It was the belief of the Native American population that the Creator provided them with the medicinal herbs required for natural healing. Utilizing trees, flowers, fruit and plants that each carried their own health benefits, signs of their holistic approach is still clearly seen in today’s modern medicine.
One example of the impact of Native American medicine is Aspirin, which comes from salicin, a chemical that is found within the bark of the willow tree. Other commonly used natural alternatives include chamomile tea, bee pollen/beeswax and licorice tea.
It is unclear how they came to discover which plants carried medicinal benefits. While some believe they relied heavily on trial and error, other researchers point to oral accounts of watching sick animals, determining which plants were able to provide these animals with relief.
The medicines were created in pastes or teas, that had to be consumed or applied to the skin. In cases of open wounds, salves or poultice were used. It is not commended that you consume plants in the event they are infected in any way.
If you are pregnant, please consult a medical professional prior to using any of these herbs.
Here are 31 herbs that were commonly used by Native American Medicine Men to treat everything from insect bites to the common cold:
Used to treat bladder, arthritis, kidney conditions and bone strength. Alfalfa has been found to improve digestion, strengthen the immune system and aid in blood clotting.
The thick sap found within the leaves of the aloe plant can be used to treat burns, wounds and insect bites. It assists in relieving itching.
Aspen contains salicin, the main ingredient in Aspirin which is found in the bark of the willow tree. It can be used in tea to find relief of coughs, fever and pain.
- Bee Pollen
When mixed with food, bee pollen has been found to increase energy levels boost the immune system and aid in digestion.
Caution: If you are allergic you are also likely allergic to bee pollen.
Intended only for external use, beeswax can be used as a salve for insect bites (including bee stings) and burns.
The leaves, roots and bark of the blackberry plant can be crushed and used as a tea or a gargle. As a tea, it works to reduce inflammation, boost metabolism and alleviate diarrhea. As a gargle, it provides relief and helps to treat sore throats, inflamed gums and mouth ulcers.
- Black Raspberry
The roots of the black raspberry plan can be either boiled and chewed, or crushed and used as a tea. It helps to alleviate coughs, diarrhea and intestinal discomfort.
Buckwheat seeds have been found to help lower blood pressure, alleviate diarrhea and aid in blood clotting. The seeds can be added to porridge or soup.
As a powder, Cayenne is good for wounds helping to increase blood flow, acting as an antiseptic, and working as an anesthetic to ease pain. When taken with food, or used in a tea, it is a powerful pain reliever, and can help to alleviate digestive inflammation and arthritis.
When the leaves and flowers are used as a tea, chamomile is an all natural sleep aid. It also helps to treat nausea and intestinal problems.
The chokecherry was considered by the Native American tribes to be an all-purpose medicinal treatment. As a salve or poultice, it was used to heal burnt, broken skin. When the berries were pitted, dried and crushed into a tea, it would help to aid in body distress like coughs, colds, flu, diarrhea, nausea and inflammation.
Caution: The pit of the chokecherry is poisonous when consumed in high amounts. Take extra caution to ensure that you pit the cherries if you are planning to use them.
Echinacea was used as an antiseptic and common treatment for colds, cough and flu. It has been found to strengthen the immune system as well as fight fever and infections.
Still found in a variety of cough drops available in drug stores today, the oil from the leaves and roots of the eucalyptus plant was often added to tea to treat sore throats, coughs, fever and flu.
When used as a poultice, fennel provides eye relief and relief of headaches. When used in a tea, or chewed, it has the ability to treat sore-throats, provide relief from coughs, aid digestion, treat colds and relieve diarrhea.
Feverfew was a commonly used treatment for fever, severe headaches and migraines. It is also used to for relief of joint and muscle pains, asthma and digestive problems.
Feverwort can be added to a tea, chewed, or crushed to create a paste for use as a salve or poultice. It is used for general pain, joint stiffness and itching.
- Ginger Root
Ginger root has anti-inflammatory properties and improves blood circulation. When crushed and mixed in with food, tea or salve it can be used to relieve colds, joint pain, bronchitis, coughs and flu as well as improve digestive health.
As a food additive, or added to a tea or poultice, the roots are used to enhance liver and lung function, boost energy, strengthen immunity and treat fatigue.
Goldenrod can be used as an antiseptic for scrapes and minor cuts. When made into a tea, a topical salve or a food additive it is used to treat bronchitis, the flue, chest congestion, inflammation, sore throat and the common cold.
Caution: Goldenrod has come to be recognized as a common allergy in today’s society.
Containing a good amount of anti-inflammatory properties, the stems, flowers, berries and leaves were largely used to treat bee stings and skin infections. When made into a tea, it is also used to treat sore throat, headaches and colds.
When mixed with other herbs or plants, like aloe, hops can be used as a muscle relaxer. It can be made into a tea to treat digestive illnesses, sore throats and toothaches.
The root of the licorice plant has the ability to alleviate pain from toothaches. The roots and leaves can be made into a tea to treat coughs, colds and sore throats.
Native Americans used mullein to treat a variety of respiratory problems including coughs and congestion.
- Passion Flower
When made into a poultice, the passion flower is a great treatment for skin injuries like burns, insect bites and boils. The leaves and roots can be made into a tea for the treatment of muscle pain and anxiety.
- Red Clover
The flowers, root and leaves of the red clover can be added to tea, or used as a food topping. It has been used to alleviate inflammation, improve blood circulation and treat respiratory illnesses.
- Rose Hip
Rose hip is a red/orange berry that comes from roses, which can be eaten whole, crushed into a tea or added to food. It will treat inflammation, intestinal distress, cough and colds. It can also be used for its antiseptic properties.
Rosemary makes a great general cleanser for the body’s metabolism. It can also be used in food or tea to treat muscle pain and improve circulation.
Found growing across North America, sage act as a natural insect repellent. It can also be used for sore throats, colds and digestive problems.
Spearmint has been found to improve blood circulation and eliminate diarrhea. It is also commonly used for treating colds, respiratory issues and coughs.
The roof of the Valerian can be added to tea to relieve muscle aches and pains.
- White Pine
Both the inner bark of the white pine and its needles can be infused in a tea. This tea was regularly used to treat respiratory illnesses and chest congestion.