Illegal harvesting and black market sales of white sage

Illegal harvesting and black market sales of white sage are on the rise and if you are in any way aware of New Age, spiritual practices, or even if you just like yoga or scrolling through the more spiritual side of Instagram, you will have seen people using sage to cleanse their space or their energy.

People hold bundles of the dried plant bound with string as it smolders, clouds of scent and smoke blow through the air.

But the popularity of sage, specifically white sage tied into tight bundles called smudge sticks, is not as simple as a nice smell and good energy. The use of the plant, and misappropriation and abuse of Native American culture, is far more controversial than most people know.

The use of white sage for ceremonial cleansing and ritual also called smudging, is a Native American practice.

The use of smoke to cleanse and purify a space, often as part of a ritual, is almost as old as the human spiritual practice itself. Throughout history, in many cultures, people have burned things that smell nice to create sacred space, carry their prayers, or just make the area smell good. Even common sage has been used and burned through history as a means of purification.

White sage is not easy to grow as a crop for harvest, though some people are trying and finding success, the majority of the herb is harvested illegally, by people sneaking around national and state parks in America illegally harvesting sage to sell.

It’s harmful to the environment, and because sage passes through so many wholesalers and vendors, some people that sell white sage don’t know if it was harvested ethically or even legally.

If you want to burn things cleanse your space or energy, you don’t specifically need white sage. You can dry and burn your own herbs. There are other native plants used too but those are also threatened (Palo Santo is one). Incense is a safe alternative.

Cultural appropriation is a very complicated topic, and the line between appreciating and learning from another culture and stealing from them in a harmful way isn’t always clear. And so often, like in this case, actions that are unintentionally harmful are far more pervasive and hard to change. We just need to cleanse our minds of false or uninformed ideas.

Just using something other than white sage to do it.

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Written by

Charlie Loran

Manchester born mummy with a two year old diva (2020), living on the Costa del Sol for just short of a decade.
Former chef and restaurateur, holistic health fanatic and lover of long words.

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