Native American sweetgrass: its meaning and use

Native American sweetgrass: its meaning and use

Hello all!

If you follow my site’s Facebook page, you know I am currently doing course 3 of my program entitled Aboriginal focusing oriented therapy and complex trauma. Today was day 2 of 3 and our teacher was kind enough to bring us sweetgrass she grows. Therefore, we all braided our sweetgrass during our break 🙂 So this inspired me to write a short post on sweetgrass, its use and meaning. Here we go!

sweetgrass

What does sweetgrass represent?

Sweetgrass is one of the main herbs used by Native people. It is often part of the medicine used when smudging along with sage and cedar (for more on smudging, see this post). Just as sage is used to clear negativity, to cleanse, sweetgrass is used to bring positivity. At the healing circle I attend, we often start the circle by smudging using sage. As circles tend to be heavy (lots of trauma is shared), if we use sweetgrass, we use it at the end of the circle. To cleanse ourselves again and to bring back positivity and calm.

Therefore, sweetgrass represents positivity, strength, connection to the Creator and all our relations. it represents the Mother, our mother, Mother Earth. It is our connection to the land, to what is around us. Its smell when burned dry is a sweet smell, reminiscent of our ancestors. When fresh, its smell is one of grass (a faint one). It smells fresh, it smells like comfort and home. When braided, sweetgrass can represent a few different concepts. In the Cree-Ojibway culture, for example, the three braids of the sweetgrass can represent love, peace and harmony or mind, body and spirit.

fresh and braided sweetgrass

fresh and braided sweetgrass

The uses of sweetgrass

As I just mentioned, sweetgrass is used in smudging, to cleanse and purify. Native American sweetgrass is a healing herb, it has healing properties. For example, sweetgrass can be used to help with colds, or sinus issues. It can be drank as a tea or infusion to help with coughing (God knows I should drink some as I have been coughing for 2 weeks now). For more on herbal remedies see this post. One could also gargle with it (the tea I mean, not a branch of sweetgrass…).

Further, sweetgrass is a blood thinner as it contains coumarin, which has blood thinning properties. Finally, sweetgrass can also help with arthritis. Indeed, one can carry fresh sweetgrass in their clothes, like in their socks for example, to help with movement (my teacher often does that).

sweetgrass

sweetgrass I received and braided today

I will share with you my teacher’s experience with sweetgrass as I know she would not mind. She has been growing her own sweetgrass for close to 50 years now. The one in the picture on the right is some she brought it today. She constantly has sweetgrass inside her clothes, like her bra or shoes, to help with arthritis. Well, one day, as she was crossing the border (between Canada and USA), she forgot she had it in her bra. And of course, it was found. Let’s just say it raised suspicions and she had some explaining to do!

dried sweetgrass

dried braided sweetgrass

Finally, above you will see dried braided sweetgrass that was tied into a circle. This was given to me years ago by an Elder. The sweetgrass was tied with a cloth and shaped into a circle to represent the Medicine wheel. One final note, according to that Elder, sweetgrass is never supposed to be cut with a knife, as metal is not supposed to touch the herb.

What is your experience with sweetgrass? Share below 🙂

All my Relations

34 thoughts on “Native American sweetgrass: its meaning and use

  1. Ty Jord

    Always looking to gather as much info as I can about herbs, their uses and benefits. This one is a bit new to me so I’m glad for the bit of education, I like what I’m seeing.

    Reply
  2. Mark

    Very interesting post. I had never heard of sweet grass but your have made a believer out of me. Think I will give this a try. Thanks so much for this informative site.

    Reply
  3. Adrian

    I loved this article as it gave me such a different viewpoint on a subject I knew nothing about until now. I loved the pictures throughout and I am glad to know that I have learned quite a bit from this post about sweetgrass.

    I love what sweetgrass represents as I am a highly spiritual person and consider the mind, body and spirit to be integral components of every being on the planet!

    Thank you so much for sharing!

    One question I had when I was reading this: How come metal is not supposed to touch the sweetgrass? What’s the reason behind that?

    Reply
    1. Emily Post author

      hi Adrian
      than you for your comment! I believe it has to do with the elements and respecting the four elements of nature. As metal is hard and the elements are fluid. I am trying to remember the Elder’s exact words but I cannot for the life of me!

      Reply
      1. Adrian

        Ah, that makes sense!! I’m a big fan of respecting nature and the environment around you. Not much of that going on these days if you know what I mean!

        Thank you for the quick reply and if you do happen to get your elder’s exact words, I’m all ears to hear them! 🙂

        Reply
        1. Emily Post author

          nature needs to be respected absolutely! I just hope we get back to the traditional ways too. And I will let you know for sure if I remember!

