Hierochloe odorata

Botanical Name :Hierochloe odorata
Family
: Poaceae
Genus: 
Hierochloe
Species: 
H. odorata
Kingdom:
Plantae
Order:
 Poales
Synonyms:
Hierochloe borealis.

Common Names :Hierochloe odorata or Anthoxanthum nitens, sweet grass, buffalo grass, bison grass, holy grass (UK), manna grass, Mary’s grass, seneca grass, sweetgrass, or vanilla grass

The name Hierochloe odorata is from the Greek, literally “holy fragrant grass”. Some authors include Hierochloe in Anthoxanthum; in this case this species is given the epithet nitens to avoid confusion with a different species, Anthoxanthum odoratum, sweet vernal grass

Habitat : Hierochloe odorata is native to Central and northern Europe, including Britain, to N. Asia and N. America. It grows on the Wet banks in only a few sites in Scotland.

Description:
Hierochloe odorata is very hardy perennial.  Leaves do not have rigid stems, so only grow to about 20 cm (7.9 in) in height, and then leaves grow outward horizontally to 100 cm (39 in) long or more, by late summer. Bases of leaves, just below soil surface are broad and white, without hairs, underside of leaves are shiny, without hairs.

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In the wild, the bases of the leaves are frequently purple-red colored, but that is not natural, and is only a symptom of a phosphorus deficiency.

There are several strains of sweetgrass—a regular strain that can be harvested once or twice a year, and a naturally occurring polyploid strain, which is much faster growing and can be harvested three to five times a year.
Cultivation:
Prefers a damp position in a rich soil but succeeds in most soils including quite dry conditions. Grows best in a sunny position. The plants have a running root system and can spread aggressively when grown in suitable conditions. The plant, as it dries, emits a powerful scent of newly mown hay.

Propagation:
Easiest by cutting out plugs from established plants. Grown in sun or partial shade, they do not like drought. Seeds are usually not viable, or if are viable, take two to three years to develop a robust root system.

Edible Uses:
Seed – cooked. Small and fiddly to use. It almost certainly does not contain coumarin and should be safe to use. An essential oil from the leaves is used as a food flavouring in sweets and soft drinks. It has a strong vanilla-like flavour. The leaves are added to vodka as a flavouring. The plant is said to be used as a colouring agent but no more details are given.

Mdicinal Uses:
It is used in herbal medicine and in the production of distilled beverages  . It owes its distinctive sweet scent to the presence of coumarin.  A tea made from the leaves is used in the treatment of fevers, coughs, sore throats, chafing and venereal infections. It is also used to stop vaginal bleeding and to expel afterbirth. The stems can be soaked in water and used to treat windburn and chapping and as an eyewash. Smoke from the burning leaves has been inhaled in the treatment of colds.

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The plant is harvested by cutting grass in early to late summer at the desired length. Hierochloe odorata harvested after the first frost has little or no scent and is less desirable for basketry. Basketweavers sun-dry cut sweet grass until it is dry and brittle. The brittle form of sweet grass must be soaked in warm water until it becomes pliable. The pliable grass is typically braided into thick threads and then redried for use

European traditions:
Sweet grass – Photographed in British Columbia, Canada 2007Holy grass was strewn before church doors on saints’ days in northern Europe, presumably because of the sweet smell that arose when it was trodden on. It was used in France to flavor candy, tobacco, soft drinks, and perfumes. In Europe, the species Hierochloe alpina is frequently substituted or used interchangeably. In Russia, it was used to flavor tea. It is still used in flavored vodka, the most notable example being Polish ?ubrówka.

Native American traditi:
Making Sweet Grass Medicine, painting by Joseph Henry Sharp
Blackfoot man holding sweetgrass braidSweet grass was, and is, very widely used by North American indigenous peoples. As a sacred plant, it is used in peace and healing rituals. Leaves are dried and made into braids and burned as vanilla-scented incense; long leaves of sterile shoots are used by Native Americans in making baskets.

*Natives of the Great Plains believe it was the first plant to cover Mother Earth.

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*The Anishinaabe, Cree, Mi’kmaq, and other Algonquian first nations of Canada believe it is a purifier, and burn sweetgrass before all ceremonies. It is a reminder to respect the earth and all things it provides.

*It is also used in ceremonial items by the Blackfoot and Lakota peoples. Incense used by at least the Blackfoot, Cheyenne, Dakota, Kiowa, Lakota, Menominee, Montana, Ojibwa, Omaha, Pawnee, Ponca, Sioux, and Winnebago peoples. Used for purification, as oblations to ancestors, for protection of spirits, and keeping out of evil and harm. Used in a variety of ceremonies including peace ceremonies and initiations.

*Used by Blackfoot, Cheyenne, Kiowa, Lakota, Montana, Okanagan-Colville, Omaha, and Thompson for cosmetic and aromatic purposes. Blackfoot and Gros Ventre use leaves soaked in water and used it as a hairwash. Sweet grass tea and smoke were used for coughs and sore throats (Flathead, Blackfoot). Teas used as a wash to treat chapping and windburn, and as an eyewash. Used as body & hair decoration/perfume by Blackfoot, Flathead, and Thompson.

*The Blackfoot chewed grass as a means of extended endurance in ceremonies involving prolonged fasting.

*Iroquois, Kiowa, Malecite, Menominee, and Mi’kmaq people (amongst others) use sweetgrass in basketry (including mats) and crafts.

*Kiowa use fragrant leaves as stuffing for pillows and mattresses.

*Used for sewing at least by Menominee.

*Used as an incense to “keep the bugs away” by Flathead.

*Used by Cheyenne to paint pipes in the Sun Dance and the Sacred Arrow ceremonies.

Sweetgrass has a mellow, almost soporific effect, and for many is a useful aid to entering a meditative state. Coumarin, although not known to possess psychotropic effects, is common to a number of herbs used ritually which have strong anecdotal evidence for at least mild psychotropic propertiesOther Uses:
The plant is harvested by cutting grass in early to late summer at the desired length. Hierochloe odorata harvested after the first frost has little or no scent and is less desirable for basketry. Basketweavers sun-dry cut sweet grass until it is dry and brittle. The brittle form of sweet grass must be soaked in warm water until it becomes pliable. The pliable grass is typically braided into thick threads and then redried for use.

Other Uses:
The dried leaves are used as an incense, they were formerly also used as a strewing herb and have been used as a stuffing in pillows and mattresses. They have also been used as an insect repellent in the clothes cupboard where they impart a nice smell to the clothes. The leaves are used to make aromatic baskets. The wet leaves can be sewn together, dried until they are tight and then resin used over the stitches to make a waterproof container. The leaves can be soaked in water to make a tonic hair wash. An essential oil distilled from the leaves is used in perfumery where it acts as an excitant and fixative for other aromas. The plant has a very aggressive root system and has been planted to stabilize banks.

Known Hazards : The plant contains coumarin, this is toxic if taken internally and is sometimes considered to be carcinogenic

Disclaimer:The information presented herein is intended for educational purposes only. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplements, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider.

Resources:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hierochloe_odorata
http://www.herbnet.com/Herb%20Uses_RST.htm
http://ru.wikipedia.org/wiki/%D0%A4%D0%B0%D0%B9%D0%BB:Hierochloe_odorata.JPG
http://www.twofrog.com/swgrass.html
http://www.pfaf.org/user/Plant.aspx?LatinName=Hierochloe+odorata

 

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