What is sweetgrass and how is it used?

We receive quite a few questions about our company’s name and where it comes from, so let’s dive into what sweetgrass is and what it means for the Native community. We are named after the sweetgrass plant (sometimes called buffalo grass or vanilla grass), an herb native to Eurasia and North America. Sweetgrass has been used for centuries by Indigenous cultures in both Canada and the United States for ceremonial purposes and is considered a sacred herb.  

The three cords of the sweetgrass braid represent mind, body and spirit. There are typically seven strands of grass per cord. The first seven strands represent the seven generations behind us including our parents, grandparents, etc.; the next seven represent the seven sacred teachings of love, humility, truth, respect, honesty, courage and wisdom; the final seven strands represent the seven generations that will come after us. All in all, sweetgrass is a plant medicine that represents strength and resilience in both family and the community and their connection with Mother Earth. Braiding of the sweetgrass plant is usually a group event that brings communities together and connects each member. 

Sweetgrass is much more than a nice smelling plant that can be burned. It represents the connection of humans to earth and sky and is used in many ceremonies and prayers. Typically, sage is burned first to cleanse and purify and is followed by sweetgrass to attract good energy and spirits.  

sweetgrass braid with white background

How to use sweetgrass

Now that we’ve covered what sweetgrass is and why it’s important, let’s cover the best ways to use it. Like sage, it is important that sweetgrass is used responsibly by non-Native people. Make sure the sweetgrass you use is ethically sourced and harvested and learn to honor and respect the Native land you’re currently living on. To find out what Native land you’re on, you can use this tool: https://native-land.ca/. 

When you purchase sweetgrass from us, you are supporting the Winnebago Tribe and the various Tribes we partner with. Your purchase also supports our Native Scholarship Program and helps create jobs on the reservation.  

To burn sweetgrass, light the end of the braid and carefully wave it to release smoke into the air. You can also mix it with sage or cedar either by creating a smudge stick or by mixing the plant medicines in a bowl or abalone shell.  Once the plants are burning, smudge your body and the room you’re in. Focus on what you’re thankful for and what you’re praying for. This part can be tailored to your own needs and prayers. Allow the sweetgrass to burn out on its own and give thanks to the creator for giving us the gift of these plant medicines. 

Tribal Trade has an informative and insightful video you can watch to learn more about how to use sweetgrass at https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=30&v=d01Ow5JzLl8&feature=emb_title.  

Sources and additional information can be found below: 

https://us.tribaltradeco.com/blogs/smudging/sweetgrass-smudging-why-how-to-smudge-with-sweet-grass#:~:text=One%20way%20you%20can%20smudge,it%20will%20continue%20to%20burn

http://www.nativetech.org/plants/sweetgrass.html 

https://wanderingbull.com/sweetgrass/

2 thoughts on “What is sweetgrass and how is it used?

  1. Molly Roe says:

    Hi Catheryn, thanks for sharing! We hope to be a valuable resource for you as you learn more about your heritage!

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