The white foliage has a wonderful aroma and is used for incense.
White sage is primarily used as an incense, and is burned to give a general sense of well-being as well as to drive away specific ailments. Several species are called ''sage'' and burned in this fashion, most of them in the mugwort genus. Salvia apiana, however, is a true sage, closely related to the sage used in cooking.
White sage is not an especially rare plant within its range (which is mostly within the state of California), but it is endemic to one particular area and is not found elsewhere.
Beautiful stiff, silver foliage makes this a very attractive and useful shrub for the sunny, dry garden. It grows 4' tall and 4' wide and the foliage is wonderfully aromatic.
Native Americans used the fresh or dried leaves in rituals and it is now commonly used in smudge sticks. A tea made from the leaves is an herbal remedy for cold and congestion and honey bees and hummingbirds absolutely adore it..
Not only good for keeping pesky flying insects away certain plant smokes (smudges) could preserve food and hides. Some smudges could also impart protection from unseen spirits and thoughts. To apply the protective cleansing power of a smudge a leaf or resin was heated to make smoke that was brushed over the person or object often with a feather fan. Some plant smokes had specific healing properties while others more generic powers.
The smudge smoke is made either by spreading dry herbs on hot coals or hot rocks or igniting dry herbs in a clay bowl or shell.
''Sage makes the bad spirits sick. They go away from it when it is burned. It does not make the good spirits sick. They will not leave when it is smoked. Sweet grass is pleasant to all the spirits. Good spirits like it. Bad spirits like it. All like it. The smoke of sweet grass is pleasant to the good spirits. They come to the smoke. They are pleased with one who makes this smoke. They will listen to what such a one asks. But the bad spirits come also to enjoy the smoke. So, sage must be burned to make them sick. Then, sweet grass to bring good spirits.''
Traditional stories and myths tell of the power of sage in that wherever sage is present negative forces cannot enter. In the Inipi ceremony, a sprig of sage is worn behind the right ear to protect the participant and placate the little people.
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