Native Americans were people of the earth and the sky who roamed across the vast mountains and plains of America. They did not set up labs and clinics to take care of their medical needs because they believed that nature provided them everything they would need if only one knew where to look. They used their ancient wisdom to identify common herbs and weeds which had medicinal properties. Here are 5 such common herbs that are still used by herbalists across the world.
Native Americans knew the value of the pesky weed that keeps growing in your front yard. The Pillager Ojibwas and Mohegans knew that a tea made from dandelion leaves was a potent medicinal all-over wellness tonic. These tribes boiled dandelions in water to treat kidney, skin and stomach problems as well as heartburn and swelling.
Dandelions have also been used in Chinese medicine for inflammation, appendicitis, stomach problems and breast problems. Early Europeans used it for fever, eye problems, boils, diarrhea, and diabetes. Modern herbalists use dandelion leaves as a diuretic and to stimulate appetite and ease digestion. While the dandelion flower has antioxidant properties and can help improve your immune system, the root can be used for detoxifying the liver and gallbladder.
Yarrow is a common weed that is native to North America. It has been used by several Native American tribes to stop bleeding, heal wounds, and cure infections. Studies have also shown that yarrow does have the ability to cleanse wounds and to control bleeding caused by puncture wounds, lacerations, and abrasions.
Many modern herbalists use yarrow tea for severe colds and often suggest an ounce of dried yarrow mixed with a pint of boiling water and a touch of honey. Yarrow compresses are also used to treat bleeding hemorrhoids. It grows easily in home gardens but make sure you talk to your healthcare provider before using yarrow for self-medication.
3. Wild Cherry Bark
Wild cherry bark has been extensively used by the Flambeau Ojibwe tribe to prepare a tea for coughs and colds. The bark is gathered from young plants in early fall. The outer bark is stripped from the inner bark and placed in the shade to dry. After it is dry, the bark must be stored in an airtight container out of direct sunlight.
Active ingredients in the bark include tannins, scopoletin, and cyanogenic glycosides which help to reduce inflammation and ease spasms. In addition to being an effective cough suppressant, wild cherry bark is also used in modern-day herbal therapy to treat bronchitis, fever, gout, sore throat, whooping cough, and diarrhea. Also, a 2006 study published in the journal Oncology found that wild cherry bark shows promise for protection from colorectal cancer.
Sage is native to the countries around the Mediterranean Sea and is considered sacred by the Native Americans. This herb is held in high regard for its purifying properties and the Native Americans believe that it can cleanse the body and mind of negative energy. Apart from ritualistic purposes, sage is used to improve the function of the stomach, liver, colon, lungs, and skin.
Sage has anti-inflammatory properties and is an excellent source of antioxidants, vitamin K, contains volatile oils, flavonoids, and rosmarinic acid. It has a broad range of medicinal applications including regulating blood sugar and reducing blood pressure. Because of its pleasant smell, essential oils of sage are also used to make soaps and lotions.
Rosemary is a woody perennial shrub that was considered sacred by not just the Native Americans but also by the Greeks and Romans. Like sage, rosemary is also a member of the mint family and is packed with antioxidants and has anti-inflammatory properties.
Native Americans knew about rosemary’s analgesic properties and used it to alleviate sore joints. Rosemary tea is also used to improve oxygen to the brain and boost memory. Because of its aromatic properties, it is widely used in aromatherapy and in manufacturing organic body care products. The fragrance of rosemary is soothing and is helpful in reducing anxiety and creating a sense of calm.