Enjoy collecting seasonal plants to make your own smoke cleansing sticks.
May / June 2018
By Juliet Blankespoor
Before harvesting, take time to center yourself and cultivate a state of peaceful mindfulness. Consider sitting with the plant and simply breathing in silence, taking the opportunity to observe the plant’s beauty and strength. Throughout the world, traditional peoples ask permission from medicinal and ceremonial plants before harvesting. This practice fosters humility and interconnection.
Whatever your beliefs, a feeling of gratitude and appreciation sets the stage for a lovely harvesting and bundling session. As always, be sure of your identification, and only gather plants that are abundant and haven’t been sprayed. Don’t take too much from any one plant — cut a little and then move on to the next one. Before harvesting, seek permission from the landowner or, if you’re on public land, from the appropriate governmental agency.
1. Cut 8- to 10-inch sprigs from the plant. Depending on the plant, you’ll want about 5 to 10 sprigs per bundle.
2. Lay your sprigs in the same direction in 2- to 3-inch-diameter bundles. You can prepare bundles made from one type of plant, or you can prepare mixed bundles comprised of different species. Your bundle will shrink as it dries, so make it a tad plumper than the desired final size. However, if the bundle is too thick, it may mold on the inside.
3. Using any kind of natural twine, cut a piece that is 5 to 6 times the length of the bundle. Tightly encircle the base of the bundle and tie it off in a knot, leaving the long end of the twine free. As the plant material dries, the bundle will shrink, so tie it tightly so it won’t fall apart.
4. Wrap your twine up and around the bundle at a diagonal angle (like the stripes on a candy cane), remembering to pull the string taut as you go. Fold the plant material over at the top to make a neater edge, if desired. Now, circle back down at a diagonal angle, crossing over the rising twine, making little “X’s” as you go. If your bundle is rough around the edges, you can circle up and over one more time. Tie off the string at the bottom of the bundle after encircling the base again. If your bundle is a little unruly, don’t worry; it will become tamer as it dries.
5. Dry your bundles by evenly setting them apart in a warm, dry space. Heat and air movement will hasten the drying, which is important if you live in a humid climate. If the bundle dries too slowly, the interior will mold. If you live in a dry climate or if your home is heated or air-conditioned, this isn’t a concern. Test for dryness after 4 to 7 days by bending the plant material. If the plant breaks and feels crisp, it’s dry and ready!
6. Store your bundles in jars to preserve freshness and aroma. If you live in a humid climate, this is essential to prevent molding and to keep them dry enough to burn.
Learn more about smoke cleansing in Burn Aromatic Herbs as Homegrown Incense.
Juliet Blankespoor is the director and founder of the Chestnut School of Herbal Medicine. She offers online courses on foraging, medicine making, and herb cultivation at