Drying Sage for Smudging

Dear NM (or other gardening folks):

So, is it bad form to flounce about my herb garden and then throw myself in a pile next to my happy basil and sigh a sigh of discontent?

See, here’s the deal. Sitting out time is rapidly approaching and I would like to smudge with my own sage this year, the sage that I’ve been keeping alive all summer, even though there’s a drought. And so, first of all, I’d like advice on how to best harvest and dry it and tie it in a bundle for burning. Well, I can get the “tie it in a bundle part.” I’m more looking for advice on harvesting and drying it.

But second, and the reason for my over-dramatic flouncing about the internet, is that I found this website that says I don’t want to use cooking sage anyway; I want to use “one of the species of the genus Artemisia.”  Well, I spent all summer growing Salvia, and wikipedia says I want Salvia.  I guess I just want some reassurance here.

Plus, should I bundle it first and then dry it or dry it and then bundle it?


14 thoughts on “Drying Sage for Smudging

  1. Well, I am not nm, but here is what I’ve always done:

    Just lop it off at the stem end, bind it around with a rubber band or piece of twine, and hang it upside down in a cool, dark place. You could even put it inside a paper grocery bag to keep it dark if needed, and hang that too, with a few tear-holes in it.

    After a month or two, you should be able to rub or smudge away to your heart’s content.

    (You can do the same with the basil, parsley, thyme, etc.)

  2. I am not Peggasus, but she’s right about how to harvest the sage. As for which sort of sage you are supposed to burn, I am clueless, although there’s a nifty recipe (including galbanum, whatever that is) for making incense to go with the Temple sacrifices that’s a regular part of my religious services. I will note that in most religious traditions, the intention matters a great deal, so I would suppose that your beliefs would allow that burning salvia, while not as hallowed as burning artemisia, was still a Good Thing, especially since you have grown the salvia specifically for the purpose.

    As for whether you are allowed to flounce around your herb garden, etc., of course you are!

  3. I have always seen the smudging/burning sage referred to as “White Sage” whether that is just a descriptive term or a botanical term, I can’t say. Someone could be crossing up Salvia Vulgaris(common culinary sage) with Artemisia Vulgaris (Mugwort or common Wormwood) and muddying the pool even more. Do a little more research before stressing out, but I could never figure out why the pre-made dried bundles looked so little like culinary sage and smelled so different, so maybe there is something to it. However, using herbs that you grew yourself could lend more to your purpose than purchased no matter what.

  4. Yeah, I think you’re right. I’m becoming more convinced as the day goes on that one can probably smudge with either one (after all, sage has a great healing reputation and Salvia… whatsit, whose name I forget, does induce visions, so one would think that using Salvia to cleanse a moment in which one intends to have visions would make sense) and the same goes with Artemisia.

    I’ll say this for the whole thing, too. It makes me want to have a slightly bigger herb garden next year!

  5. If you don’t want to wait for it to naturally dry you could also use a food dehydrator. It might sap just a hint of the oil from the sage but not too much and it’d be faster than air drying.

    As far as the kind, I agree with nm. I think your intent it more important that the physical plant. Like dowsing for water; it is easier to do it with woods like willow, etc, but if you center in the right place you can do it with plastic if you really want to.

  6. er. i confess to knowing exactly nothing about smudging, but a couple of googlings on “salvia” and “artemisia” hinted that the physical plant might in fact matter. A. vulgaris apparently contains thujone, and there’s one (fortunately, it seems quite rare) species of salvia (S. divinorum) that’s known to contain dissociative and/or hallucinogenic compounds. i’d keep smoke inhalation to a minimum, if it was me.

  7. Nomen, I would have thought that that would be a help for an uteseta, but that’s probably because I don’t understand it properly.

  8. The biggest problem I see is that I doubt you will be able to dry your sage in time for an end-of-month use. I know it’s supposed to be smoldering and whatall, but
    it usually takes grasses and stuff at least a month (usually two) to get dried out.

  9. I haven’t tried drying herbs this way, but I dry bundles of hot peppers (for later grinding). It helps to have air that is both moving, and ‘unnaturally dry’ (cold air which is naturally low-humidity, which is heated but not made more humid).

    I just hang a bundle of peppers behind my computer, directly in the airstream of the power supply (about 6-inches away from the machine, so as not to obstruct the air flow). This dries them quite nicely.

    BTW, I recall reading several months ago that Tennessee is one of the few states to outlaw (selling? possessing?) S. Divinorum. Caveat emptor.

  10. Oh, god, no shit. I should say for the record that mine is S. ordinarious (or whatever) and drug enforcement agents are welcome to both look at the little plastic information tag, which is still stuck near the plant and to chew on some, as long as they don’t ruin the whole plant. (But I must say, after looking at the code about Divinorum that it appears that the state of Tennessee has made only ingesting and enjoying the sensation illegal. You can still grow it for decorative purposes and, it seems, eat it if you think it’s just regular sage.)

    I’m hanging the sage over the air conditioning vent. We’ll see how it goes.

  11. > I’m hanging the sage over the air conditioning vent.

    That might help, but cold, dry air is much less effective than warm, dry air. The air coming from your AC has little moisture, because it is capable of holding only little moisture. So it is not going to be able to “pick up” as much moisture from your sage.

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  13. I just hang a bundle of peppers behind my computer, directly in the airstream of the power supply

    That is a really good (and neat) idea. Essentially that should work exactly like a food dehydrator, as it would have gentle heat and moving air.

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