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How to make your own Aromatic Smoke Stick

Updated: Jun 25, 2022


Growing my own herbs is quite possibly the most life affirming task that I do. It's not even a task. It's pure joy. Being able to pop out and get a handful of parsley and mint for a salad or a couple of borage flowers to decorate a cake or pop in a drink is such a simple pleasure. Most herbs will grow quite happily wherever they are placed. Lavender just needs a sunny spot, free draining soil and a good haircut at the end of the season to stop it getting too woody. Parsley will flourish in a sunny spot too and, if allowed to, will set seed and produce new baby plants in a very obliging fashion. Coriander can be very prolific if in grown in cooler temperatures. It struggles a bit in the heat and will "bolt" overnight which means it produces flowers and seeds which can make the leaves bitter. Generally though there is a long list of herbs who are quite unfussy and who will reward you with tasty flavours to add to your culinary efforts. Of course it doesn't stop there. Herbs can be used to repel moths, deter flies, scent your undies drawer and of course, to make an aromatic smoke stick.

What is an Aromatic Smoke Stick

Aromatic Smoke Sticks or Smudge Sticks have been used for centuries by ancient civilisations around the world in spiritual and religious ceremonies.There is evidence that Buddhists, Pagans, Christians, Hindus and the Egyptians have all used the burning of aromatics in their practices. It's important to be mindful that the term "Smudge Stick" has deeply sacred, religious and cultural significant to indigenous peoples. I prefer to use the term Aromatic Smoke Sticks since I purely use them for personal use. I tap into the plant's essence without attaching any religious or cultural significance to my practice. Burning aromatic leaves releases the plant's essential oils and together with the smoke creates a mystical sensory experience. I love the energy that burning botanicals creates. I like to clear the energy in my house every so often. Everything is made up of energy and releasing aromatic smoke energy can really make a positive difference to the atmosphere of a house. The antimicrobial effects of herbal smoke are well documented and we all know how powerful essential oils can be so burning aromatic botanicals is a lovely way to embrace the power of these plants in a very soothing ritual.

How to choose herbs for your Smoke Stick

Choosing which herbs to use is the fun part. I'd highly recommend growing your own so you can be sure they haven't been sprayed with anything. You will also have the freshest smoke sticks using your own freshly gathered herbs. Otherwise see if your friends and family grow herbs and ask to use theirs. You can always make an extra smoke stick as a gift to thank them.

Image : Rosemary

Which herbs to use

Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis)

I love to include Rosemary in my smoke sticks. It has such a pungent scent and dries beautifully. If you pick it when in flower the purple flower heads look really pretty too. Rosemary requires free draining soil and 6-8 hours of sunshine to thrive. They enjoy a warm, humid environment and cannot withstand extreme cold temperatures. I grow the upright variety for it's lovely straight stems.Rosemary is said to purify spaces and protect them.

Basil (Ocimum basilicum)

This herb is the smell of summer for me. Pesto, Salad Tricolour and a lovely addition to a Smoke stick. There are lots of basils to try. Kings Seeds has most of them including sacred, cinnamon, dark opal and Thai. Why not try growing a few different varieties to mix it up a bit?

Mint (Mentha)

There are so many different mint varieties to choose from. Over the years I've grown chocolate mint, basil mint, apple mint, peppermint and spearmint. All of these would work in a smoke stick. If you harvest in late summer the mint will probably have gone to seed so will have a pretty flower head to include.

Image :Purple sage in the foreground and Bergamont in the background

Sage (Salvia officinalis)

Traditionally smudge sticks include white sage which can be tricky to obtain here in New Zealand. I am nurturing along a little white sage plant that my lovely neighbours gave to me so hope to be able to use some next year. It's important to only take a little from a plant otherwise they may fail to thrive if you keep picking away. I use purple and common sage in my bundles. These seem to grow faster that the white sage. I also enjoy using Pineapple Sage. I always marvel at the strong pineapple scent of this sage! It always raises a smile when I rub the leaves to release the fruity smell! It makes a really nice tea and if you add some of the red flowers the water turns pink.

