Medicine Plants used by the Ioway and Otoe
There is a small root often chewed by powwow
singers and others to soothe the throat. This is Sweetflag, also called
calamus (scientific name Acorus calamus). It grows in marshy ground.
The Ioway-Otoe word for it is shinxowe (sheen-KHOH-way), sometimes also
pronounced chinkwe (CHEEN-kway). The meaning is shin "onion" + xowe
"medicinal power/having a medicinal quality".
You can learn more about shinxowe, and see pictures of it, at:
Xanami is the Ioway-Otoe word for sweetgrass (Latin name Hierchloe
odorata, or also Savastana odorata -an older term). The word is
When I was doing my research on the Ioway sacred bundles, every bundle
tended to have a big braid of sweetgrass in it. Some also had a plaited
bunch of the grass, or a twist of it. Sweetgrass has a nice smell, and
was used for purification and attached to sacred articles. You can also
burn it to make a smudge to purify yourself, like cedar or sage.
For pictures and an excellent article on sweetgrass, see:
The use of sage in ceremony involves the use of its smoke to smudge people and objects to purify them. The Ioway-Otoe
word for sage is haxoje (HA-kho-je -rhymes with baxoje). The meaning is
ha (skin, covering) + xoje (gray, ashes).
There are many different kinds of sage. It is important to know that
when we are talking about "sage" in Indian ceremony, it is not the same
as the sage used in cooking -they are two different plants, not closely
There are also different types of sage. The sage most often used by the
Ioway-Otoe was white sage, or prairie sage (Artemisia ludoviciana).
This is called "man sage" by the Cheyenne. There are other types of
sage, including "woman sage" (fringed sage - Artemisia frigida) and
"grandfather sage" (giant sage - Artemisia tridentata).
I have some white sage growing in my yard, and I sometimes make
medicinal tea out of it (it tastes VERY harsh -not for enjoyment) if I
have a bad flu or cold.
You can see a picture of white sage at: wikipedia.
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