Sweet Everlasting, Pseudognaphalium obtusifolium, is also known by the common name “rabbit tobacco” because it is sometimes smoked as a tobacco substitute. It’s one of my favorite native medicinal plants to use. This plant isn’t really ready to pick yet, it’s currently in bloom with beautiful white flowers that will stay on the plant through the winter (hence the name “sweet everlasting”). Traditionally rabbit tobacco is harvested in the late Fall or early winter when the leaves have turned a nice brown color. When crushed they smell sweet like maple syrup or vanilla. The dying process caramelizes the sugars in the leaves making it a much more pleasant and potent medicine.
Sweet everlasting is a biennial plant up to 2 1/2 feet tall with felt-like hairs on the stems and undersides of the leaves. The leaves are alternate, narrow, up to 4″ long and 1/2″ wide, green on top and white below, and lacking teeth along the margins. Numerous small flower heads occur on the branches near the top. Each flower head is about 1/4″ tall, with white bracts surrounding a narrow, tubular head of yellowish-white disk flowers. It is commonly found in old fields, pastures, and open woodlands. It blooms July-November.
Rabbit tobacco has traditionally been used in a number of preparations. Smoked like tobacco or drank as a tea it can help clear phlegm and chest congestions (very effective in my experience). It can also be brewed as an infusion for colds, chills, and fever. It was also used to stuff pillows to keep a person from coughing, and used to line drawers against moths. It also goes by the name “cudweed” because it can be used to increase saliva production in cows that have lost the ability to ruminate. It is also a mild nervine if drank or in the case of the Alabama Nation as a face wash. It also has antispasmodic properties, and can be used to help calm twitching, pains, or treat rheumatism. In Cherokee rabbit tobacco is called Kastutsv/Kasdutá “Ashes” – ᎧᏍᏚᏨ/ᎧᏍᏚᏔ.
For more information:
“Ozark Wildflowers” Don Kurz