. Indeed, the wood is very expensive, and logging is not always sustainable.
However, some species, including the one cultivated in Australia, Santalum spicatum, are not endangered.
It is therefore worth checking the origin of sandalwood products before purchasing them.
That’s it for today! Thank you for checking out the 6 sacred plants used to cleanse space and energy.
Since the dawn of time, humans have lived in close relationship with plants. Plants provide food, medicine and cosmetics. They are central to many spiritual practices and simply make life more beautiful every day, in a garden planter, a field of wild flowers or a vase.
Humans and plants weave great stories together (and lots of little stories). So let’s keep this beautiful love story going, and choose to burn sacred plants to raise energy vibrations with the most profound respect for plants, their ecosystems and communities, and traditional practices. Earn credit for your karma!