Stagnant energy? Need a mojo uplift? Reach for the Plant! Burning dried plants or incense is a way to cleanse energy that is not only beautiful, but also connects us to the Earth and our human ancestral practices.
A perfumed journey
Some would say it’s my enchantress vibe (did you say “witch”?), my yoga vibe, or my Crazy Plant Lady vibe (I’m also a landscape architect).
Whatever vibe I’m coming from, scents and plants have always been a magical journey for me. That’s why, as soon as I moved in with myself, my space filled up with essential oils, incense, papier d’Arménie, scented candles and plants of all shapes and sizes. And with them, came the fascinating smells, swirls of smoke and magical atmospheres.
So what could be more exciting for me to write about plants, perfumes, and energy?
Join me on an enchanted dive into fire, plants and magical scents.
Why burn plants for space cleansing?
Humans have a very special relationship with plants. We use plants as food, medicine, for beauty, as well as for space clearing and cleansing. Burning dried plants (also called fumigation) was useful (and still is) to ward off unwanted animals and insects.
Fumigation, called smudging in Native American cultures, also energetically clears space by uplifting the vibes of people and places. By the simple and sacred act of burning, the plant’s medicine is activated and transferred into the air. And the dancing smoke diffuses its molecules of magic!
Smoke as a messenger between worlds
Smoke is a messenger between worlds. Watch it rise up in the sky, bringing your prayers to the celestial realms. Smoke or scent also fills a space with its energetic signature – even long after the candle has gone out or the perfumed person has left.
Plants are medicine, and burning them is a way to communicate with the invisible worlds. When plant and fire meet, magic happens!
How to burn plants for energy cleansing?
Plants are burned under many forms : dried leaves, dried flowers, wood or resin. Sometimes plants are transformed into powders or pastes and then into incense sticks or cones.
Using essential oils is another great way to benefit from the plants’ active compounds. Diffuse them hot –in a container heated by a candle for example- or cold –with a nebulizer, and bask in their medicine!
What are the best sacred plants to burn for energy cleansing?
For complete information on the plants here, I wrote a more detailed post: “6 sacred plants for energy cleansing”.
Here is my list of plants to burn for energy cleansing that I most often meet. Along with the plant, I have included their vulnerability status (or non-vulnerability status) according to the IUCN Red List (IUCN = the International Union for Conservation of Nature) and United Plant Savers.
Some of these species are endangered or at risk of being over-harvested. If you use certain of these plants, I think it is worth making sure you are getting them from a sustainable and responsible source. After all, spiritual practice is not here to damage the planet.
White Sage (Salvia Apiana)
At risk of being over-harvested from the wild, certain ecosystems are under pressure. The good news for sage lovers: this plant can be fairly easily cultivated. Look out for cultivated sage instead of wild-harvested sage :
Desert Sage (Artemisia tridentata)
Not currently at risk of over-harvesting:
Palo Santo (Bursera graveolens)
Cultivated in often vulnerable or at risk forests:
Mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris)
Not considered at risk:
Frankinsense (Boswellia sp.)
Cultivated in vulnerable ecosystems:
Sandalwood (various species)
At risk of non-sustainable cultivation / often grows in ecosystems that are under pressure from human exploitation and climate change:
For more information about these 6 plants such as where they grow, more details about their at-risk status and how they are used for energy cleansing: “6 plants for energy cleansing”
Sacred plants and world cultural heritage
Plants for energy cleansing and historic persecution
Burning plants for energy cleansing that are sustainably cultivated and fair-trade is better for the planet and for the communities that harvest them for a living. The higher the demand for responsible products, the more this encourages such supply chains.
But just as important, and not always mentioned, is burning sacred plants with respect for the people who traditionally use them in rituals and ceremonies. Indeed, tribes in North and South America, as well as many peoples in Europe, Asia, Africa, Australia and the Pacific have long been persecuted for their traditional practices. Their spiritual ceremonies were often prohibited or discouraged and along with them, the use of sacred plants for energy cleansing.
When choosing plants to burn for energy cleansing, I think it’s important to be informed about such historic persecutions and the plants’ rich cultural backgrounds. This is especially important when we are not from the cultures that traditionally use them.
This does not mean that you should refrain from burning plants for ritual cleansing (this is my opinion, and others would tell you otherwise). After all, plant burning is a tradition in MANY cultures around the world, and certainly one of yours. Rather, it is about respectfully using the plants that might have a history in a culture that is not ours.
Explore the world of plants with curiosity and humility
Each culture has its own sacred plants. Just looking at your own cultures and getting to know the plants that particularly resonate with you is a tremendously enriching experience.
These plants may have been used by the ancestors of your lineages, for example. Or could be plants commonly used where you now live, in your adoptive lands, or by peoples with whom you share a genuine connection.
My invitation is to explore and use the plants that resonate the most with you. Find out what plants your grandmothers used, what plants thrive in your local area, or even perhaps in your garden!
For example, I really like Palo Santo and lavender (which grew in my garden) for energy cleansing (I like Sage too). They crossed my path when I was living in California, and never left! I also like certain Indian and Japanese incense that wafted into my life during my travels. But I also love what grows on my balcony now in the tropics! It’s not uncommon for me to burn my little urban garden crops to clear the energy in my home.
Happy plant discoveries!