Sweetgrass is a common grass species at home throughout the northern hemisphere. It can be distinguished from other species of grass by its yellow tassels of pollen. When cut, it develops an aromatic sweet scent - the characteristic aroma of new-mown hay.
Native Americans consider Sweetgrass sacred and key to their cultural identity. But they also had some mundane uses for it. They utilised the sweet scent as perfume and hair care. Basket-makers used it to make hats and baskets, including ceremonial baskets.
In England, Sweetgrass is known as Sweet Vernal Grass. It was used in bonnet-making and to scent freshly laundered linen. On the continent, it was used as a strewing herb to freshen the air in stuffy rooms. Along with other fragrant herbs, it also served as 'bedstraw' when stuffed into pillows and mattresses. In Poland, it is used as a flavouring agent for Vodka, and in Russia, it flavours tea.
In recent times, it has lent its sweet fragrance to aromatherapy products, such as scented candles and bath salts. .
Native Americans have used Sweetgrass as a remedy to treat a variety of conditions ranging from coughs, colds, and sore throats to venereal infections. Modern research confirms the presence of antioxidants.
Native Americans regard Sweetgrass as a keystone species, integral to their cultural identity. It is used as a sacred smudging herb to purify ritual spaces and objects. The sweet scent is said to attract benevolent spirits and deliver prayers to the Gods.
Sweetgrass, along with red willow and bearberry, is included in ceremonial pipe mixtures.