The last sage that I grow is Russian Sage (Perovskia atriplicifolia) which is a truly beautiful plant with it's tall spires dotted with blue flowers. Definitely worth sourcing one of these for the garden if you have space and adding into your smoke stick bundles.

Image : Russian sage in the foreground, Pineapple sage in the middle and Rose geranium on the right

Bergamont (Monarda)

Bergamont is another must have for me. It attracts bees as well as being extremely handsome in the herb bed. It has multiple purple blooms along each stem and will flower all summer until the first frosts. Another pretty addition to a smoke stick.

Rose Geranium

I reply on Rose geranium a lot. I use it in bouquets as a scented filler which is especially welcome in the late summer months when the flowers have little scent (I'm looking at you zinnias and dahlias). It also has a really interesting leaf. It's very easy to grow from a cutting or scour your local garden centre for plants. They're becoming really popular and easy to find.

Lavender (Lavendula officinalis)

Lavender is of course well know for it's aromatic scent and relaxing properties so is no brainer to include in a smoke stick. Lavender requires full sun and free draining soil to be reminded of it's mediterranean origins.

Rose Petals (Rosa)

Just a few scented rose petals look beautiful in a smoke stick. I try and use red petals so they keep their colour. David Austin's Munstead Wood is a good choice but generally any scented rose will be perfect. I add these to the outside layer of the stick. They can be a bit tricky so tie in so take your time.

This is by no means an exhaustive list. I hope you can see that gathering local herbs can result in a beautiful aromatic smoke stick so just go with what you can find.

Image : From left to right Rosemary, rose Munstead Wood, Bergamont, Rose Geranium, Purple sage and pineapple sage

How to make an Aromatic Smoke Stick

Before you even pick up your snips take a moment to set an intention. This could be gratitude or simply appreciation for the herbs you're about to harvest. This is a lovely mindful activity so don't do it if you're in a rush. I always make a few extras to gift to friends so send them a few good thoughts while you're at it!

Gather together all the herbs that you have collected. Strip off some of the lower leaves to make a handle. the strong stems of rosemary make great handles! If using rose petals you can leave these to the side at this point.

You will need a length of twine five to six times the length of the herb bundle. Take your length of twine and wind it around the handle and tie a very firm double knot. The herbs will lose water and shrink considerably over the next few weeks so make sure your knot is secure. Make sure you leave a tail of string. You will use this to tie off with once you have bound the herbs together.

Now start to wind the twine upwards. I use one hand to grip the herbs and gently squash them down and the other to wind the twine. Remember to wind very tightly. If there are some floppy herb ends at the top you can bend these over and down and catch them in the twine as you wind. This produces a lovely neat round end. Alternatively you can just leave them as they are or trim them down a bit. Totally up to you.

As you start to wind the twine down the herbs you can start to add in any rose petals. I add them to both sides. This is a bit fiddly but you can add in a few at a time and it's so worth it for the look and scent. When you reach the bottom you can tie off with the loose end of string that you used to tie the first knot. Leave your Smoke Stick to dry in an airy sunny position well away form moisture. If your bundle is particularly generous be careful to ensure that the inside is fully dried before using. If you bend some of the herbs and they snap it's a sign that they are ready to be used.

Before igniting your Smoke stick think about the intention that you have, the reason, for releasing these aromatic herbs into your house. Maybe you've just moved house and you wish to cleanse the space and welcome in a new chapter of your life. Maybe a member of your family has been ill and you wish to invite health into the home or maybe you wish to shift the energy in your house and promote positivity and joy. Take your time to visualise this then simply light the end then extinguish the flame. I have a paua shell that I use to catch any ash but you can use a ceramic saucer or a bowl. If you live in New Zealand have a look at the beautiful hand made smudging bowls from Cushla Herbalist They are beautiful and would add a real sense of ritual to your practice. Starting at your front door walk around your house in a clockwise direction allowing the smoke to drift into corners and cupboards. If you have an upstairs you can do the same once you've made a compete circuit of the downstairs.

As with any form of fire please do extinguish the Smoke stick fully after use and be very careful as you wonder around your house! I'd love to hear from you if you are inspired to make a Smoke Stick and use it in your home. Enjoy experiencing the wonderful power of herbs in this way!

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