Sweetgrass is a perennial plant native to most of northern Eurasia and North America. It has been considered a holy herb by Native American tribes for centuries where it was used as a smudging herb during rituals. It was also commonly used as a medicinal herb to treat a range of ailments from colds to certain venereal diseases. The name refers to its’ sweet, aromatic fragrance which is known to instill a sense of calm and relaxation. So how can you use this holy herb in your own life? Read on to find out.
What does Sweetgrass symbolize?
Sweetgrass symbolizes love, peace, harmony, strength, purity, positivity and connection to Mother Earth.
Sweetgrass is famed for its unique vanilla-like scent when burned. Sweetgrass clippings were traditionally braided and dried prior to use because it was believed to represent the hair of Mother Earth. The smoke that rises from burned sweetgrass is thought to attract positive energies and good spirits.
Throughout history, this plant has symbolized purification, which makes it an excellent smudging tool to purify people’s auras and cleanse a space prior to any ritual or ceremony.
The specific meaning of braided sweetgrass varies slightly in different cultures. For example, in the Cree-Ojibway tribes, the three blades are thought to symbolize love, peace, and harmony. To Pagans, sweetgrass symbolizes strength, positivity, and connection to Mother Earth.
Historical usage of sweetgrass
Sweetgrass was traditionally used by Native American tribes to cleanse the mind, body, and spirit. It was believed that the scent of this herb would be pleasing to the creator and so would incline him to bless a ceremony. For this reason, it was always burned before any ritual or ceremony. During the burning process, a person was supposed to fan the smoke from the sweetgrass to their heart first, then to their mind, and finally around the body. At the same time, a prayer was usually recited like the one below:
“Great Mystery, please cleanse me of my negativity and fill me with the positive energies of love, so that, as I am healed so may I work for the healing of our Earth Mother.”
The smoke of burning sweetgrass was also traditionally inhaled to treat cold and flu symptoms and dried blades of sweetgrass were commonly added to herbal teas to treat coughs and sore throats. Historically, sweetgrass has also been used for healing after giving birth and was often used to weaves baskets and mats. More recently, sweetgrass has been used in Europe to flavor alcoholic beverages, sweets, and tobacco.
7 spiritual benefits of sweetgrass
The main use of sweetgrass is smudging as it is belied to cleanse and purify a space, as well as invite in positive energies. However, it also has numerous other benefits including protection, as well as a number of medicinal uses. Below are 7 ways you can use the powerful properties of sweetgrass in your own life:
1. Keep sweetgrass under pillow/mattress for sweet dreams
In Native American tribes, sweetgrass is believed to be distasteful to evil spirits and is even thought to lessen their powers. So, it is a great herb to place under your pillow at night to protect against nightmares that can be caused by restless spirits.
Its revered calming properties can also help you to de-stress as it can aid the removal of the stress hormone cortisol. This will help you fall into a deep, restful sleep, especially if you are prone to tossing and turning at night.
2. Smudge/Burn sweetgrass for positive energy & cleansing
Smudging has been the most popular use of this herb throughout history. Usually, the grass is braided (to represent Mother Earth) and then left to dry as this intensifies its sweet scent. Sweetgrass is believed to be incredibly efficient at removing negative energies so is the perfect smudging tool if you have just moved into a new house or just after an argument.
In addition, sweetgrass is an excellent aid for meditation as it instills a sense of calm and will cleanse your aura of any stagnant energies or negativity. Meditating whilst burning sweetgrass is also believed to bring forth your dreams from past lives.
3. Use sweetgrass essential oil for relaxation
Sweetgrass oil is commonly used as a massage oil because its calming scent is believed to help with concentration, relaxation, serenity, and mindfulness. When used on the skin it can help with rejuvenating cells and increasing blood circulation, which leaves your skin feeling nourished. The unique scent of sweetgrass is caused by the presence of coumarin which has blood-thinning, anti-fungicidal, and pain relief qualities however, it should not be used continuously as it can be toxic if used in large amounts.
4. Drink sweetgrass tea for cleansing your aura
Herbal tea made from the leaves of sweetgrass was commonly used by Native Americans to treat sore throats, fevers, and venereal diseases. When drunk, it is also thought to be able to cleanse the aura and invite in a sense of serenity.
Although, it must be noted that Sweetgrass contains a substance called coumarin which can cause liver damage if taken in large doses. For this reason, it is recommended that you speak to a trained herbalist before ingesting this herb. Luckily, there are no known dangers associated with inhaling sweetgrass through smudging.
5. Carry sweetgrass as a protective totem
As sweetgrass is believed to repel negative spirits, it can be carried around with you or worn as an amulet to protect youself against negative energies. Many Native cultures believe that sweetgrass symbolizes peace, healing, and spirituality, so carrying a sweetgrass braid will also help to stabilize your emotions, protect your aura, and uplift your spirits. Historically, Ojibwa men wore sweetgrass as a cologne and commonly wore two sweetgrass braids around their necks for protection.
6. Keep sweetgrass braid at home or car for protection
When hung in your home or your car, sweetgrass can prevent negative energies from entering the space. This makes it the perfect herb to use when you are planning on taking a long trip, to ensure a safe journey, or to hang in your new home to dispel any negativity that may have been left by the previous occupants.
7. Grow sweetgrass in your home garden for protection & good luck
Sweetgrass is an extremely positive herb so plant it in your garden to shroud your home in positive vibes. Planting it by your front door will also protect your home from negativity and instill a sense of focus, peace, and tranquility which will make you more open to receiving new opportunities. As an added benefit, sweetgrass also has mosquito repelling properties.
Bear in mind that sweetgrass can grow fairly tall (up to 60cm) so it is best to plant it at the back of your garden or in the center. It can also spread to be over 2ft wide so ensure it is planted in a place where it can be restricted a little.
How to smudge with sweetgrass for cleansing and protection?
Here are three simple steps you can follow while smudging with sweetgrass.
Step 1: Light the sweetgrass
When dried and braided sweetgrass is burned, it tends to smolder rather than produce an open flame. This makes it a fairly easy herb to smudge with, however, you should still ensure you have a fireproof bowl to prevent the ashes from falling onto your carpet.
Simply light the end of a sweetgrass braid or smudge stick then gently wave it to release the smoke around your space. When doing this, make sure you pay close attention to the areas that you feel would benefit the most from cleansing, including all four corners of your home.
Step 2: Set an intention
Always remember that it is important to set your intention when smudging; what do you want to achieve with the smudging process? A happier family? To clear negativity after an argument? The more specific you are the better. It can be beneficial to solidify your intent with the use of a smudging prayer which can be simple or elaborate, as sweetgrass is believed to carry your words to the creator. The most important thing is that the words mean something to you. Here are a couple of short examples below:
“I pray for the health and wellness of my family.”
“Thank you for protecting this home and my loved ones.”
Step 3: Relax and cleanse your spirit
Once you are done, you can leave the sweetgrass in a fireproof bowl to burn down on its own. It is also a good idea to sit and relax in the area you have cleansed, to inhale the sweet scent and cleanse yourself too!
Many people choose to burn sweetgrass and sage together as sage works to intensity the cleansing properties of sweetgrass.
Sweetgrass is one of the four plants that is considered to be sacred by many native cultures including Inuit and Metis tribes, earning it the name of Holy grass. Throughout history, sweetgrass has been revered for its soothing and calming properties which work to repel negative energies and lift the spirit.
This makes it the perfect herb to carry around with you for protection or to cleanse your home after any negative situation. Whether you want to relieve the symptoms of a cold or encourage good luck to come into your life, sweetgrass is an excellent herb to add to your collection.