Herb: Holy Grass

Latin name: Hierochloe odorata

Synonyms: Hierochloe borealis

Family: Gramineae (Grass Family)

Medicinal use of Holy Grass:

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. Some caution is advised when using this plant internally, see the notes above on toxicity. The leaves are harvested in the summer and dried for later use. Smoke from the burning leaves has been inhaled in the treatment of colds.

Description of the plant:


60 cm
(2 feet)

to May


Habitat of the herb:

Wet banks in only a few sites in Scotland.

Edible parts of Holy Grass:

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.

Other uses of the herb:

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.

Propagation of Holy Grass:

Seed - sow spring in situ and only just cover the seed. Germination usually takes place within 2 weeks. If the seed is in short supply it can be sown in the cold frame in the spring. When large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into individual pots and plant them out in early summer. Division in spring or summer. Very simple, virtually any part of the root will regrow to make a new plant.

Cultivation of the herb:

Wet banks in only a few sites in Scotland.

Known hazards of Hierochloe odorata:

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

Plant information taken from the Plants For A Future.