I love bundling some of the herbs that I grow in my garden at Medicine Lodge Ranch. Fresh herb bundles bring the vibrant green energy of the outdoors into my home, blessing the space with their colors and smells. And they’re so versatile! Herb bundles can be hung from your front door to welcome visitors, set on the mantle as natural decoration, wrapped and tucked into drawers to scent clothes and linens, or placed on your bedside table to perfume your dreams. (They can also be dried and burned as incense or used for smudging, which I’ll explain in more detail shortly.) Herb bundles will work for virtually any purpose your plant-loving imagination can contrive.
But what I love even more than their versatility is how easy they are to make. With nothing more than a handful of herbs, a bit of string, and a pair of scissors, you have the makings for your very own DIY herb bundle. I use many herbs in my bundles: lavender, rosemary, juniper, rose, oregano, lemon balm, lemon verbena, bee balm, cedar, and others. But my favorite is sage. I grow many species of sage in my gardens; they add texture, color and aroma; attract pollinators, and our native species are drought tolerant. But it is garden sage (Salvia officinalis) that I grow year-round to use in my kitchen and for medicine.
A Wise Herb
Sage’s genus name, Salvia, comes from the word salvere, which means “to save” or “to heal.” Long used for preserving meat and flavoring food, people living in the Mediterranean region also believed that sage could clear the mind, improve memory, and impart wisdom. Hence, the reason we use sage to refer to a wise person. Sage also extensively used as medicine; for digestive and respiratory woes, to soothe a sore throat and topically for wounds. Sage is often used in herb bundles designed for burning as incense.
Traditional and Modern Use of Incense
People from around the globe have burned plants and plant resins as incense as an integral part of their ceremonies, a practice sometimes referred to as “smudging”. Our sense of smell is one of the most powerful of our senses. It is powerfully and intimately linked directly with the part of our brain that processes emotion. It is no surprise that throughout history, people have burned plants as part of their rituals and ceremonies.
When visiting temples and shrines in Asia, the burning of incense is commonplace. Upon entering, the aroma immediately sets the tone for contemplation and reflection. When my family went to Christmas mass at the Notre Dame cathedral in Paris, a priest walked up the aisle swinging a golden thurible where the smoke from burning frankincense misted over us. We all felt the “shift” taking place, as we began our worship. Many indigenous peoples of the Americas burn plants as part of their sacred ceremonies. I remember being invited to participate in a prayer lodge (sweat lodge) ceremony. The smell of sweetgrass carried the sacred songs and our prayers to the heavens.
While most often connected with the sacred and spiritual, depending upon the plant, people have burned aromatic plants because they appreciated their fragrance. Indeed, the word “perfume” literally means through smoke. In the winter, I place rosemary, sage and juniper bundles in our fireplace to impart a lovely aroma to the cabin, far better than using an “air freshener” loaded in phthalates and synthetic fragrance. Whether you are using an herb bundle for spiritual purposes, to create a mood, or simply because you love the smell – they are easy to make and a joy to experience.
Making a Sage Bundle
- Fresh sage (and any other herbs you’d like to add)
- String or twine
- Garden shears or scissors
1. Gather your materials. If you are harvesting your own herbs, gather them with good intention in the morning, after the dew has dissipated. You can also purchase organic fresh sage in the produce section of most grocery stores. Don’t be afraid to get creative with your bundle! Add lavender, roses, rosemary, or any other herbs that delight you.
2. Gather up, arrange your herbs, and remove anything that appears wilted or dead, so that the stems are equal in length and can be grasped tightly together at the base.
3. Cut a piece of string that is roughly four times the length of your bundle.
4. Make a tight knot around the stems at the very bottom of your bundle.
5. Run the string up at a steep angle, trying to capture as many of the leaves as you can within the string.
6. Once you reach the top, loop the string around and run it all the way down to the bottom at an opposite steep angle.
7. When you reach the bottom of the bundle, tie a double or triple knot.
8. Cut the excess tops and any straggling leaves off of your bundle. That’s all there is to it!
Drying your herb bundles
Your herb bundle can be enjoyed right away, unless you plan to use it for incense or smudging. If you intend to burn the bundle, dry it first. Simply hang it in a warm, dry place, out of direct sunlight. After two or three weeks (depending on humidity), they should be ready to burn.
Herbal wisdom, herbal medicine
If herb bundling piques your interest in DIY natural remedies, I invite you to enroll in my online Herbal Medicine Making course. You’ll learn to prepare products like tinctures, salves, glycerites, and herbal honeys through this educational program that can be accessed from any device. https://www.medicinelodgeranch.com/products/herbal-medicine-making-premium
You can also find recipes and resources related to herbal healing in my book, Healthy At Home.