Smoke cleansing with incense bundles is getting to be quite a popular way to use herbs! Using the smoke of herbs for various purposes has a long and fascinating history, spanning across many times and cultures. Chances are you probably also know this as ‘smudging’ but I prefer not to use that term out of respect for First Nations peoples since it refers to a specific ritual that doesn’t match what I do.
Besides being used for cleansing energy, burning incense bundles also generally helps change the energy of anything by adding in the energetic qualities of the herbs + your intention. There are endless possibilities other than cleansing. For example, you could try to make an uplifting, grounding, or protective blend.
You can play around with different herbs too to see what effect they have for you and tailor your bundles for specific purposes! If you want to work towards using your own herbal associations rather than traditional ones, take a second to check in with the herbs first and how it makes you feel for an idea of what you can use it for. If you’d like inspiration, Pinterest is full of ideas for what energetic purposes specific plant essential oils could be used for and I personally feel that it’s much the same for incense.
Always be sure to check that whatever herb you’re intending to burn is safe first! I usually do this by checking to see if it’s safe to be smoked since chances are I’m going to inhale some. If you live in Canada and aren’t sure where to get your plants and seeds from, we got you covered. Check out our article here: Favourite Online Herb Sources for Canada (seeds & dried herbs)
Lavender (zone 5-9)
Lavender is a great addition to any incense bundle! It’s fragrant and calming. To me, it’s a more gentle energy that is soothing and peaceful. It’s also an easy to grow perennial. The window for harvesting flowers is smaller than some other options so be sure to take advantage when the opportunity arises! I usually grow English Lavender.
Rosemary (zone 6-9)
Rosemary traditionally has purifying and protective qualities but I find it’s also stimulating and can be used for situations requiring clarity or a clear mind. Rosemary is a perennial but in zone 5, you’ll want to look for more cold hardy varieties to grow if you’d like to increase the odds of it surviving the winter. My Rosemary never does so I just have a new plant each year.
Cedar (zone 2-9)
My backyard is full of giant cedars and lucky for me, it’s one of my favourite scents! This is one that is wonderful to use alone or with other herbs. I usually use it as the base for my bundles. It can be a bit tricky to roll into a bundle though and will likely need some trimming. I find cedar to be excellent for grounding and cleansing other energy. In the garden, cedar shrubs make a great protective barrier of sorts around your space.
Artemisia Silver King or Queen – Prairie Wormwood (zone 4-9)
This one was recommended to me while I was at a smoke cleansing workshop as a local alternative to White Sage. In my zone, the traditional White Sage is harder to grow and won’t last as a perennial. I haven’t had an opportunity to test it out yet but I’m looking forward to it since it can last as a perennial where I live! The Silver Queen variety tends to be smaller, if you’re short on space. Wormwood is also good for spirit work and protection.
Rose (zone 2-10)
For me, rose adds a gentle loving vibe and a lot of beauty to blends. It’s supportive and helpful for working on your intuition. Roses are also a lovely addition for any garden and there’s so many varieties to choose from. It’s often a cornerstone for my other herbal blends since more loving energy is always helpful!
Mugwort (zone 3-9)
The smoke of mugwort has a long history of use. In Japan, it’s used for moxibustion. The smoke causes vivid dreams so it’s used sometimes for rituals and increasing intuition for divination. It may make you sleepy so I tend to use it in small amounts. It has so many other uses that it definitely deserves a spot in your garden but be warned that it may be considered invasive in your area. If so, since it’s not picky about growing conditions, a planter should work fine.
A final warning – not all herbs smell good when you burn them! If you want a specific herb in your bundle because of the energetic qualities it has but it stinks, just put in a tiny bit. To get a better idea of what each herb smells like alone for better combos, try making individual mini bundles to experiment with. I’m going to be doing that this year!
For a book on the energetic associations of herbs and folk uses, you might like Cunningham’s Encyclopedia of Magical Herbs. I referenced it while writing this article.
What are your favourite herbs to grow for incense?? Let us know in the comments!