Drying out sage for smudging is a foundational part of our smudging cleansing ritual.
Why? Because only when sage is dry can this herb create the cleansing smoke able to truly banish negative energies from your place and create enough room for fresh, new, positive energy.
But how do you dry out sage for smudging? Here I am going to describe different techniques to do so, some tips for quicker results, and my personal favorite way to dry out sage for smudging.
What is sage?
Sage, like all other cleansing herbs, lasts only a few days after harvest and these kinds of plants then lose their fresh energy and their properties; if they are dried, however, they can be stored for a long time and so it is very useful to learn how to do it.
In the cold months, most herbs stop producing leaves, so drying also allows the herbs to be available in winter; by drying, you can enjoy their energy and benefits throughout the year. The drying process works by depriving the herbs of the water contained within them, thus blocking the action of the various microorganisms that would cause them to deteriorate.
It also allows the sage to get to the perfect consistency to be burned and to create the cleansing smoke you need to cleanse yourself and your space. It is a natural process that requires a dry and ventilated place. The process can be accelerated by heat, but with caution: light and too high temperatures can also cause the herbs to lose some of their energy.
If the right conditions are created, it is possible to dry cleansing herbs without difficulty, preserving their energy and magickal properties.
How to dry out sage for smudging?
You can dry sage in a perfectly natural way without using any tools. If you pick the herbs by cutting twigs, you can tie them together, making bunches to hang upside down. If, on the other hand, you only collected the leaves, they must be placed on a grate or a tightly meshed net.
In both cases, the concept is to facilitate the passage of air, which serves to take away the moisture and dry the leaves, just like hanging clothes.
The important thing is to choose the right place for drying, somewhere ventilated, and not humid.
Sunlight is not optimal for drying; it reduces the time but compromises quality since some components of the herbs are photosensitive and thermolabile. The ideal place is an outdoor room like a porch; if you stay inside the house, you still need to ventilate very often.
The drawback of air drying is that the times are long and variable according to the climate.
Dry sage in the oven
To dry sage in the oven, set the lowest possible temperature: the higher the heat, the lower the energy of your herb. In the oven, the herbs are placed on a baking sheet and must be turned and checked often. The times vary a lot but are usually quite short; the herbs must be carefully monitored to avoid burning them.
The oven door must be left slightly open to allow the water vapor to escape. Due to its speed, this method is suitable for those who do not have much time, but it is certainly not the best in terms of quality.
Microwave drying (not recommended)
There are also those who dry herbs using the microwave oven, but I’m not going to tell you how to do it because I don’t recommend the method. If you don’t have a dryer, use a traditional oven. While it’s true that with the microwave the drying is done in a few minutes, but it is a low-quality method and will ruin your precious cleansing sage.
My favorite method
The procedure is simple and only takes a few days: after having collected the sage leaves, perhaps choosing the largest, wash them carefully and let them dry on a cloth. Once dry, place them on a sheet of parchment paper (or on a tea towel) to let them rest away from light in a ventilated place.
After three or four days, the sage will be dry, and you can keep it in an airtight glass jar, either keeping the leaves intact or crumbling them. Summer is the ideal time to collect, consume, or dry the sage leaves when they have their most intense balsamic period.
It is impossible to give standard drying times: the humidity of the air, the type of herb, and the climate are variables that greatly change the times. However, it is very easy to recognize when the dry herbs are ready.
The expert eye recognizes at first glance the correct degree of drying, but just touch to hear if they “rustle” or crumble between your fingers to understand when to stop drying and put them in the pantry.
If it takes a little bit more time, don’t freak out! Be patient and give your sage the chance to dry out completely to let it do the work! It’s better to wait a bit longer and let sage manifest its properties and benefits than rushing things and having to deal with failure!
I know that when this happens, you get frustrated, but you can avoid this by respecting sage’s drying time! This part is as important as the smudging phase! Don’t rush it!
A few tricks to better dry out sage for smudging
- Collect them in the morning. Sage picked in the morning retains a higher content of essential oils and therefore will have a greater scent once dried. However, if there is dew, it is better to wait, letting it evaporate naturally.
- Collect them before flowering. In its cultivation cycle, sage has a moment in which the concentration of active ingredients is higher; generally, this is the period before flowering. The plant accumulates substances and energy that will be needed to cover the effort of making flowers and seeds. If you want to dry in the best way, you must choose this moment for the harvest.
- Collect them when the flowers are still closed. In some types of sage, it is possible to dry the flowering twigs, just pick the flowers before they open for them to look their best.
- Store your sage properly. After you dried your sage, now it’s time to store it properly! The dried aromatic herbs are perfectly preserved in glass jars with screw caps, to be kept in the pantry. Always avoid humid places and too much light.