The one thing that every good chef and every good pagan have in common is that they know how to utilize some of the many benefits of sage.
There are two main types of sage we are generally talking about here: common garden sage (salvia officinalis) and White Sage (salvia apiana.) In my personal practice, I generally use common sage for cooking and herbal remedies / medicinal uses, and save the white sage for incense blends and Magickal uses. This is partly because White Sage is much more difficult to grow (the seeds have a low germination rate and you have to grow this plant in a pot so that it can be brought indoors all winter, at least here in my New England climate) and partly because white sage is historically a sacred Native American medicine plant. It also has a distinctively different scent from regular sage, that lends itself nicely to burning as a smoke.
However, common sage CAN be used in smudging and burning rituals in place of white sage if you cannot come by any white sage. It simply has a more “earthy” energy to it when you’re breathing it in, whereas the white sage tends to send out a more spiritual vibe that appeals to the higher mind. This is my perspective, anyhow. See My other blog post on Herbal Smudging for more details.
There are questions as to whether burning sage really can clear the air in your house. In my experience, yes– it can help clear negative energy, at least, mainly by relaxing the occupants of the home. And it absolutely helps kick out any spirits you don’t want hanging around! But whether it literally clears bacteria from the air is in debate. I would think that since mental health is connected to physical health, anything that makers you feel more mentally healthy and relaxed is going to help you, either way.
I recommend if you want to use white sage you either try growing some yourself or buy from a local, reputable grower, as the plant is endangered in the wild due to over-harvesting. I’m growing a bunch more babies this year, so let me know if you want me to save you some sage!
The best way to get to know ANY sage is to taste some. Taste it fresh, taste it dried… Mix it in a dry rub for your chicken, mix some with raw honey to make a soothing cough suppressant. Dry a few leaves for a week or so, put them in a dish (on charcoal works best), and light them. Waft the smoke toward you to breathe some in. See how it makes you feel. Get to know sage by working with it! And do click on the links I referenced in this piece for more information.