Gathering, Curing and Braiding Sweetgrass

I must say right from the beginning that I love Sweetgrass! More often than not, I have a braid or two with me. I love the fresh and sweet smell it has, it reminds me of a particular scent which I encountered in my childhood when I was at my grandmother’s farm, up in the Carpathian Mountains.

From what I know, Sweetgrass can be found easier in the prairies here in Canada but it can also be found in other subalpine areas of the country. I collected some this summer from northern Ontario, up on the French River. This plant grows out in the open, in tall grassy places which are moist or just a little on the dry side. Clearings or edges of forests seem to be a good place to look for it. I am not an expert on finding Sweetgrass and I must say that it is not an easy task.

I used my wolf nose to find it. Knowing its sweet scent and having been told the general area of where it grew, I just smelled the air and I eventually found it. This plant can be anywhere between thirty to sixty centimetres tall. The leafs are like long blades and one way of knowing if a tall looking grass is Sweetgrass or not, is to take a good look at the shade of colour that it has. Sweetgrass has one side of its leaf shiny green, while the other side the green is dull-looking. And yet another way of spotting Sweetgrass, is to look at the base of the stem – it should have a pink colour.

Before starting to collect Sweetgrass, I encourage a prayer, a thank You to Wakan Tanka - the Great Spirit and to Mother Earth for giving us the medicine herbs and the knowledge on how to use them. Also leave an offering of tobacco if possible or anything else that may feel right at that moment. I personally like to talk to the medicine herbs before I take them because everything is connected – All is One. The plants are also our relatives/relations; as the Lakota say: mitakuye oyasin.

When gathering this medicine herb it is important to be smooth with it, as it is quite fragile. To begin with, hold the top of the plant with one hand and run the other hand gently down the stem to the bottom, right where it comes out of the ground. Then, pull it from its base slowly. Sometimes the root will come out too, that is fine. The idea is to collect the whole plant but do keep in mind to not collect all the plants in one area. Take only what is needed.

The uses of Sweetgrass vary. Some people use this plant for its medicinal properties, while others use it for spiritual purposes or simply for making crafts/art. The Ojibwe told me that they also use it in tea form to wash their hair with it, as it gives a wonderful sweet scent. I use Sweetgrass as medicine, for body, mind and spirit.

As medicine, this plant can be made into tea, to treat a cough or sore throat, even fever. I have heard that it can also be used to minimize internal pains and the smoke from it can be inhaled to relieve colds. The general warning about Sweetgrass is that it contains coumarin, which delays and/or prevents blood from clotting.

In terms of spiritual uses, Sweetgrass is one of the four main medicine herbs used by people from the First Nations, here in North America. Usually, it is braided and burned as incense. The smoke from it helps to cleanse an area of negative energy and to lighten the Spirit. Burning Sweetgrass is done as a blessing and for protection. I also like to give away braids of Sweetgrass to people as a sign of gratitude.

After gathering the Sweetgrass, it is important to cure it. This process is not difficult at all. Simply bring a pot of water to boil and turn the heat off, while placing it in the water. It helps if the Sweetgrass is made into a bundle and tied at the bottom, so the blades do not get tangled while in the water. It is important to leave the plant in boiling water just for four to five minutes maximum then, it must be pulled out and put to dry for about four hours or so.

The water from the pot can be used for whatever purpose needed (I drink it) and after roughly four hours the Sweetgrass should be braided, if one intends on having braids. The braiding process has to be done before the plant dries-up, otherwise the blades will break when trying to bend them. That is also a main reason for placing them in hot water: it softens the blades and makes it much easier to braid.

The braids can be made of any size. All that is really necessary is to remember to either make knots or tie each end. I used a few blades of Sweetgrass to wrap-up the end of the braid, where the roots are. At the other thinner end, where the top of the blades are, I simply made a knot. This way the braids do not come apart.

Storing the braids in dark places, away from sunlight will keep them fresh longer – much longer than if they are left in direct light from the Sun. And if the scent has worn out from a braid, placing it briefly in hot water will rejuvenate the sweet smell from it.

As I have mentioned at the beginning of this piece of writing, I am not an expert on Sweetgrass. What I have learned and share with others about this medicine herb is from written knowledge of elders and hands-on experience at an Ojibwe Reserve, Dokis First Nations. I thank the people there for sharing their knowledge and for allowing me to gather Sweetgrass from their Reserve and for always being so incredibly kind.

