White Sage – Wisdom and Clarity

Photo: Tyler Sultenfus

Many people around the world have heard of or have had an experience with the wise and powerful White Sage plant. Healer, cleanser, spiritual purifier, sacred smoke; these are some of the words used to describe the powers of this strong-spirited plant. For centuries, Native Americans have understood the deeper aspects and healing qualities of White Sage and have called upon its powers during times of challenge, personal struggle, confrontation, and imbalance. Sage is considered an important and sacred part of Native American culture and is still used today in Native American medicine, in spiritual healing, and as a part of many different traditional ceremonies.

Ancient healers and medicine people understood how to use plants on many levels and even knew how to communicate with plants through the spirit world and through the living language of nature. White Sage was one of the plants who spoke to these men and women the loudest. There are countless medicinal and healing plants in the Americas, however, certain plants are known to hold stronger powers above others and are capable of profound teachings and healing. Sage is among these wise plant beings.

Sage was such an efficient plant used in a wide variety of circumstances and situations, thus, it became a major part of Native American culture and its use spread across North America. Sage’s powers of energetic cleansing, dispelling of negative influences in the spirit realms, purification of the atmosphere, and calming of fiery emotions, arguments, and confrontations earned it its place among medicine men and women, as well as common peoples. This potent plant continues to share its sacred medicine and has grown enormously in popularity among a vast array of spiritual peoples, herbalists, healers, and common people worldwide.


The term Sage is the name of several species of evergreen perennial shrubs native to the Northern Hemisphere. The plants have thick woody stems and soft grayish leaves. They grow between 4 and 8 feet tall. The leaves of Salvia apiana are harvested and traditionally tied into bundles, or ‘Sage wands‘ for use as a sacred incense, or dried for use as medicine or culinary seasoning.

White Sage is native to the southwestern United States and northwest Mexico. Many wild-harvesters are unaware of proper sustainable harvesting methods, which has led to the depletion of Sage in different regions. It is of the upmost importance that when wild-harvesting Sage that you do not take more than 20% from any one shrub and avoid severely damaging plants. It is also important that you address the plant as a living being, instead of a physical commodity, giving an offering or prayer, and asking permission before harvesting. This is a traditional way of harvesting that has been practiced for thousands of years.

Many herbs and popular incense plants are on the endangered list because of over-harvesting. We must keep Sage off of that list by being conscious of where we purchase our Sage from. Be sure your source practices ‘sustainable’ wild-harvesting methods and walks through nature with light footsteps.

History of Sage

Native Americans have been burning sacred herbs for many spiritual, medicinal, and practical reasons for thousands of years. To many Natives, Sage is a major part of life. The smoke of Sage, among other herbs, is believed to carry the prayers of the worshiper up to the Creator, while cleansing one of negative energies, forces, influences, spirits, emotions, even thoughts.

The English term given to the ceremonial act of burning Sage and using its smoke for purification is “Smudging”. Smudging can be a simple ritual or a complex one, depending on the ritual purpose and any patient that might need healing. There are a handful of herbs that are used in this way in the Native American traditions such as sweetgrass, cedar, and yerba santa. There are also many additional herbs that modern Americans use which are not traditional to Native American ways of smudging.

Sage is a plant that many Native Americans believe was put on the Earth as a healing medicine, a benevolent plant spirit. Medicine men and women traditionally burn Sage, and/or other herbs, while calling on the aid of the Spirit of the plant to help them in whatever healing or cleansing is taking place. There are many references to Sage producing sacred visions in ceremonial settings. However, prayer, spiritual wisdom, and a strong relationship with the Sage plant are all necessary to gain access into the higher wisdom of this sacred herb.

This profound and powerful plant has been used to cleanse sacred space, remove malevolent spirits and negative energies, and for spiritual and energetic protection for ages. Its smoke is also traditionally used to cleanse spiritual tools, altars, and holy spaces before, during, or after sacred rites and rituals to “keep things clean”. In all respects, I like to refer to Sage as a “spiritual janitor”, a very important job, keeping energies tidy and in a good way.

The burning of White Sage for cleansing and purification has become widespread in the past few decades in America as well as other parts of the world. When ‘adopting’ another cultures spiritual ways, it is always good to hold a strong sense of integrity and to understand, honor, and respect its original traditions.

Medicinal Uses

There are many medicinal attributes of White Sage that Native American medicine people and healers have worked with for countless generations. It has traditionally been boiled into a tea, applied topically, or used as an inhalant to treat a variety of different psychological and physiological problems. Sage is a traditional Native American remedy for colds, coughs, fever, and sinus infection. It has a strong effect on the respiratory system and has the power to reduce mucous in the sinuses, lungs and throat by applying the traditional method of steam or smoke inhalation. White Sage is also associated with enhanced memory and is often used as incense for forgetfulness, confusion and memory loss.

Native Americans traditionally use the smoke of Sage to strengthen mental clarity. The sharp, penetrating smoke has a cleansing effect on the mind and thoughts, bringing about a sharper sense of awareness. Sage smoke is used to clear the mind and open the senses before and during ceremony, helping one to achieve greater presence and clarity while opening the inner channels for wisdom to enter.

Magical Uses

Sage is a highly magical plant that works in many different realms. It is believed to heal, protect, and cleanse the spirit, soul, emotional body, and mind through its sacred smoke. The spirit of Sage is said to be a very wise entity. Getting to know White Sage over time on deeper levels may unlock its higher teachings and wisdom.


Latin Name: Salvia apiana

Other Names: Sacred Sage, White Sage, Bee Sage

Family: Lamiaceae

Planet: Jupiter

Element: Air

Chakra: Throat (5th), Crown (7th)

Parts Used: leaves



Article By – Evan Sylliaasen

© 2016 Evan Sylliaasen, Higher Mind Incense LLC. All Rights Reserved.

*Read this step by step guide on How to Use Sage for Smudging.

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