The Epigenetics Behind Saging, Positive Healing Intentions, and Affirmations

Not long ago, a friend asked my thoughts on a 41 day self sage clearing regimen that she’d been reading about, specifically on its ability to bring lasting, transformational healing.

As the internet states (one source), the idea is that cleansing with sage each day, for 41 days, will alter the energy manifested in our DNA to the point of healing. Holes in our aura, attachments, cords, and other foreign energies have the potential to cause adverse changes in our DNA. Through self-saging, for 41 days, we can reverse these changes, and as such, see a decrease in pathological issues that have been caused by adverse epigenetic changes in our DNA.

Sage itself is known to be healing and cleansing, and with the prolonged, daily saging, we set the intention for prolonged healing, day after day. 41 days has been set as the magical number for the length of time needed for your body to given the signal that this change is a permanent one, and to proceed with the associated DNA modification.


Self-saging for 41 days is said to enact lasting DNA changes that will reverse previous adverse energetic impact on our DNA.

Alright, so, as a graduate student of Psychology, and an academic with 10 years of training in behavioral biology, neuroscience, and psychology, I happen to know a little something about DNA modifications.

In fact, shortly before I left academia forever, I happily enrolled in, and thoroughly enjoyed a graduate class in neuroepigenetics.

Epigenetics is the study of stable, long-term changes in elements involved in the transcription of DNA.

Neuroepigenetics is the study of these elements modifying the transcription of DNA in the nervous system – brain, neurons, behavior that sort of thing.

In greek, “epi” means “upon” or “on top of.

Epigenetics = on top of our genetics = on top of our DNA

I like to think of these modifications as changes to elements that sit ON TOP OF our DNA sequence, that change how the DNA is transcribed (coded into genes), and thus expressed.  The way in which our genes are expressed can change all sorts of things from our behavior to our physiological illness susceptibility.

What this means is that there are things that sit on top of our DNA sequence, I like to call them modifiers, that can change everything about our physiology and our behavior.

Where do they come from, these modifiers? Well, most already exist in some fashion in our body, and the way that they act is largely dependent on environmental triggers.

What they do, how they do it, and if they even attach to and change our DNA sequence at all, mostly depends on environmental type triggers – from changes in our environment, whatever that may be.

The Epigenetics Behind Positive Healing Intentions and Affirmations

One of the earliest studies of neuroepigenetics involved maternal behavior in rats, and still to this day, this is a very popular research paradigm for studying these “on top of our DNA” changes. It’s very easy to manipulate maternal behavior in animals, and you also have the benefit of being able to observe many generations downstream from the initial triggering event.

Anyway, in the simplest sense, researchers observed that when baby rats had mothers that were more nurturing and cared for their young more closely than other mothers, through more licking and grooming and huddling behavior, those baby rats went on to be less aggressive and also when they grew up, they were more nurturing mothers themselves.

This future behavior triggered by earlier treatment is the result of an epigenetic change. It’s the result of a modifier that sits on top of the rat’s DNA sequence changing how genes are expressed and how the rat behaves.

Are you following?

A BEHAVIOR triggered a modification to DNA expression to result in a new FUTURE BEHAVIOR.

Back to the sage.

Burning sage is a behavior that is done with the intent to heal and cleanse oneself. It’s an outlook, a belief, and perspective on life. The same is true for the use of positive affirmations to improve mood and life perspective, and the practice of reminding ourselves to be grateful.

These are BEHAVIORS that are done with the intent to change FUTURE BEHAVIORS.

The Epigenetics Behind Positive Healing Intentions and Affirmations

Just about anything can cause epigenetic changes, the field is still relatively new and growing. Anything in our environment has the potential to cause a physiological response in our body, which can alter epigenetic modifiers, which can alter DNA expression, which can alter behavior.

And guess what? Improving mood and increasing positive mood states occurs at the physiological level. Behaviors done to improve our attitude and mood spur physiological changes – even better if these behaviors involve smiling.

As was demonstrated in the rats, a simple behavior, increased maternal nurturing experienced by young rats, spurred epigenetic changes to DNA that altered future behavior, to arguably improve the behavior of those grown up rats.

Behaviors can and do have the potential to cause lasting changes to the expression of our DNA, and as such, our mood and physiological pathology, among other things.

In baby rats, the period of time in the nest is around 30 days long – this is roughly how long it takes to enact lasting genetic changes in behavior.

So, 41 days for a sage cleanse, or a daily positive affirmation practice, or a gratitude list challenge is right in line with how long it might take humans to need to engage in a behavior in order to see lasting genetic, and as such,  physiological and behavioral changes.

Because if we remember from the definition, epigenetics is the study of LASTING and STABLE changes to elements in involved in DNA expression.

While not scientifically tested, my hunch, from one scientist to another, is that behavioral actions and intentions to heal and become a better person, absolutely do cause lasting changes in DNA expression – no different from the rats and maternal behavior.

I don’t see any reason why exposing yourself to a behavior, even if it is your own, for a long enough time to let your body know the change is permanent, would not trigger a change to gene expression. In fact, I’d find it odd if this DIDN’T happen.

You may have noticed that at this point, I have not yet mentioned anything energetic and only topics slightly spiritual. The physical body still exists! It’s not completely irrelevant. We can make changes in our physical life, right now, that make have the potential to impact our energetic and spiritual life. In this case, we’re discussing the potential of positive affirmations and healing cleanses to impact DNA expression.

That’s just one angle of impact that they can have, the physical expression of DNA. They can also have an impact on the spiritual and energetic side of things, of which you can learn more about, here.

A simple behavior in our daily lives, such as a sage cleanse or a positive affirmation, has the potential to not only create lasting change in our physical experience via DNA expression, it also has the potential to impact our spiritual experience – and both of these, alter our energetic experience.

Positive affirmations, sage cleanses, and gratitude lists are real, lasting ways to create positive change in your life – physically, and spiritually.

Enjoy saging!

LAST UPDATED: December 12, 2014