Plains Indians Sage Used for Smudging
Answered by: Conrad Richter
Question from: Ron North
Posted on: August 23, 2004

I have sage that is grown in S. Dakota, sometimes referred to as "Plains Sage", or "Plains Indians Sage". It has longer and thinner leaves than Calif. white sage and is not as bitter when used as a smudge. I have told that there is a "black" sage or some other color that this is. It is used in Native ceremony and grows wild all over the area.

Any thoughts on what the real name is and if it can be bought as a plant?

Your sage could be one of the Artemisias that is native to the Plains region of the United States. Besides the white sage of California (Salvia apiana), species of Artemisias have been used for "ceremonial use" according to American ethnobotanist Daniel Moerman. The term "white sage" is even used to refer to an Artemisia species from the area, A. ludoviciana, used as a smudge. We sell a form of this species that has the narrow leaves you refer to called Silver King wormwood in our catalogue. Other possibilities are the Great Basin sagebrush (A. tridentata) and silver sagebrush (A. cana), both aromatic Artemisias from the Plains region that have been used for a variety of medicinal uses. Moerman’s Native American Ethnobotany database has other annotations referring to at least one unidentified Artemisia species called "wild sage" that was used for "purification" and "ceremonial" purposes, and to "drive away evil spirits". These early ethnobotanic terms probably include the First Nations’ practice of smudging.

If you are interested in growing the Artemisia form of "white sage" you would do well to try Silver King wormwood. We also carry the silver sagebrush.

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