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Native American Traditional Medicine

Native American Traditional Medicine

When we talk about Native American traditional medicine, we are really talking about a combination of practices. There are so many tribes in the Americas, and each tribe had (and still does have) its own variation of traditional medicine, although it is all based on similar principles, in that Native American tradition encompasses the idea that man and nature are one. The ancient and modern shamans all practice that ideology, which they say is a balance between our world and the spirit world.

As with most other ancient traditions, Native American medicine has been around since long before the written word, and even then, it wasn’t their written word, but that of the settlers and those who came after them. Some sources claim a history of Native American medicine of up to 40,000 years, or more! The only detriment to the Native American practice of medicine was that it had never been written down, and was traditionally passed down through the generations through first hand information. This was unfortunate, as much of the Native American medical tradition has been lost in this way. Thankfully, though, this great traditional is making a huge comeback, as people from both inside and outside of the tribes are learning the practice of Native American medicine.

Native American Healing

Native American Healing in the 21st Century

Like so many other traditional medicinal styles, Native American medicine is completely holistic. This means that it covers every aspect of human life, including emotional, physical, and spiritual. There can be many aspects to Native American medical practices, including herbal medicine, spiritual ceremonies (these are the shaman practices that are so popular in Europe and the Americas these days), massage-type treatments, the sweat lodge, and even bone setting.   

In the Native American healing tradition, the most important factor is “life force”. (This is similar to the idea of “chi’ or “ki” in eastern medical practices). The essential difference is that in Native American medicine all of the energy around the patient also plays an important part in the healing process. This means that the energy of the healer and even the community are involved. That may be why it is so important to the Native Americans to be “at one” with the land and universe. In the Native American healing tradition disease always has several causes that are all interrelated. And, the goal in healing it is to deal with all these things at once and together. In Native American healing, the healer (shaman) will use visions and spiritual “contact” with “other” world spirits. It is believed that these spirits will help them to heal the patient. In actuality, the shaman doesn’t believe that he (or she) is the healing force, but indeed, it is the spirit or the universal force that is healing them.

Red Medicine

Red Medicine: Traditional Indigenous Rites of Birthing and Healing (First Peoples: New Directions in Indigenous Studies)

With Native American healing, everything around the sick person is taken into consideration. So, when a healer is taking a medical history of a patient, they will ask about spiritual factors, physical factors, emotional factors, and even environmental factors. These are all taken into consideration, and are seen to have an effect on the patient, and even the community’s health. Since Native American beliefs include respecting the earth, this is a factor in disease as well, for example, if the earth isn’t being properly respected, then it will possibly cause people to be ill. (Respect for the earth is one reason why they didn’t want to till the earth (use agricultural means to eat), and preferred to take whatever naturally came out of the earth for them. Illness, in Native American tradition is through to be causes by an evil spirit(s), and as such the healer must call on it and perform ceremonies in order to get it out, or send it on to another, safer place.

The medicine men of the Native American traditional were considered extremely powerful, but in reality, they would be the first to tell you that there was no actual power inside them, but the power came from both the spirit world and the universal energy. The special calling that shamans have is simply a spiritual “incident” where they become “connected” with the spirit world. The Native Americans believe that this happens naturally, and it doesn’t happen to all healers. So, that is the difference between a shaman and an ordinary medicine man. This is a transcending theme throughout many societies and their ancient medical practices, and must have been part of a universal ancient medical tradition that was practiced when the first people were on earth. This is fairly verifiable since shamanistic tradition can be traced independently to ancient Asia, including Siberia, Tibet, and more. Since it is generally believed that the Native Americans are originally from those areas (from way back tens of thousands of years ago) this would make perfect sense.

Secrets of Native American Herbal Remedies

Secrets of Native American Herbal Remedies: A Comprehensive Guide to the Native American Tradition of Using Herbs and the Mind/Body/Spirit Connection for Improving Health and Well-being

Some of the herbs that Native American healers had been using for thousands of years are still used, and have found their way to the modern herbal pharmacopoeia of the West. One of these is sage. This is used all over the world, and is good for almost everything, including fever, infection, and inflammation, in fact, it actually cures the common cold! Willow has always been used for pain, and among the Native Americans it is the same. It is also used for fever, digestive problems, and bleeding problems or open wounds. That is interesting since it has the constituents of modern aspirin. Another commonly used herb in Western herbal medicine is Dandelion, both the root and the leaf. The Native American medical tradition uses dandelion in all its forms for several purposes, including as a blood and liver cleanser, a digestive, and an overall tonic. These are just three of the hundreds, in fact, thousands of natural materials that are used in Native American healing practices.

The Native American healing tradition has been around for thousands of years, and based on the present day interest in its tradition, will hopefully be around for thousands more!

One Response to “Native American Traditional Medicine”

  1. Whɑt’s up, just wanted to say, I enjoyed this blog ƿost.

    It was helpful. Keep on posting!

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