Sweet Grass sage
The smoke of burning sweet grass was inhaled to treat colds and also used to keep insects at bay. Herbal tea made from the leaves has been used to treat coughs, sore throat, fever, and venereal diseases. The herb has also been used to stop uterine bleeding and to shed the afterbirth after childbirth.
Yet unlike sage, which is a shrub, sweetgrass is actually a type of grass. Traditionally, sage has been used to ward off evil spirits and cleanse a space, person or object. But sweetgrass—also called holy grass, vanilla grass, bison grass or buffalo grass—essentially does the opposite; because the grass normally bends, not breaks, when walked upon in the wild, it’s believed to symbolize kindness. One Native American healer, Whitehorse Woman, puts it this way: “Smudging is a two-step process for me. I use sage to remove unwanted energy, and sweetgrass to invite wanted energy.” In other words, sage clears negativity and sweetgrass brings positivity.
To many noses, sweetgrass has a distinct, vanilla-like scent, although to others, the aroma is more like that of a freshly mown lawn or a bale of freshly cut hay. The leaves of the sweetgrass plant are sturdy but very fine, almost hair-like, which is why it’s often braided. This could be why Native Americans also refer to sacred sweetgrass as “the hair of Mother Earth.”