          Reply
  4. eli

    Thank you Emily for showing us once again that mother nature can provide anything we need, I’m a big fan of your website and this natural methodology and I’ve learned so much from you. I’ve never heard about sweet grass but I’m sure to look for it now, do you think I can find some seeds to plant in my garden?
    thanks

    Reply
    1. Emily Post author

      hi Eli
      thanks for visiting!I am glad you are learning on my site. You can probably find seeds at your local nursery or even in an online store. Wildflowerfarm.com does have some

      Reply
  5. jvranjes

    Hi Emily, this is yet another great text from you. I see from the first paragraph how you got an idea to write about Native American sweetgrass, but you obviously have a lot of knowledge about Native Americans and their culture. I see this from many of your posts. I wonder if your roots are the same at least partly. Thanks for the opportunity to learn something new. Jovo

    Reply
    1. Emily Post author

      thanks Jovo!
      Native American culture, beliefs, traditions and practices are what I breathe and live! It is in my ancestry I am sure, it is my way of life, what I feel comfortable within

      Reply
  6. Nnamdi

    Hello Emily,

    Often times than not, we live in ignorance of the importance of these herbs God has given to mankind. Sweetgrass is no exception, thank you for bringing the healing power and uses of this herb.

    Reply
    1. Emily Post author

      Hi Jeff
      well is it the tradition but I think these days most people do use a knife or scissors. You are also not supposed to pull it by the roots. You can twist it though.

      Reply
    2. Susan Patrie

      You can pull the stems out of the base sheath without causing damage to the roots. To do this, support the base of the plant with one hand while pulling the longer blades out of the basal sheath. This will allow the plants to re-grow quickly, and it is then possible to get a second harvest before autumn Never pull out the roots.

      Reply
  7. Johnathan Tarter

    The sweetgrass is definitely one of those herbs that can heal the human body in a very significant way! People should be looking for natural remedies like this when they have diseases or pains in their bodies, instead of pharmaceutical drugs! Thank you for the share and keep up the great work! 🙂

    Reply
    1. Emily Post author

      hi Johnathan
      Sweetgrass is indeed a powerful herb. I personally love the smell of it too and how it just brings positivity in 🙂

      Reply
  8. Garen

    I love the smell of sweetgrass. It smells like vanilla (kind of). I know this is a dumb question but are there proper and improper ways to use sweetgrass for smudging. I’m new to all this so please bare with me.

    Reply
    1. Emily Post author

      Hi Garen
      There is a sweet smell indeed to sweetgrass. There are no real improper ways to use it. Just do not blow on it. Rather shake it to male it smoke.

      Reply
  9. Tasheena

    My mom used to wash my hair with a tea she made with sweetgrass. She said it helped to grow the hair faster and thicker.

    Reply
    1. Emily Post author

      hi Tasheena
      That is awesome, I did not know that about sweetgrass. Do you remember if it made a difference? I have a sweetgrass balm that was given to me by one of my teachers that I cherish. She would always say: talk to the sweetgrass and tell it what it is that you are looking for, how it can help you. Wonderful advice I find.

      Reply
  10. Kym

    Miigwech for sharing.
    Question for you: what are the teachings, regarding how a sweetgrass braid is to be taken care of? Is there a location in our home? specific placement in the room?

    Reply
    1. Emily Post author

      You are welcome Kym! I am not aware of specific teachings in terms of the location. I keep mine (I have a few) with my other medicine and my smudge bowl and feather. For me, I have a dedicated place in my bedroom where I have placed red cloth and placed all my smudging items on it. You could also surround it with tobacco prayer ties of the 4 colors (red, white, yellow and black).

      Reply
  11. Claudia Strelocke

    Hi there,
    you write that Sweetgrass has blood thickening properties. As a matter of fact, this is wrong. The coumarin in Sweetgrass give it blood thinning properties. This is important to know, since people on blodd thinners must avoid ingesting Sweetgrass.

    Reply
  12. Lillian

    I stumbled upon this wonderful site searching on information on sweetgrass which is mentioned in Anne of Green Gables. Captain Jim brings it to Anne at her House of Dreams.

    Reply
    1. Emily Post author

      hi Lillian!
      thank you so much for visiting! I am glad you found it useful. I remember watching and reading Anne of the Green Gables as a child 🙂

      Reply
  13. Ivette Vargas

    Wonderful article! 🙂
    I have a question. You mentioned that sweetgrass is never supposed to be cut?
    “One final note, according to that Elder, sweetgrass is never supposed to be cut with a knife, as metal is not supposed to touch the herb.”

    How is it harvested? Or how/with what it should be cut with??

    Reply
    1. Emily Post author

      Hi Yvette
      there are different teachings associated with sweetgrass. Some say that one should cut the grass as to not pull the roots. But the teaching that was given to me was to not use metal. So the way to harvest sweetgrass would be to pull it gently. Hold the base of the plant then pull gently on the grass to pull out long strands. I hope that was helpful!

      Reply

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