Cannabis Science

Does Sage Smell Like Weed?

burning sage and crystal in a bowl

Admit it, you’re probably one of two kinds of people. Perhaps you’ve heard about sage and its many benefits but have been told that it smells like weed. This peaks your curiosity but causes some concern; perhaps you have to be careful about smells in your space and don’t want nosey neighbors to think you’re using weed (even if you are). Or maybe you already use sage, think it smells like weed and came to the internet for validation. Whoever you are, we have the answers you are looking for! Does sage smell like weed? Here’s what we know. 

Photo: Unsplash

What is Sage?

According to a 2014 journal article, sage is the largest member of Lamiacea or mint family. 

There are over 900 species of sage, so there is some variety in what a sage plant may look like. For example, they may have different flowers. 

If you’re wondering what the plant looks like, Almanac says, “hardy perennial with pretty, grayish green leaves …..It grows spikes of spring flowers in different colors, including purple, blue, white, and pink.”

However, if you go to a store to buy sage, chances are you’ll see bundles of dried pale green leaves. Don’t worry; they’re perfectly fine.

Sage has many uses; for example, it can be used for cooking. In addition to cooking Healthline, sage can be used to:

  • Relieve certain symptoms
  • Keep pathogens at bay
  • Cleanse spaces and objects of negative energy
  • Relieve stress
  • Freshen the air
  • Uplift your mood

In case you were wondering, sage is used in many cultures. Cleansing and smudging are rituals that date back a while back they’re considered ancient practices. Healthline says, “[S]mudging has been well established as a Native American cultural or tribal practice, although it isn’t practiced by all groups. We have the traditions of many Native American peoples to thank for its use.”

The uses Healthline highlighted are done by burning sage. Therefore, make sure that it’s completely extinguished before putting it away. You don’t have to use water to out the flame. As a matter of fact, Healthline doesn’t recommend it since it may be hard to light again in the future. They recommend ‘dabbing the lit end into a small bowl of ash or sand.’

In addition to that, Healthline says, “Burning sage is a sacred religious practice in some Native American cultures. Treat the ritual with respect.”

Does Sage Actually Have Benefits

It depends on who you ask. Some people swear that sage makes them feel better or cleanses their space, while others don’t notice any changes.

Scientifically speaking, sage does seem to have some benefits. For example, Artemisia ludoviciana, white prairie sage is shown to have antibacterial properties. The 2011 study says this type of sage may be effective against Campylobacter spp, a food-borne pathogen. It helped to hinder adherence and cytotoxic activity of the bacteria to host mucosal surfaces.

Healthline also said that other cultures had used white prairie sage to treat various mood disorders. 

However, more research on the health benefits of sage is needed. 

Why Does Sage Smell Like Weed?

So, if you use sage and it smells like weed to you, you’re not alone. There are many Reddit threads with comments discussing how much sage smells like weed. Of course, there are some who say they don’t think they smell similar. The way something smells can vary from person to person. 

Generally, sage has a pungent or earthy smell. However, they can have different smells. So, H2ouse says that clary sage may smell like dirty socks to some people. Funny enough, some people say weed smells like that too. 

We take it you’re here because sage smells like weed to you, or you heard it does. Sage doesn’t smell like weed because it has weed in it. Many things without weed smell like weed; an example of that is spironolactone. Spironolactone is a medication used to treat various ailments, such as high blood pressure. Even though it doesn’t contain weed, many people who use it report it smells just like weed.  

We’re not 100% sure why sage smells like weed to some people. However, our best guess would be due to their chemical composition. 

We can see that there are similar terpenes found in both sage and weed. Terpenes are responsible for the smell of plants. Both plants have the following essential oils:

  • α-pinene
  • β-pinene
  • Mycrene
  • Camphor

Therefore, if people think they smell similar, it’s probably because they share similar terpenes. 

If you’re worried that someone may think that the sage you’re burning is weed, you can opt for another type with a different smell or keep the room well-ventilated. 


Does sage smell like weed? To some people, it does. While we don’t know exactly why, it has to do with the terpenes in both plants being similar in some way. One thing’s for certain, sage is definitely not the best option if you’re looking to mask the smell of a very similar smelling herb, weed. But you can always give a natural aroma like Nag champa, sandalwood or even roasted coffee a try. On the other hand, many carefree cannabis enthusiasts burn sage as a ritual to elevate the senses during the smoke sesh.


About Trevann

Trevann is Stoner Rotation’s Jamaica-based lead writer for the Science section of our cannabis blog. She graduated with honors receiving her Bachelor of Science degree in Molecular Biology from the University of West Indies, Mona. For the last three years, she has covered some of the biggest questions around cannabis and health underpinned with research from supporting studies, medical journals and scholarly articles. Got something on your mind? You can reach her at [email protected].