Science Backs Up the Ancient Art of Smudging
by Faye Sakellaridis
A traditional Native American practice finds support in a scientific study, which found that smudging — the burning of sacred herbs to purify energies — cleanses the air of harmful bacteria.
Native Americans, along with a host of other ancient cultures, engaged in the ceremonial art of “smudging,” in which they burned sacred herbs in order to release the plant’s spirit and cleanse spaces of unwanted energies.
Cat Criger, an aboriginal elder-in-residence at the University or Toronto, describes the ritual as “metaphorically washing your hands in the smoke.” But smudging also has a literal relationship to washing our hands with soap and water.
A 2007 study published by Journal of Ethnopharmacology observed that smudging can “completely eliminate” airborne bacteria in a confined space.
This study represents a comprehensive analysis and scientific validation of our ancient knowledge about the effect of ethnopharmacological aspects of natural products' smoke for therapy and health care on airborne bacterial composition and dynamics, using the Biolog microplate panels and Microlog database. We have observed that 1h treatment of medicinal smoke emanated by burning wood and a mixture of odoriferous and medicinal herbs (havan sámagri=material used in oblation to fire all over India), on aerial bacterial population caused over 94% reduction of bacterial counts by 60 min and the ability of the smoke to purify or disinfect the air and to make the environment cleaner was maintained up to 24h in the closed room. 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.
This physical purification must have been a part of the healing that Native Americans intuited centuries ago. Now, we have the language of modern science to explain this facet of smudging.
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