Basic Teachings-Sacred Medicines

Basic Teachings

Sacred Medicines

Commonly referred to as the 4 Sacred Medicines, they are:

  • Tobacco
  • Sweetgrass
  • Sage
  • Cedar

The 4 Sacred Medicines are used in everyday life and in ceremonies. All of them can be used to smudge with, although Sweetgrass, Sage, and Cedar have other uses as well.


Information presented is only a small portion of the many and extensive teachings that exist. Teachings even vary from First Nation to First Nation and from one area of the country to another. For more information, please consult with a Traditional Elder, Healer, or Medicine Person.

Traditional Tobacco plant seedling


Tobacco is the first plant that Creator gave to the Indigenous people. It is the main one that stimulates the other plant spirits. Tobacco is always first. It is used as an offering for everything and in every ceremony. It is a way to say “Miigwetch, Maarsii, Nia:wen, Thank You” at all times.

Another expression commonly said when referring to Tobacco is: “Always through tobacco”.

Traditional tobacco was given to us so that we can communicate with the spirit world. It opens up the door to allow that communication to take place. When we make an offering of tobacco, we communicate our thoughts and feelings through the tobacco as we pray for ourselves, our family, relatives, and others.

Tobacco has a special relationship to other plants; it is said to be the main activator of all the plant spirits. Tobacco is always offered before picking medicines. When you offer tobacco to a plant and explain why you are there, that plant will let all the plants in the area know why you are coming to pick them.

When you seek the help and advice of an Elder, Healer, or Medicine Person, and give your offering of tobacco, they know that a request may be made as tobacco is so sacred.

We express our gratitude for the help the spirits give us through our offering of tobacco. It is put down as an offering of thanks to the First Family, the natural world, after a fast. Traditional people make an offering of tobacco each day when the sun comes up.

Traditional tobacco is still grown in some communities.


Sage is used to prepare people for ceremonies and teachings. Because it is more medicinal and stronger than sweetgrass, it tends to be used more often in ceremonies.

Sage is used for releasing what is troubling the mind and for removing negative energy.

It is also used for cleansing homes and sacred items. It also has other medicinal uses.

There is male sage and female sage the female sage is used by women. This medicine is often referred to as the “women’s medicine”. It is quite commonly the medicine used at public ceremonies.


Like sage and sweetgrass, cedar is used to purify the home.

It also has many restorative medicinal uses. Cedar baths are refreshing. Cedar tea is full of vitamin C.

When cedar is put in the fire with tobacco, it crackles. When it does this, it is calling the attention of the spirits to the offering that is being made.

Cedar is used in fasting and sweat lodge ceremonies as a form of protection; cedar branches cover the floor of the sweat lodge and a circle of cedar surrounds the faster’s lodge.


Sweetgrass is the sacred hair of Mother Earth. Its sweet aroma reminds people of the gentleness, love, and kindness she has for the people.

When sweetgrass is used in a healing circle it has a calming effect.

Like sage and cedar, sweetgrass is used for smudging and purification. It is also referred to as the “men’s medicine”.

Once you learn to recognize its distinct vanilla like odor, a drive with open windows down a country road will never be the same. You will know when you are passing through sweetgrass lands.

Taking Care Of The Medicines

You take care of these sacred medicines by keeping them in a dry place. Then can be stored in paper bags or wooden boxes.

If you have been using drugs or alcohol, Healers say you should wait four to seven days before touching the medicines.

Restoring Sacred Plants In Our Community

The Muskoka Indigenous Friends Cultural Centre through a seed sharing initiative and plant sales is trying to assist local Indigenous members who are trying to set up personal or community use Sacred Medicine Gardens. Trying to bring the medicines home closer to the people.

Similar Posts