September 12, 2023

Uva Ursi and Kinnikinnick Plant Smoking

The herb uva ursi, also known as bearberry or Kinnikinnick (a first nation word designed to designate a smoking mixture), was often smoked in a tobacco-like blend with other herbs and plant matter for its healing properties and spiritual effects. It is used to treat urinary tract infections, soothe upset stomachs, boost immune systems, reduce inflammation and swelling, ease bronchitis and coughing, and detoxify the body.

The uva ursi plant is an evergreen shrub that produces small red berries and has a long history of use among many Native American tribes as both food and medicine. It is a diuretic and antiseptic that can be used to treat urinary tract infections, such as cystitis or urolithiasis. It can also be used to help with other ailments, such as respiratory problems and headaches. The Menominee made an infusion of the leaves to wash inflamed and painful areas of the body, and they smoked them in ceremonies to cause intoxication. The Ojibwa smoked them along with other medicines to enhance the flavor of their preparations, and the Chippewa cooked the berries for medicinal purposes.

This plant was a popular blending agent for tobacco in the Plateau and Coastal Northwest following European-American contact, according to Edward S. Rutsch (Reference Rutsch1914). It was sometimes mixed with the inner bark of red osier dogwood, arrowroot, tulsi, huckleberry, buckthorn, narrow-leafed laurel, and wahoo, and it may have been aromatized with animal fats or musk glands.


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