How to Burn Herbs on a Charcoal
Smoke cleansing has appeared throughout history in many cultures and faiths, with naturally locally growing botanicals being used for different purposes. For example, ancient Romans burned cinnamon during funerals and rosemary to stimulate healing. Ancient Egyptians and Christians burned frankincense as part of Deity worship, while sandalwood and agarwood has been associated with physical and mental wellness in traditional Chinese medicine.
Shamans in Australia use Eucalyptus in healing ceremonies. In many homes herbs are used to heal families of ailments like mullein for lung health and other practical purposes like as fragrance. Boiled or burned at the hearth (the hearth being the home’s stove fire).
It is important to understand and respect the roots of smoke cleansing and how it relates to your own personal practices. And also to choose ethically sourced botanicals to protect the environment but also the intention you are using it for. It is also helpful to understand how to do it.
We get these questions frequently, especially around resins and loose herbs.
While there's no one "right" way to cleanse, as spiritual practices are personal and part of your own traditional and cultural background and beliefs and what you need for healing differs from others greatly and your intentions will differ, we felt it would be beneficial to show how it can be done using loose burning materials and a charcoal dish.
We have a community of people who are spiritual in many ways and combinations of ways. We don’t want to tell anyone what to believe or do, but we offer tools and can help direct you in self care rituals whatever they are to you.
Remember setting up your area and setting up to burn is part of the ritual.
That's where this handy guide comes in.
Let's get started!
- A burner, shell or vessel of some kind. Look for something fireproof. A little sand can be used as an insulator, if desired.
- A surface area. I used a large plate. Again, something that won't catch fire or melt.
- A charcoal disk or tab. These are super helpful for burning loose herbs or resins.
- A barbecue lighter or a long match. We don't want any burned fingers!
- And last but not least, your burning material.
- I used black oud, which is a holy wood most often used in Middle Eastern and Asian cultures.
- Start by placing your burner on your plate. If using sand, place a small amount in the burner and place the charcoal disk on top.
- Using your lighter or match, light the charcoal disk. I typically place the flame in the center, but on the side also works. Be careful, once lit the charcoal will start to spark!
- Once the sparks have subsided the disk should start to smolder. Place a very small amount of your material in the center of the disk. A little goes a long way, it's better than to add too little than too much. You can always add more, but too much creates waste and can suffocate the charcoal.
- Finally, stay with it. Literally and figuratively. In the literal sense, don't leave your burning charcoal unattended! Figuratively speaking, enjoy and let the smoke wash over you and your surroundings. You can add more to the disk once your materials burn off, the charcoal should stay lit for quite a while.
While cleansing can mean many different things to many different people, for me the ritual is about reflecting, grounding and being present in the moment. I think about the smoke carrying away my troubles in that moment, making me feel a little lighter. What does it mean for you? Some may say intentions out loud.
You can use botanicals that represent the intention as well, like
rose for love and lavender to calm for example.
We hope this little guide was helpful, feel free to reach out if you have any questions, we are always happy to help!