Day 62: The Monardas



In Cherokee there are several plants referred to as gows’ɑgi, gwfshɑgi, gɔws’ugi, gawasɑgi, or gonsɑdi, which means “it smells” and refers to several species of mints including Peppermint, Mentha spicata, of Monarda including Horsemint, Crimson Beebalm, Monarda didyma, Wild Bergamot, Monarda fistulosa, as well as Ground Ivy, Glechoma hederacea, Pennyroyal, Hedeoma pulegioides, Mountain Mint, Pycanthemum spp., Summer Savory, Satureja hortensis, and several other plants.

Now, many of these plants also have other names which would distinguish it from the other plants of the “it smells” variety. Ground Ivy, for example, uses the “it smells” name, as well as another qualifier; gawasɑgi udɑnisinido? idu’ “it smells, vine on the ground, shaking itself”. Peppermint goes by another name, wesda?unig’Esti “cat eats” (also the name for Catnip). Crimson Beebalm is often also called, gigɑgE adjiluski “bloodlike, has flowers”.

You see this a lot in folk medicine, where several species of plants will be called similar names. We have this in Ozark herbalism where there are quite a few species of plants referred to as “mint” or “butterfly weed/flower” or “balm”. Plants are often grouped together because of similar smells or flower shapes, as we see with gows’ɑgi. The Monarda and Mentha genera all have similar stem and leaf shapes; stem is square, leaves opposite, a common way to identify a “mint”. It wouldn’t be too far fetched to lump these plants under the same name.

They all are used in similar ways as well, mostly to help lower fevers, fight colds, and to settle a sick stomach. Crimson Beebalm, gigɑgE adjiluski, is also used for nosebleeds and to stop blood flow, probably an association between blood and the deep red color of the flowers. Pennyroyal, in addition to colds, is used for toothache, to repel insects, and is a known abortifacient. Ground Ivy, gawasɑgi udɑnisinido? idu’, is also used to help treat hives in children and is sometimes drank for measles.

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