Smoke cleansing is a way to clean the air/auric space around a person, place, thing, or energy for spiritual, emotional, or physical reasons. This can be done in many ways, such as burning incense, dried herb bundles, or moxa.
But smudging means something very specific. The word smudging originates with Native people in North America and refers to a very specific ritual. Many people also associate "smudge sticks" with white sage, an herb traditionally used by Native people. However, white sage is sacred to those Native cultures and with the popularity of burning herb bundles, it is being improperly and over-harvested, which can lead to shortages and diseased/unhealthy plants, as well as loss of vital cultural heritage.
Palo santo is a wood gaining popularity in smoke cleansing practices. Aka holy wood, palo santo is imported to the United States from Central and South America, where it’s used by Native tribes. Palo Santo has been added to the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) list, because its over-harvesting could lead to extinction.
I believe it is critical to preserve and respect Indigenous cultures, as well as preserving nature. For that reason, I do not use the terms smudging/smudge sticks, nor do I build my creations from white sage or palo santo.
There are lots of other herbs with energies of their own without culturally appropriating white sage or palo santo, or endangering the plants themselves. I call my creations herb bundles for smoke cleansing. Most of the plants used in my herb bundles are grown by myself or my friends/family; hand assembled by me with intention and creativity; and only sustainable hemp and bamboo cord is used to secure the bundles.
The act of smoke cleansing is very ancient and can be traced back to all continents on the planet. While many cultures and religions do have smoke cleansing rituals, the practice itself does not belong to only one religion or group of peoples (unlike smudging or burning palo santo). Smoke cleansing with herb bundles can be your tradition, too.