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Smudging Not Only Calms Us, It Reduces Bacteria By 94%

Smudging Not Only Calms Us, It Reduces Bacteria By 94%

If you have ever burned sage as part of a meditation ceremony, or been in a church where incense is burned, you have participated in a smudging ceremony. It is a practice which goes back deep into human history, and has been used around the world in many religions and belief systems as a method of cleansing and purification. While some dismiss this practice as unscientific or “magical”, recent studies have found that there are proven benefits to this practice.

The Ancient Art of Smudging

Smudging is a ritual which uses the burning of herbs or other natural substances to purify or cleanse a person, place, or object and has been an important part of ritual and worship from the earliest eras in human history.

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The history of smudging is similar to the art of burning incense, and this practice has its roots sunk deeply into the past. The oldest known record of this practice is transcribed on a tablet from ancient Egypt that dates back to 1530 BC. From Egypt, the practice spread to Babylon, and then to parts of the Mediterranean basin. This includes Greece, Rome, as well as India. Additionally, it was extensively practiced among various Native American tribes, before and after European settlement.

The practice is still very much alive today in Native American culture. It is also used in Anglican, Roman Catholic, and Orthodox Christian churches, as well as Buddhist and Hindu traditional worship.

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What the Latest Research Found

Despite its long history, there are those who dismiss smudging as “unscientific”, with no concrete benefits. However, recent research is beginning to show that this ancient technique, used by so many around the globe, actually has clinical advantages:

  • The first study entitled “Medicinal Smokes”, was published in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology, and studied smudging practices from around the world, including 50 different countries on 5 different continents. It found that there are some cultural consistencies for this practice, which largely used smudging to treat ailments of the lungs, skin, and brain. It also discussed the fact that there are many advantages to smoke as a method of delivering medicinal herbs, including that it allows active compounds to be delivered rapidly to the body and is easy to absorb. It was also deemed as a cost-efficient method of medicine delivery.
  • The second study entitled “Medicinal Smoke Reduces Airborne Bacteria”, was published in the same journal. It found that the burning of medicinal herbs was able to reduce the number of pathogenic (disease-causing) bacteria in the room by 94%, including bacterial species responsible for serious illnesses and infections similar to the Corynbacterium, Pseudomonas, and Staphylcoccus species. The effects of this technique were noticeable in the room even after a day; when scientists went back and studied the room a month later, there were still very low levels of the bacteria present.

Studies like these have given validation to the whole practice of smudging, so much so that a hospital, St. Peter’s in Helena, Montana, opened up a “culture room” adjacent to their chapel. It is decorated with motifs of waterfalls and eagles, which gives Native Americans there the space to perform their cleansing ceremonies. While some hospitals still do not permit this practice on their grounds, more are becoming open to it, and St. Peter’s has been praised for the respect it has shown for native spiritual practices.

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In short, the art of smudging is as old as human history itself. It has been used in many major spiritual traditions and is still widely in use today across the globe. Not only is it a widespread and ancient ritual, science is discovering that there are proven benefits to this ancient practice, including the ability for the smoke to purge the air of bacteria, that commonly spread infectious diseases.

Featured photo credit: PROlatisha (herbmother) via flickr.com

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Brian Wu

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Last Updated on April 8, 2020

Why Assuming Positive Intent Is an Amazing Productivity Driver

Why Assuming Positive Intent Is an Amazing Productivity Driver

Assuming positive intent is an important contributor to quality of life.

Most people appreciate the dividends such a mindset produces in the realm of relationships. How can relationships flourish when you don’t assume intentions that may or may not be there? And how their partner can become an easier person to be around as a result of such a shift? Less appreciated in the GTD world, however, is the productivity aspect of this “assume positive intent” perspective.

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Most of us are guilty of letting our minds get distracted, our energy sapped, or our harmony compromised by thinking about what others woulda, coulda, shoulda.  How we got wronged by someone else.  How a friend could have been more respectful.  How a family member could have been less selfish.

However, once we evolve to understanding the folly of this mindset, we feel freer and we become more productive professionally due to the minimization of unhelpful, distracting thoughts.

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The leap happens when we realize two things:

  1. The self serving benefit from giving others the benefit of the doubt.
  2. The logic inherent in the assumption that others either have many things going on in their lives paving the way for misunderstandings.

Needless to say, this mindset does not mean that we ought to not confront people that are creating havoc in our world.  There are times when we need to call someone out for inflicting harm in our personal lives or the lives of others.

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Indra Nooyi, Chairman and CEO of Pepsi, says it best in an interview with Fortune magazine:

My father was an absolutely wonderful human being. From ecent emailhim I learned to always assume positive intent. Whatever anybody says or does, assume positive intent. You will be amazed at how your whole approach to a person or problem becomes very different. When you assume negative intent, you’re angry. If you take away that anger and assume positive intent, you will be amazed. Your emotional quotient goes up because you are no longer almost random in your response. You don’t get defensive. You don’t scream. You are trying to understand and listen because at your basic core you are saying, ‘Maybe they are saying something to me that I’m not hearing.’ So ‘assume positive intent’ has been a huge piece of advice for me.

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In business, sometimes in the heat of the moment, people say things. You can either misconstrue what they’re saying and assume they are trying to put you down, or you can say, ‘Wait a minute. Let me really get behind what they are saying to understand whether they’re reacting because they’re hurt, upset, confused, or they don’t understand what it is I’ve asked them to do.’ If you react from a negative perspective – because you didn’t like the way they reacted – then it just becomes two negatives fighting each other. But when you assume positive intent, I think often what happens is the other person says, ‘Hey, wait a minute, maybe I’m wrong in reacting the way I do because this person is really making an effort.

“Assume positive intent” is definitely a top quality of life’s best practice among the people I have met so far. The reasons are obvious. It will make you feel better, your relationships will thrive and it’s an approach more greatly aligned with reality.  But less understood is how such a shift in mindset brings your professional game to a different level.

Not only does such a shift make you more likable to your colleagues, but it also unleashes your talents further through a more focused, less distracted mind.

More Tips About Building Positive Relationships

Featured photo credit: Christina @ wocintechchat.com via unsplash.com

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