Benefits Of Sweet Grass (Hierochloe Odorata) For Health

Benefits Of Sweet Grass (Hierochloe Odorata) For Health

Sweet Grass (Hierochloe Odorata)

Botanical Name: Hierochloe odorata, Anthoxanthum nitens.

Sweet Grass (Hierochloe Odorata) is known as other name: Holy grass, Sweet Grass, Myskgräs, Festgræs, Reyrgresi, Buffalo grass, Vanilla Grass, Vanilla-scented grass, Manna Grass, Mary’s Grass, Russian buffalo grass, Seneca Grass, Zebrovka, zubrowski, Duftendes mariengras, Mariengras, Hierochloé odorant, Hierba de la virgen...

Sweet grass (botanical name Hierochloe odorata) is an extremely enduring plant that grows perennially. As the stems of the leaves of this plant are not firm and, hence, they grow up to a length of roughly 20 cm (7.9 inches) and subsequently they grow externally horizontally to about 100 cm (39 inches) by the end of summer. The leaf base, just underneath the surface of the soil, is wide and white hued, without any bristles or hairs. On their underside, the leaves are glossy and also do not have any hairs. The plant blooms in May to June.

Benefits Of Sweet Grass (Hierochloe Odorata) For Health
Sweet Grass (Hierochloe Odorata) Picture

While growing in the wild, the leaf bases of sweet grass, also known as holy grass or manna grass, are often purple-red hued, indicating that the soil is deficient in phosphorus content. More than a few strains of sweet grass exist - there is a standard strain which is harvested once or two times every year. In addition, a polyploidy strain, which occurs naturally, grows more rapidly and this variety can be harvested thrice to five times a year.

Sweet grass has the aptitude to spread very fast by means of its creeping rhizomes and has the ability to withstand extreme cold conditions. Sweet grass is very effective for restoring and mitigating wetland and riparian as well as spring protection restoration. This species also possesses the potential for soil conservation by controlling erosion.

Benefits Of Sweet Grass (Hierochloe Odorata) For Health

Sweet grass is also known as the holy grass because on the All Saints’ Day, people in northern Europe strew it in front of the church doors. This was probably done because when one walked over the strewn fresh grass, it brought out a pleasing aroma. In France, people used sweet grass to add essence to candy, soft drinks, tobacco and perfumes. People in Europe frequently substitute this species or use it interchangeably with Hierochloe alpine. In Russia, people used Hierochloe alpine to make their teas more flavourful. Even to this day, people use sweet grass in flavoured vodka, for instance the Polish Żubrówka.

The leaves of the sweet grass are collected during the summer months and dried by natural or artificial means. The dried leaves are then used to form braids made for burning and used as incense. The vanilla scented smoke is important in many sacred ceremonies, both among native North Americans and some indigenous groups in Europe. The dried leaves are also used medicinally in herbal teas and essential oil can be distilled from the plant which is then used as seasoning in foods and alcoholic beverages.

Benefits Of Sweet Grass (Hierochloe Odorata) For Health
Sweet Grass (Hierochloe Odorata) Picture

Sweet grass encloses a compound called coumarin, which is responsible for the plant’s distinct aroma. Coumarin possesses anti-coagulant or blood-thinning attributes. Findings of a number of scientific studies have revealed that coumarin as well as related chemicals may be useful in lowering high-protein edemas, particularly lymphedema. The downside is that coumarins are also known to be toxic and may prove to be carcinogenic (cancer causing) when taken in excessive dosages.

The indigenous people of North America have been specially using sweet grass traditionally for their religious ceremonies as well as for specific therapeutic purposes. These tribal people inhale the vanilla-like smoke of sweet grass to treat certain health conditions, including common colds. In addition, they also burn the grass to repel insects. The leaves of this herb are used to prepare a tea that is traditionally drunk to cure sore throats, coughs, fever as well as venereal diseases. Occasionally, this herb has also been employed to end uterine bleeding as well as to get rid of the afterbirth following childbirth.

There was a time when extracts obtained from the herb or decoctions prepared from it were employed to wash the hair and body. People also used sweet grass in the form of a body-rub. Alternately, they also used sweet grass to weave into their hair, as the plant has a pleasing aroma.

Earlier and even today, many indigenous groups of North America consider sweet grass to be a holy plant and have been using it in the form of incense in nearly all their sacred rituals, healing practices, purification processes, initiations as well as peace ceremonies. They believe that the vanilla-like sweet aroma of sweet grass smoke not only purified the spirit, but also brought holy messages to the elevated levels of existence. The native tribes of North America are of the view that the Nature (which they call as ‘Wakan Tanka’) is able to understand the messages sent by them through the sweet grass smoke better than those which were spoken in the form of prayers and hymns.

Sweet grass was also used for a variety of therapeutic purposes, including in the form of a solution for eyewash. It was also used for treating problems, such as chapping and windburn.

Alternately, the Native Americans mixed sweet grass with Thalictrum occidentale (commonly also known as western meadow-rue) seeds for preparing an herbal tea, which was drunk to clear nasal congestions.

The Karok people inhabiting the northern regions of California use a particular sweet grass infusion for treating women suffering from miscarriage. It was said that drinking this grass infusion also facilitated in arresting the growth of the fetus in pregnant women.

Other Uses Of Sweet Grass (Hierochloe Odorata)

Some of the other uses of Sweet Grass are described below:

  • Sweet Grass is used in aromatherapy.
  • Due to the sweet fragrance of this plant, it is used as incense.
  • Sweet Grass is used to prepare hairwash.
  • It is also used for cosmetic purposes like hair and body decoration.
  • The leaves of Sweet Grass were used in making baskets.
  • Sweet Grass is used in manufacturing perfumes.
  • The fragrant leaves of this plant are used to stuff mattresses and pillows by the Kiowa people.

Benefits Of Sweet Grass (Hierochloe Odorata) For Health
Sweet Grass (Hierochloe Odorata) Picture

Sweet Grass (Hierochloe Odorata) Side effects and cautions

Sweet grass contains a compound known as coumarin, which is a naturally occurring anti-coagulant and also provides the plant with its pleasing aroma. However, if you take coumarin internally in excessive amounts and for a prolonged period, it may result in liver damage as well as hemorrhages. It has also been found that coumarins are carcinogenic (cancer causing agents). However, when this herb is used in the form of incense during ceremonies, it does not cause any harm.