When it comes to herbal remedies, many of us are familiar with the benefits of Echinacea or purple
cone flower as an antibiotic, willow bark as a pain killer and aloe as a
topical anesthetic and treatment for skin conditions. But that’s common
knowledge compared to the insights and treatments that Native American medicine
men discovered and used.
Native American medicine men developed a wheel of very similar to
the yin/yang of Asian medicine. The use of herbal remedies and other
alternative forms of treatment was the cutting-edge medicine of their day. This
was a holistic approach to medical treatment that relied heavily on plants and
their unique benefits.
What follows is list of indigenous plants, trees, fruits and
flowers unique to North America that have surprising benefits as defined by
Native American tribes. If and when times are tough, it might be good to keep
some of these ancient cures in mind. They also are good for everyday needs when
you consider how effective some of them can be.
Licorice tea for a sore throat is a good example. It’s also
interesting that many of these natural cures are still in use today, including
beeswax and bee pollen, chamomile and others. It’s a good demonstration of the
benefit of wisdom developed over centuries.
It’s hard to know how Native Americans determined which plants
might have medicinal properties, although trial and error was probably one
approach. It’s also thought that they observed sick animals eating certain
plants and determined that those plants must have a certain property worth
exploring. Since that time,scientific
verified the medicinal value of many plants. In fact, common aspirin is derived
from salicin, a chemical in the inner bark of willow trees that was used in
ancient times for fever and pain.
These medicines were usually administered via teas or pastes that
were either ingested or applied externally. Sometimes the plants were eaten as
food or added to food or water. On occasion, a salve or poultice was applied to
open wounds. I would strongly recommend that you avoid the latter, given the
risk of infection from wild sources.
I’ve omitted many of the natural remedies. There was a use for
mistletoe that I came across, but mistletoe is essentially poisonous and if not
used properly the results could be counter-productive, if not deadly.
I’ve also found a great deal of redundancy. It seems like
everything is good for a cough or diarrhea. Rather than endlessly list plants
that cure the same conditions over and over, I’ve tried to isolate this
grouping to the most prevalent plants that you may find and recognize. As
always, if you are pregnant, check with your doctor and do plenty of research
before using any of these.
digestion and is used to aid blood clotting. Contemporary uses included
treatment of arthritis, bladder and kidney conditions and bone strength.Enhances the immune system.
cactus-like plant. The thick leaves can be squeezed to extrude a thick sap that
can be used to treat burns, insect bites and wounds.
inner bark or xylem is used in a tea to treat fever, coughs and pain. It
contains salicin, which also is found in willow trees and is the foundation
ingredient for aspirin.
04. Bee pollen:When
mixed with food it canboost energy,
aid digestion and enhance the immune system. If you’re allergic to bee stings
you will most likely be allergic to bee pollen.
as a salve for burns and insect bites, including bee stings. Intended to only
be used externally.
root, bark and leaves when crushed and infused in a tea are used to treat
diarrhea, reduce inflammation andstimulate the metabolism.
As a gargle it treats sore throats, mouth ulcers and inflammation of the gums.
07. Black Raspberry:The roots of this plant are crushed and used
as a tea or boiled and chewed to relieve coughs, diarrhea and general
seeds are used in soups and as porridge to lower blood pressure, help with
blood clotting and relieve diarrhea.
pods are used as a pain reliever when taken with food or drunk in a tea. Also
used to threat arthritis and digestive distress. It is sometimes applied to
wounds as a powder to increase blood flow and act as an antiseptic and
anesthetic to numb the pain.
leaves and flowers are used as a tea to treat intestinal problems and nausea.
11. Chokecherry: Considered by Native American tribes as an all-purpose
medicinal treatment, the berries were pitted, dried and crushed into a tea or a
poultice to treat a variety of ailments. These include coughs, colds, flu,
nausea, inflammation and diarrhea. As a salve or poultice it is used to treat
burns and wounds. The pit of the chokecherry – much like apple seeds – are
poisonous in high concentrations. Be sure to pit the cherries if you’re
considering this for any use.
