The Current Popularity of White Sage is Causing its Extinction on the Border of Mexico and the United States

A growing trend in trying to expel bad energy in homes or cleanse a house is leading to endangerment of more than one species, causing the fraying of ecosystems and a hijacking of Native American culture. Alina Croft presents what you need to know.

White sage in different stages of production to be used for ‘smudging’. Explanation video here: https://www.powtoon.com/s/e5mnnDwYbm3/1/m

What Is White Sage and What Is It Traditionally Used For?

White sage, or salvia apiana, considered the sacred sage is an evergreen perennial shrub that can be found harvested on the border of the southwestern United States and northwestern Mexico. It is historically used by Native Americans to make a traditional food called pinole, one of their staple foods. It is also used by Native Americans for medicinal purposes, such as making tea to help women regain strength after giving birth. The seeds can also be used to remove objects from the eyes. The plant is mostly used for traditional religious ceremonies.

The Evolution of White Sage Use

Within the last half decade, white sage has started to be used non-traditionally by people outside of Native American culture which is seen as cultural appropriation. Culprits are most commonly millennials and generation Z who are using it to cleanse their homes from bad energy and spirits. It is being sold in large quantities by many corporations including Walmart and Anthropologie, a retail clothing store. This use has pushed the plant to be over harvested and begin to become endangered.

Why This is So Bad

Not only is using white sage recreationally by non Native Americans considered appropriation, it also is causing the endangerment of habitats that other wildlife depends on for survival. Curtain delicate plants and many insects, rat species, reptiles, and others depend on the sage for protection. With that protection dwindling, those that depend on the sage are becoming endangered as well. Using white sage could bring down an entire ecosystem and cause immense harm.

Instead of buying white sage and contributing to the demand for the over harvested shrub, other plants can be used for similar results such as creating good energy, banishing bad ones, or even just for smell in a home. Some suggested plants are lavender, mugwort, cedar, sweet grass, juniper, and copal. They emit different smells when burned and some may resonate with an individual better than others but using these sources is considered more ethical.

Explainer Journalism by Alina Croft for the Reynolds Sandbox

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Showcasing innovative and engaging multimedia storytelling by students with the Reynolds Media Lab in Reno.