Bioaerosols have lately triggered interest among the public due to the rise of airborne infections. Various diseases in humans, animals and plants are attributed to the presence of these bioaerosols. Studies have been conducted to understand the difference in concentrations of airborne bacteria – both indoors and outdoors. While the scientific angle to such infections has gathered interest lately, various methods to deal with this have been a part of routine in cultures across the globe. The practice of burning sage, popularly known as smudging, has been around for a very long time with followers of the practice swearing by the results. We will therefore set out to answer the question – does burning sage kill bacteria – by looking at all relevant facts and outcomes. We will dive into the science behind smudging and study evidence that supports the practice.

What is sage? Does burning sage kill bacteria?

Sage is an important ingredient in medicine formulations and belongs to the category of herbs. Among the many different species of sage, Salvia officinalis and Salvia lavandulaefolia are popular and commonly used. The mechanism of action of the herb is attributed to the multiple properties that make it effective in combating a host of issues. For instance, it is used in aromatherapy to help individuals with impaired brain and memory function. It is topically applied to the skin and the throat to ease conditions such as skin burn, sore throat and conditions related to the nasal passage/throat. It is part of medication to treat hot flashes and menstrual pain in women, apart from hot flashes in men during treatment for prostate cancer. It is used in treating cerebral ischemia, digestive issues and is used for relieving pain. These are some of the properties of the herb. Before we look at the question – does burning sage kill bacteria, it is appropriate to understand a little about various airborne bacteria.

What are airborne bacteria? How does it impact health and does burning sage kill bacteria?

Various infections are passed through airborne bacteria, which refer to the presence airborne contaminants. Called bioaerosols, these contaminants are responsible for the spreading of infections from one person to another, without actual physical contact. The nature and extent of infection differ from condition to condition and the concentration levels of the bioaerosols. Humans, plants and animals are in constant touch with the microorganisms present in the environment. This is unavoidable, as humans typically spend time either indoors or outdoors. This could be offices, public places, homes, or open spaces. The practice of smudging or burning sage is intended to control the exposure to airborne bacteria indoors.


The straight answer to the question – does burning sage kill bacteria – is yes. Burning sage does destroy bioaerosols of pathogenic bacteria from confined spaces. This is attributed to the smoke that emanates from the burning sage to destroy the bacteria. The scientific angle to this is pretty simple, burning sage produces smoke, which in turn results in the creation of negative ions that bind themselves to the positive ions that are present in bioaerosols. This binding action with the bacterial spores will result in the elimination of the bacteria from the atmosphere. In other words, the suspended bacterial spores in confined spaces can be effectively dealt with by burning sage. Studies into this activity have revealed that the effects of burning sage are long lasting – the cleansed atmosphere remains clean for one full day from the time of burning sage. The burning is also a part of customary practices all over the world.

Advantages of burning sage over other methods of dealing with bioaerosols

There are distinct advantages in burning age to deal with bioaerosols. As a natural product, the herb is one of the safest to use and is always a better option that using synthetic formulations or chemical combinations to achieve air purification. Not only does burning sage kill bacteria, it is also the safest method of killing bacteria. It dispenses with the need for inhaling possibly toxic chemicals over a period of time. The cure should never be worse than the problem. This is precisely what happens when harsh chemicals are used for the purpose of disinfecting or for purification. Sage is a safe way to achieve air purification.

It is important to add that not only does burning sage kill bacteria it also eliminates the need for handling waste from using other synthetic products. Sage fully decomposes safely, which effectively means that even the leaves that have not been properly or fully will pose no hazard or problem. This is unlike other products that require safe disposal. Another distinct advantage of burning sage over synthetic products is the fact that most of the other methods of air purification involve nothing more than fragrance. In other words, many air purifiers, only release fragrance into the atmosphere and do not purify. Consequently, the air smells good, but the atmosphere is not rid of any bacterial spores. Individuals end up feeling a false sense of satisfaction or security that the air has been purified and rid of bacteria, when the opposite is actually true. Sage delivers results in measurable ways. Studies conducted about the practice have revealed that the smoke effectively clears out 94% of the bacterial spores in the air. These results are encouraging and make out a clear case for burning of the herb to deal with bioaerosols. The duration of the effects is also a good indication – one full day from the time of burning of the dried leaves.


Best way to burn sage for optimized results

While it important to seek answers to the question – does burning sage kill bacteria, it is also important to understand the best methods to achieve the same. The best way to burn sage is as given below :

#1 Buying the herb – Sage is typically available in small bundles with dried leaves. The best place to purchase the same would be shops that specially deal in herbs. Shops that are managed by indigenous populations will be a better source of the product, though not necessarily the only source for sage. Due to its popularity, it is available on many platforms in conveniently sized packs/bundles.

#2 Drying the leaves if not already dried – It would be a good idea to purchase sage that is already dried. However, if you are unable to get dried leaves, you can dry the same in your house. This is also suitable for individuals who choose to grow sage at home. While answering the question does burning sage kill bacteria, it is necessary to understand, when it is effective. For instance, if the leaves have lost their purifying effect due to wrong procedures, then you will end up with little or no effect. Never attempt to dry sage in a forced manner or through appliances such as microwave/oven. This will compromise the purifying effect of the leaves. Leaves need to be dried naturally, till the leaves crackle when lightly pressed. This is the indication that the leaves are ready for use.

#3 Burning the sage leaves – In addition to looking at the question – does burning sage kill bacteria, we make it a point to highlight the best methods of achieving optimized results from the practice of burning sage leaves. Take a ceramic bowl or any suitable tray that will permit you to hold the bowl or tray easily. It is essential to use something that has a flat bottom as it will permit you to place it on a table or on the floor or any place of your choice, while the sage leaves burn. Fill a layer of sand on the bowl or tray. This is to prevent the burning embers of the leaves from damaging the tray/bowl.

Place the dried sage leaves atop the layer of sand and set it on fire. Remember that the purpose is to create smoke, which means that you need to keep the leaves smoldering and in embers, rather than burning down the leaves. This is achieved by waiting for a few seconds for the leaves to catch fire, following which the flames have to be blown out. This will make the leaves glow red as embers, releasing smoke. If some of the leaves have not been set ablaze, then you can relight the leaves or move them on to the embers.

#4 Purifying confined spaces – Carry the bowl/tray into all the spaces in your home slowly. The idea is to fill the space with smoke, but not to the level where the smoke is dense or choking in nature. Let the smoke waft throughout your home, and ensure those areas that are damper get more focus. It is important to also open out a window for some time during and after the burning to permit the smoke to leave the room.

Summing up, the answer to the question – does burning sage kill bacteria – is Yes, burning sage does kill bacterial spores/bioaerosols. It is necessary to follow the best methods while burning sage to get the best results and rid the air of spores.


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