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What is the Difference Between Incense and Smudge Sticks?

Dear Mama,

Incense and smudge sticks both use smoke to cleanse your living area.  They both smell wonderful and are used in meditative rituals.

But despite their seemingly similar purpose, incense and smudge sticks have very different uses.

If you are confused around the differences of incense and smudge sticks and when to use which, this post is for you.

Why Do You Need Smudge Sticks and Incense?

Aromatics like smudge sticks and incense have a long list of benefits to their Incense and smudge have been used across cultures and for thousands of yearsuse.  They have been used across cultures for 1,000s of years in ceremonies, religion, and even to remove disease from the air.  

Why have aromatics had so much staying power? 

Smudging & Incense Clean the Air

Smudging and Incense clean the air both in the physical sense and the spiritual one.  Many of the common plant material used for both smudging and incense have anti-viral, anti-bacterial, and/or anti-fungal properties.  So these aromatics can literally remove germs from the air in addition to helping remove bad energy.  Making space for clean energy and clean air in your house will improve your quality of life

Smudging & Incense will relax you and help with anxiety 

We all live high stress lives, taking the time to do ceremonies and rituals is one of the best ways to lower anxiety and improve your mood.  Additionally, materials in both smudge sticks and incense have been proven to literally improve you mood and have less anxiety

Divination with Smoke of Smudge or Incense

We covered the meditative practice of divination when we introduced scrying.  One divination tool is reading patterns in smoke.  We have used both incense & smudging as tools for smoke reading.  Typically when done smudging your house, you may have leftover smudge stick.  We will leave the smudge in our Abalone Shell and sit and meditate on your intention.  Watching the smoke drift and letting it guide your spirit is always an exciting mediation.

Smells also help access different parts of your brain than your other senses and adding them to rituals is a great way to unlock higher states of consciousness.

Link Between Smell and Memory

Have you ever gotten a faint smell and it immediately triggered your memory of an event? 

There is an extremely strong link between your nose and your memories and Incense and smudge sticks are able to help  you find your balancethis can even impact your emotional state and stress levels.  Consequently, if you associate a smell with a specific event and mental state, like meditation, you can gain many of the calming benefits just from including that smell.

We love the fresh smell of Frankincense & Myrrh incense and use it for our meditation, so if we burn some later in the day, we instantly feel a wave of relaxation wash over us.


What is the Difference Between Incense and Smudge Sticks?

Smudge sticks and incense have different uses despite numerous similarities.  Both smudge sticks and incense contain materials that have powerful cleansing properties, including anti-viral, and enhance mood while decreasing anxiety. 

They both also contain aromatics that when burnt produce fragrant smoke.

However, the way to use incense and smudge sticks are very different.  

What are Smudge Sticks and When Do You Use Them?

Smudge sticks are bundles of various plant materials, typically the entire plantSmudging a living space with smudge sticks like sage help remove stagnate and inactive energiesand leaves, and usually also contain an aromatic element.  Common smudge materials are white sage, lavender, and sweet grass.  

Smudge sticks are used to to cleanse negative and inactive energies from your entire living space.  

[If smudging sounds interesting and you want more info, take a look at our Introduction to Smudging post here]

Typically this is done by igniting the smudge, and walking throughout your entire home while gently guiding the smoke into every nook and cranny.  You do this with the windows open so the smoke can circulate around the house and the smoke can remove the inactive energy.

The entire ritual is usually initiated with setting intentions into the smudge to give a purpose to the ritual.

We like to perform a smudging ritual in the spring and in the fall as part of our spring cleaning and fall decorating.  Additionally, when we feel the energy in the house start to stagnate we will perform an impromptu ritual.  Smudging can also be done when you are staying in a rental or moving into a new living space.

What is Incense and When Do You Use Incense?

Incense is also plant based, but uses flowers, seeds, bark, roots, and resins of the plants.  Incense comes in nearly infinite amounts of fragrances, however the common ones are patchouli, frankincense, myrrh, and cinnamon.

Using incense during your meditation session is a great way to a deeper and more purposeful meditation

Incense can also be part of rituals, typically used during meditation to help you provide a more relaxing atmosphere with light smoke and calming scents.

[Do you want more info on incense uses?  See our post on Introduction to Incense here]

However, incense can also help with anxiety and to set a more peaceful mood.

Incense also typically contains many immunity enhancing elements with many common incenses having anti-viral, anti-bacterial, and anti-fungal elements.  This can provide a cleansing of the physical air in the space as well, but without the fake fragrance and unhealthy chemicals in air fresheners and cleaners. 

Incense also comes in different forms than just the commonly used sticks.  You can get incense as cones, coils, or even loose and use a ceremonial urn to burn it.

Smudge Stick vs Incense

Here is a handy infographic comparing the smudge sticks vs incense.

Smudge Sticks versus Incense.  What is the differences and similarities


 Is Smudging or Incense Better?

We get this type of question a lot, are you better off smudging or burning incense.

Both forms of aromatics have their place in your ceremonies and rituals.  We incorporate both smudging and incense into our lives to try to keep the atmosphere inside the living space in a positive energy state.

Since they both have different uses, there is no problem doing both!!!

Smudging can be done everyday, but much more likely is done less frequent to remove negative energy.  Every spring and fall we do a nice whole house clean and store seasonal stuff.  It is a great time to do some smudging as you are changing the feng shui already, so cleansing the living space as well just make sense.  We will also smudge if something bad happened or if the air & energy feels stagnate.  Overall, we typically do a smudge ceremony 6 times a year or so personally.

Incense is an everyday event.  We really enjoy using incense during our meditation and usually will burn some later in the day to help relax and re-enter a calm emotional state.  It really does lead to a better energy in your living space.

Smudging and Incense Instead of Chemical Air Fresheners

We would be remiss if we didn't discuss how smudging and incense (along with essential oils) are the absolute best way to have clean and fragrant air in your home. 

If you use chemical cleaners and air fresheners, you now have a better way.  Chemical cleaners and air fresheners are terrible for your health, your air quality, and even mess with your families hormones. 

Since smudge sticks and incense help clean your air as well as leave a wonderful natural smell, there really is no need for your lysols, glades, etc.

Wrapping up Smudge versus Incense

There is a lot covered in this post.  The benefits of aromatics in your daily rituals, the similarities and difference between smudging and incense, how we use both, and briefly the importance of getting rid of chemical cleaners and air fresheners.  

We love our daily incense and smudging our space ever couple of months.  It is has really been a beneficial addition to our lives and hopefully you will incorporate them as well.



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