Burning sage — also known as smudging — is an ancient spiritual ritual. Smudging has been well established as a Native American cultural or tribal practice, although it isn’t practiced by all groups. Purifying. White prairie sage (Artemisia ludoviciana) is both antimicrobial and antibacterial. White sage (Salvia apiana) is also antimicrobial. And both have been shown to repel insects. One 2007 study found that burning sage for an hour decreased the level of aerial bacteria by 94 percent. These effects were preserved for up to 24 hours afterward. Spiritual. Smudging has long been used to connect to the spiritual realm or enhance intuition. For healers and laypeople in traditional cultures, burning sage is used to achieve a healing state — or to solve or reflect upon spiritual dilemmas. This may have some scientific basis, too. Certain types of sage, including salvia sages and white prairie sage, contain thujone. Research shows that thujone is mildly psychoactive. It’s actually found in many plants used in cultural spiritual rituals to enhance intuition.