Mystics say the Native American practice of smudging, or purifying a room with the smoke of sacred herbs, can help clear negative energy from a space. Now, modern scientific research reveals that the practice may actually have health-benefiting implications by purifying the air of harmful bacteria.
The burning of herbs and plant resins for medicinal and spiritual purposes, aka ‘smudging’, is an ancient practice among indigenous people around the world; recently adopted by Westerners at an astonishing rate. Smudging is believed to unlock the ‘spirits’ of various plant allies to restore balance and ease to an individual or group.
Many view smudging as “taking a spiritual shower” — ridding those that have adopted the practice of the negative energy that follows them. On the contrary, skeptics believe attributing health benefits to the burning of sage and incense reflects ‘magical thinking.’ The practice has even been accused of being a New Age form of cultural imperialism where ‘plastic’ or ‘white’ shamans mimic and co-opt the traditions of indigenous people their predecessors essentially conquered.
In a 2006 article titled “Medicinal Smoke” published in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology, reviewers assessed multi-ingredient herbal and non-herbal remedies administered as smoke from 50 countries across 5 continents. The researchers found that medicinal smoke is largely utilized for the same reason worldwide — to address issues with specific organ systems: “pulmonary (23.5%), neurological (21.8%) and dermatological (8.1%).” They also found that “ambient smoke” (passively inhaled smoke generated by smudging/incense), is traditionally believed to be an effective “air purifier.” Given the findings, researchers argued that modern medicine should investigate medicinal smoke as a drug delivery system stating that, “the advantages of smoke-based remedies are rapid delivery to the brain, more efficient absorption by the body and lower costs of production.”
Smudging, in its traditional sense, is not aimed at ‘killing germs,’ or becoming a ‘new drug delivery system’ as the Journal of Ethnopharmacology article implies, but because modern biomedicine only acknowledges what is empirically verifiable – which does not include ‘the soul’ or ‘negative vibes’ – the practice will only attain a modicum of credibility from the perspective of the dominant, scientism-contaminated worldview, if it can be demonstrated that it actually performs a useful function, such as destroying disease-causing germs.
Thanks to a groundbreaking 2007 study published in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology titled, “Medicinal smoke reduces airborne bacteria,” we now know that medicinal smoke has the potential to disinfect air by eliminating 94% of airborne bacteria in just 60 minutes. This bacteria includes staphylococcus lentus, Corynebacterium urealyticum, Curtobacterium flaccumfaciens, Enterobacter aerogenes (Klebsiella mobilis), Kocuria rosea, and more.
We have observed that treatment with medicinal smoke originated by a combination of burning wood, odoriferous, and medicinal herbs (havan sámagri=material used in oblation to fire all over India) for 60 minutes reduced 94% of airborne bacterial counts, and the air purifying abilities were retained for up to 24 hours in a closed room environment.
Furthermore, the 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 30 days post treatment serves as a testament to the bactericidal potential of the medicinal smoke treatment.
Modern urban air has been found to contain at least 1800 diverse bacterial types – including families with pathogenic members – so the positive air purifying results presented in the aforementioned paragraphs could have profound implications for combating an increasingly deadly array of antibiotic-resistant bacteria against which even the CDC itself has acknowledged its impotence. Consider also that a recent microbiome of NYC’s subway system found close to 1700 different microbes, including those responsible for Anthrax (Bacillus anthracis) and Bubonic Plague (yersinia pestis).
Also, considering that conventional chemical methods of air sterilization and odor neutralization (e.g. Lysol) are much less effective than advertised (one study found them up to 10 times less effective than believed), smudging or the use of natural incense products might constitute a far safer and more effective approach.
Given the aforementioned, one might infer that we as a society should start embracing medicinal smoke’s potent cleansing properties on aerosol microbes via Smudging as a real antiseptic rather than just a wives tale to cleanse negative energy.
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