All the best to everyone!


Note: My photographs, Ontario, Canada, 2012

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Comments 28 comments

Jackie Lynnley profile image

Jackie Lynnley 4 years ago from The Beautiful South

Such an interesting subject. I love finding out new natural herbs for healing. Strange this would be an herb, well to me, I'd have never guessed it. Thank you so much!


Ericdierker profile image

Ericdierker 4 years ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

I always love to hear about stuff straight off a prairie. I think your respect for such a plant speaks volumes toward your good nature.


lmmartin profile image

lmmartin 4 years ago from Alberta and Florida

Having been lucky enough to live on the prairies just east of the Rockies, I would find sweetgrass in abundance in the fields around me. I did not cure it, braid it or smudge with it, but would place clusters of freshly cut sweetgrass in a jar of water, set before an open window. The breeze carried the scent (much stronger when fresh) throughout the house. The grass will stay fresh for a week or so if you change the water daily.


Mr. Happy profile image

Mr. Happy 4 years ago from Toronto, Canada Author

I am happy that You enjoyed the read, Mrs. Lynnley.

I am not sure why Sweetgrass is called an herb, except to say that it is one of the four main medicine herbs for the people of the First Nations: tobacco, sage, sweetgrass and cedar. Yet, cedar is not really an herb I suppose either. I think I am lost in technicalities now (lol).

Cheers!


Mr. Happy profile image

Mr. Happy 4 years ago from Toronto, Canada Author

Thank You for the kind words, Mr. Ericdierker! I appreciate your visit and You taking the time to leave a comment.

Cheers!


Mr. Happy profile image

Mr. Happy 4 years ago from Toronto, Canada Author

Thank You for the visit as well, Mrs. Lynda! : )

I think You are quite right about Sweetgrass being more abundant on the prairies because there is a man here in Toronto who sells Native American arts and crafts and he sometimes has Sweetgrass, which as he tells me comes from Manitoba. It is a little difficult to have fresh Sweetgrass here in Toronto ... except for when I bring it myself from up-north.

All the very best!


Angela Blair profile image

Angela Blair 4 years ago from Central Texas

Delightful and informative article -- and thank you so much. I enjoy sweetgrass -- usually a gift from a friend -- and always look forward to receiving a new supply. Best/Sis


Mr. Happy profile image

Mr. Happy 4 years ago from Toronto, Canada Author

Greetings Mrs. Blair,

Thank You very much for taking the time to read and leave a comment. I appreciate it and if I ever reach down towards Texas, I will bring a braid or two along. : )

Cheers!


Spirit Whisperer profile image

Spirit Whisperer 3 years ago from Isle of Man

You are indeed very knowledgeable about mother nature and your connection to her is reflected in this beautiful hub. You have given me lots of advice in the past about herbs and I have since become a great fan of drinking herbal teas. Thank you.


Mr. Happy profile image

Mr. Happy 3 years ago from Toronto, Canada Author

Thank You, Mr. Spirit Whisperer.

I am always happy to be of service (especially for Mother Earth but not only: for humans as well).

All the very best!


Spirit Whisperer profile image

Spirit Whisperer 3 years ago from Isle of Man

Are you implying that I am an alien Mr Happy? LOL!


Mr. Happy profile image

Mr. Happy 3 years ago from Toronto, Canada Author

I am just going to continue drinking my coffee, Mr. Spirit Whisperer. (And maybe eat some Brownies rofl) I imply nothing.

Cheers!


DarkWitch profile image

DarkWitch 3 years ago from Midwest USA

I love sweetgrass. I've only ever bought it at Native American powwows. I don't know if it grows in the Midwest USA but now you've made me want to find out and look for it. This is a beautiful hub. Thank you.


Mr. Happy profile image

Mr. Happy 3 years ago from Toronto, Canada Author

Greetings DarkWitch,

I am happy You enjoyed the article.

If You are in the Midwest, look around rivers or lakes; in moist areas with tall grasses. Good luck and all the best!

Thank You for taking the time to pass by and leave a comment.


Jane 3 years ago

I bought my sweetgrass plants on ebay (vailvillager). I live in Ohio and it took a year for them to really take off. I am getting ready to make my first harvest and possibly transplant some rhizomes. The plants were not cheap and at first I was concerned but all I can say now is WOW !