12. Echinacea: Also
known as purple coneflower, this is a classic Native American medicine that is
used to strengthen the immune system, fight infections and fever. It also is
used as an antiseptic and general treatment for colds, coughs and flu.
13. Eucalyptus: The oil from the leaves and roots is a common treatment when
infused in a tea to treat coughs, sore-throat, flu and fever. It’s used to this
day as an ingredient in cough drops.
14. Fennel: A
plant with a licorice flavor, this is used in a tea or chewed to relieve
coughs, sore-throat, aid digestion, offer relief to diarrhea and was a general
treatment for colds. It also is used as a poultice for eye relief and
15. Feverfew: Used
to this day as a natural relief for fever and headaches – including severe
headaches like migraines – it also can be used for digestive problems, asthma
and muscle and joint pains.
16. Feverwort: Another
fever remedy that also is used for general pain, itching and joint stiffness.
It can be ingested as a tea or chewed, or crushed to a paste as a salve or
17. Ginger root: Another super plant in Native American medicine, the root
was crushed and consumed with food, as a tea or a salve or poultice. Known to
this day for its ability to aid digestive health, it also is anti-inflammatory,
aids circulation and can relieve colds, coughs and flu, in addition to
bronchitis and joint pain.
18. Ginseng: This
is another contemporary herb that has a history that goes back across cultures
for millennia. The roots were used by Native Americans as a food additive, a
tea and a poultice to treat fatigue, boost energy, enhance the immune system
and help with overall liver and lung function. The leaves and stems also were
used, but the root has the most concentration of active ingredients.
19. Goldenrod: Commonly
thought of today as a source of allergies and sneezing, it was actually
considered another all-in-one medicine by Native Americans. As a tea, an
addition to food and a topical salve, it is used to treat conditions from
bronchitis and chest congestion to colds, flu, inflammation, sore throats and
as an antiseptic for cuts and abrasions.
20. Honeysuckle: The berries, stems, flowers and leaves are used to topically
treat bee stings and skin infections. As a tea, it is used to treat colds,
headaches and sore throat. It also has anti-inflammatory properties.
21. Hops: As
a tea it is used to treat digestive problems and often mixed with other herbs
or plants, such as aloe, to soothe muscles. It also is used to soothe
toothaches and sore throat.
22. Licorice: Roots
and leaves can be used for coughs, colds, sore throats. The root also can be
chewed to relieve toothaches.
23. Mullein: As
an infusion in tea or added to a salad or other food, this is a plant that has
been used by Native Americans to treat inflammation, coughs and congestion and
general lung afflictions. It is quite common and you probably have it growing
in your backyard or somewhere close.
24. Passion flower: The leaves and roots are used to make a tea to treat anxiety
and muscle pain. A poultice for injuries to the skin such as burns, insect
bites and boils also can be made from passion flower.
25. Red clover: It grows everywhere and the flowers, leaves and roots are
usually infused in a tea or are used to top food. It is used to manage
inflammation, improve circulation and treat respiratory conditions.
26. Rose hip: This
is the red to orange berry that is the fruit of wild roses. It is already known
to be a massive source of vitamin C and when eaten whole, crushed into a tea or
added to food it is used to treat colds and coughs, intestinal distress, as an
antiseptic and to treat inflammation.
27. Rosemary: A
member of the pine family and used in food and as a tea to treat muscle pain,
improve circulation and as a general cleanser for the metabolism.
28. Sage: A
far-reaching shrub across much of North America, it is a natural insect
repellent and can be used for the standard list of digestive disorders, colds
and sore throat.
29. Spearmint: Used
consistently by Native American tribes for treatment of coughs, colds,
respiratory distress and as a cure for diarrhea and a stimulant for blood
30. Valerian: The
root as an infusion in a tea relieves muscle aches, pain and is said to have a
31. White Pine: Ubiquitous and the needles and the inner bark can be infused
in a tea. Used as a standard treatment for respiratory distress and chest
If you’re an expert on Native American cures I’m sure you can add
many to this list. There are some excellent books on nature’s cures and the
specific medicinal properties that Native American tribes discovered. Natural
remedies are worth considering both from an historical and potentially
practical point-of-view. Just make sure you identify them properly and check
with your physician before using.