The herbs known as the Four Sacred Medicines are used in many Native American nations but are most commonly associated with the Ojibwa people. Here’s how you can use them at home.
Tobacco is used to communicate with the spirit world and is often presented as an offering or gift, especially before collecting medicine herbs. It can also be used for smudging.
A simple way to make a tobacco offering is to take a bit of tobacco, hold it in your left hand, and say a prayer. Put the tobacco somewhere in nature and offer it to the earth, either in a fire or near a tree.
When using tobacco, choose natural, raw tobacco that can be obtained from a tobacconist or a reservation smoke shop.
Sage is used for releasing the mind of its troubles and for ridding a space of negative energy. It can also be used to purify a home.
The kind of sage you use depends on the area you live in. White sage, or Salvia apiana, is gathered and used in California; in South Dakota, the Artemisia ludoviciana type is used.
It is best if you can pick it yourself (being sure to offer tobacco first), but you can always find it at a local powwow, native gift shop, some health food stores, or online.
Cedar is used for purifying a person or a place.
While cedar can be used in a smudge, it is often brewed into tea. To prepare, just steep a few leaves in a pot of hot water. “It’s a wonderful medicine for people with the flu, with an upset stomach, or vitamin deficiencies,” says Criger.
You can also take a cedar bath if you are unwell. “You take a handful of cedar, and you put in a pot of water and you boil it,” says Robinson. “When it is cooled down, you take a washcloth and use it like a birdbath and let the water dry on your skin and don’t rinse it off.”
Cedar is best when it’s picked from nature, although it can also be found online at sites like indiangifts.com. If picking it yourself, be sure to choose green-tipped branches at eye level, and leave a tobacco offering for the tree.
Sweetgrass brings in good spirits and good influences.
It is used for smudging and purification, and in Native American ceremonies. It can also be used as a deco--rative object.
Sweetgrass is a tall, wild, fragrant grass that grows in areas of the Pacific Northwest and southern Canada and is also called northern sweetgrass, vanilla grass, holy grass, Seneca grass, and alpine sweetgrass.
It’s often sold in a long, thick braid, because it is thought to be the sacred hair of Mother Earth. It is best to purchase sweetgrass from a powwow, native gift shop, health food store, or online at a Native American website like wanderingbull.com, as it not as commonly grown and should be specially harvested.