Mr. Happy profile image

Mr. Happy 3 years ago from Toronto, Canada Author

Greetings Jane,

I like the "wow" part of your comment, especially! : )

Sweet-grass always makes me "wow". Haha!! Love this Medicine Plant. I just made some braids about a month ago so, I got some fresh - love the scent it gives off ...

Well, thank You so much for stopping by and visiting here. And for taking the time to leave a comment as well.

All the best!

May Wakan Tanka guide your path.


Denise Handlon profile image

Denise Handlon 3 years ago from North Carolina

You are a very interesting man, and as I read this hub I realize you and I share a love for the culture of Native Americans. I love having Sweetgrass in my home. I also keep it in my car.

I learned something new reading this hub. I did not know that it is contains coumarin. Very important to know this before drinking it. Thank you for an awesome hub. Wonderful photos, as well.

UP/A/U/B/I and shared on FB, tweet, pinterest, etc.


Mr. Happy profile image

Mr. Happy 3 years ago from Toronto, Canada Author

Thank You so much for the visit Mrs. Handlon - I appreciate it.

And thank You for the comment as well. I am happy You enjoyed the read.

Cheers! : )

P.S. I just burned some Sweet-grass before going to bed two nights ago ... had such an amazing sleep. I just love it and find it helpful in so many ways!


Denise Handlon profile image

Denise Handlon 3 years ago from North Carolina

That sounds very soothing. Sometimes I do that with sage. We will be having our annual Powwow here in our town with the local Meherrin-Chowanoke Nation. I attend every year and love the ceremonial dancing, regalia and fry bread. (BTW-no Mrs. just Ms. ...my maiden name. )


Mr. Happy profile image

Mr. Happy 3 years ago from Toronto, Canada Author

North Carolina ... I just noticed your location now. I have wanted to make my way to a Cherokee festival there for the past two years - I saw an advertising on the internet (You can see it here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T9xnDccFvaw) and it looked simply awesome!

Thank You for stopping by again.

May Wakan Tanka guide your path.


phdast7 profile image

phdast7 2 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

Hello White Wolf - Very interesting and informative article about sweet-grass. Great photographs. Don't know that I have ever seen any.

I hope you are having a wonderful December and that the year to come is full of blessings. :) Theresa


Mr. Happy profile image

Mr. Happy 2 years ago from Toronto, Canada Author

Greetings, Mrs. Theresa. : )

I am out of self-made braids (except for one that I already started burning) now but maybe I can send You some next spring/summer, if the Gods will allow that I can braid some more.

All the best to You and thank You for taking the time to visit and leave a comment.

Cheers!


hawk singer jeff 2 years ago

mr. happy, as informative as your post is, I'm a bit disappointed that you would pull with roots, rather than cut. I am in Ma. and grow my own sweet grass. Most grasses respond well to and grow back thicker by cutting, and unless I were transplanting or the root of any plant had a specific use I would not pull it up.

I suppose you have the grass in such abundance that it doesn't matter ? Aquene


Mr. Happy profile image

Mr. Happy 2 years ago from Toronto, Canada Author

Thank You for your comment Mr. Jeff.

I respect your concern but as I wrote: "The idea is to collect the whole plant but do keep in mind to not collect all the plants in one area. Take only what is needed." With that in mind, I only take a little bit from any area where Sweetgrass grows. I walk away with four, or five braids as it is shown in the photos. The spots I gather it from grow back each year abundantly.

Thank You very much for your comment. You brought forth a great point: we have to make sure that we do not take it all, leaving it extinct.

May Wakan Tanka guide your path.

All the very best! : )


Pat 2 years ago

I am very new at this and would like to grown my own sweet grass. Where do I start? Is there a good place to buy sweet grass candles? I am in North Fl.


Mr. Happy profile image

Mr. Happy 2 years ago from Toronto, Canada Author

Greetings,

I am not sure where You could buy seeds but if You find some in the wild, You can always be gentle and take a few plants with the root intact and transplant them. I do not personally grow any, I gather it.

I do wish You Good Luck !

May Wakan Tanka walk with You.


Earthwalker 15 months ago

I was taught it was much easier to braid while the plant is still standing otherwise very awesome article


Mr. Happy profile image

Mr. Happy 15 months ago from Toronto, Canada Author

Thank You for taking the time to read my article and for leaving a comment Earthwalker - have joyful Summer, cheers! : )

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