Comptonia peregrina. Gabaa’aagemish.
Sweet fern is a beautiful northern plant that’s been described as smelling like evergreen-cinnamon. Sweet fern’s most important traditional use is as a tea for intestinal trouble. It’s employed in cases of diarrhea, and has helped people with conditions like colitis and IBS. Externally, it has been used for sprains, bites, and Poison Ivy rash.
At Carpenter’s Herbal, we use an infusion of sweetfern in our Bug-Bite Balm. Its power to reduce itching and swelling is amazing.
Some practitioners distinguish between the time of harvest. According to Joe Pitawanakwat of Creators Garden, harvesting sweet fern later in the summer or early fall increases its potency as an intestinal remedy. The later season leaves experience cold stress and are producing anthocyanins that turn the dark green leaves a reddish-purple.
We harvest sweet fern in mid-summer and in early fall, and we offer both harvests for sale. You can see the contrast in some of our photos.
To make a delicious sweet fern tea, steep in hot water overnight, but do not boil. Enjoy warmed up or cold.