It’s been going around a lot lately: two of the most commonly preferred plants for smudging, white sage and palo santo, have been declared endangered. As I keep hearing different versions of this, I know I can’t be the only one… well, confused. So I’ve done some digging for all of us, and hope this can help everyone cleanse their spaces, clear negative energies, and invite good vibes in peace!
Is White Sage Endangered?
First, the really simplified part: no, white sage is not listed as endangered. What it definitely is, though, is over harvested.
There is strong evidence of individuals harvesting white sage from protected lands and private lands. The craze for white sage over the last few years has drastically increased demand. Any time that happens, there are going to be people who take advantage of it, and in these case in both illegal ways and ways that are dangerous to the wild population of the plant.
How About Palo Santo?
A slightly more complicated answer for this one: Yes, but…
First of all, Palo Santo, or “Holy Wood,” is a name given to more than one species of plant. One of these species, Bulnesia Sarmientoi is endangered. The most commonly found variant of Palo Santo found in stores, with its golden yellow wood color, is Bursera Graveolens.
That said, it too could be threatened if wild harvesting at a significant rate is allowed. Traditional practices only cut the dead wood, which is much better for sustainability.
What about cultural appropriation?
That is a much bigger can of worms, and I will gladly go into it in a future blog posts. Pagans have a history of picking and choosing sacred practices from a lot of cultures, and I can’t decide for you how to feel about that.
What can I do if I want to keep burning these?
A couple of simple suggestions:
- A lot of the white sage and palo santo on the market are farmed. This is good for continuing the species! Look for where your herbs are coming from.
- Do not purchase white sage or palo santo that advertises it is “wild crafted.” This is harvesting the plants from their natural environments, which are what we want to preserve.
- Double check what species you are buying. If you don’t know, don’t buy it.
- Burn your white sage or palo santo sparingly. A little bit goes a long way.
What can I do instead of burning these?
First option, there are a lot of other plants you can burn instead:
- Blue sage and desert sage also come in smudge bundles, and are not currently threatened.
- Lavender, rosemary, and several other plants make good smudge bundles.
- Frankincense and myrrh are related to Palo Santo, and also not threatened.
Or, there are options other than burning herbs for cleansing spaces. Take a look at our past blog post about cleansing methods for some other ideas.
What is Crooked Treehouse doing?
We already have a fair amount of white sage and palo santo in stock. When we next order, we will be taking a closer look at our suppliers. I will say we live far from where these are grown, so we can’t go to a farm and check for ourselves, but we will do our best to support sustainable harvest practices.
We also have many other sage options in stock, and all clearly labeled. So how about trying out some blue sage instead?