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Embodied Rituals for Skin + Soul

On Sacred Smoke

Katie Gordon

The word "sacred" is one we've come to associate with the otherworldly, the special, the non-ordinary. But sacredness is something we can find in each moment, in each embodied experience. From your morning shower to cooking to doing the dishes to the silent prayers you say to whoever may be listening to the afternoon cup of coffee or tea, these are all sacred moments. How do you marry the sacred to the mundane? 

One way I've found is to make things with plants. I've started making some specially crafted herbal smoking + incense blends for the Wild Medicine Bundles. At first, I wasn't sure how popular they'd be. Not everyone's heard of herbal smoking blends. Some people are confused about if there's tobacco or cannabis in them. Why would you want to smoke herbs? So I wanted to give just a quick overview of why you'd want to buy or make herbal smoking blends and what are some of the most common herbs you'll see in them or perhaps even like to use to craft your own.

People have smoked plants throughout history for a variety of reasons including recreational, medicinal, and ceremonial purposes. Different herbs have different effects on the lungs, and smoking them can have a different effect than if you were to take it in a tea or tincture. Even moistening herbs (such as mullein and marshmallow leaf) have a hot/dry effect when they're smoked. Do some research on the energetics of the plants you want to make your smoking blend with. I shouldn't have to say this, but I'm going to anyway:

It's important to make sure the herb(s) you're smoking is safe to inhale.

Here are some of my favorite plants to use in smoking blends: 

Mullein Leaf - A classic lung herb, I use Mullein in tea, tincture, and smoking blends. Mullein is mucilaginous, or moistening, and is wonderful for soothing inflamed, irritated mucous membranes, such as lung tissue. Because of its soothing actions, Mullein actually prevents coughing until the inflammation (or even infection) is improved, and then acts as an expectorant to promote a "productive" cough to actually move any stuck mucous out of the lungs.

Skullcap - A relaxant nerve trophorestorative, basically means it rebuilds the nervous system while relaxing tension, Skullcap doesn't just sedate the nervous system. It actually nourishes and strengthens it. I like Skullcap when I'm feeling stagnant or stuck in that more nervous/excitable/can't-calm-myself-enough-to-actually-relax state.

Spring Rites Smoking + Incense Blend

Spring Rites Smoking + Incense Blend

Marshmallow leaf - Similar to Mullein, Marshmallow leaf is a demulcent and expectorant. The two of them actually make quite a nice pair. What I really love about adding Marshmallow leaf to my blends is how smooth it makes the smoke. My lungs are fairly sensitive and Marshmallow leaf adds body while soothing that hot irritation I often feel when smoking.

Peppermint - In my experience, smoking peppermint can increase circulation and relax the nervous system, as well as clear the lungs and open up the respiratory passages. And even though I said above that the effect on the tissues is hot and dry whenever you burn an herb, there's still that cool pepperminty sensation.

Damiana - Calming and uplifting, Damiana is one of the few things (smoked or consumed) that relieves tension headaches for me. For some people, nervines on the sedative end of the spectrum can actually increase tension. Damiana, while a relaxant, is not a sedative and so it allows energy to move freely through the body rather than suppressing it as many sedative herbs do. By allowing the flow of vital energy and relaxing constriction, we're better able to maintain emotional and physical balance.

Mugwort - Not medicinal per say, Mugwort (my favorite of the Artemesias) is a visionary herb. So, in that way I suppose it can be powerful medicine. Mugwort shows us what we often can't or won't see. When we get in our own way and our vision isn't clear, Mugwort invites us to see more clearly from our heart. When we try to turn a blind eye to what might be outside of our comfort zone, Mugwort firmly yet gently, sometimes in visions, sometimes in dreams coaxes our inner eye open to see what we might otherwise not see.

Don't take my word for any of this. Plant medicine is about cultivating your own relationship with the plants and learning about how you can serve one another. You can check out some of my own blends here, or start crafting your own!