I have always found Native Americans very impressive. Their appearance, their strong attitude, unique lifestyle and especially their love for Nature and their devotion to it have always fascinated me.
Different Native American tribes have skillfully used plants to heal the body, cleanse the spirit and harmonize their lives for hundreds of years. They believed that herbs greatly influence the spirit of the person and considered them as a gift from God.
It is said that they learned which healing plants to use by observing sick animals.
Fortunately, Native Americans did not selfishly keep this knowledge to themselves but they generously shared it with the new European settlers.
Here are the 10 plants they most commonly used to cure all kinds of health problems.
Wild ginger- Arum Canadense
Wild ginger, also known as Canadian snake root, Colic Root, Heart-Leaf, Cat’s Foot, was known and used by numerous Indian tribes for its healing properties. Its big leaves in the shape of a heart grow on small stems, hiding the trumpet-shaped flowers on the ground. The tea prepared from the root of this plant has a similar taste to ginger spice that we commonly use today.
Cherokee Indians prepared wild ginger infusion to help digestion and alleviate colic and stomach aches. They also used it for respiratory problems, to eliminate mucus from the throat and lungs.
Grated or powdered wild ginger root can be mixed in other teas to stimulate circulation during cold periods.
Blackberry – Rubus genus in the Rosaceae family
Blackberries are so delicious in all forms – both when they are eaten raw or made into jams and marmalade. I have known that they are very rich in antioxidants just like other berries but their health benefits are much more extensive, which Cherokee Indians knew very well. Blackberries promote digestive health and soothe stomach problems. They also strengthen the immune system, promote cardiovascular health, enhance memory, keep our bones strong and maintain the eye and skin health.
Cherokee natural healers prepared a tincture from blackberry roots and sweetened it with honey. It was used to soothe coughs, cure mouth sores and damaged gums and to heal sore throats. Blackberry root is also a potent anti-inflammatory agent that helps with swollen joints.
Mint – Mentha
I believe this is one of the most favorite and consumed herbs in the world. It has such a strong and refreshing aroma and it can be used for so many healing purposes. Mint tea relieves stomach problems, promotes digestion, activates salivary glands and soothes nausea.
Mint oil can alleviate headaches and migraines when applied to the temples. It soothes coughs and clears up congested noses. It is also an effective skin cleanser due to its antibacterial properties but it also calms irritated skin. It refreshes the breath and cleans the mouth. Mint is also a stimulant and antidepressant and a good source of vitamins A and C. It is full of potassium, calcium, magnesium and phosphorus.
The Cherokee Indians knew all these properties of mint. They drank mint tea to cure digestive ailments and to reduce blood pressure. They also used mint in baths for skin problems and crushed the leaves for ointments.
Yarrow – Achillea millefolium
Arrow plant is also known as Milfoil, Old Man’s Pepper, Thousand Weed, and Devil’s Nettle.
It is very helpful for curing fevers and colds in the early stages. It also opens up the pores and cleanses the blood. It also accelerates blood clotting, so Cherokee used it for healing wounds. They also made yarrow tea to cure kidney and gallbladder disorders.
Yellow Dock – Rumex Crispus
This plant is also known by the names Curly Dock, Narrow Dock, Sour Dock, Rumex.
This sweet and sour herb has a high content of vitamins and minerals, especially iron, magnesium and phosphorous.
Since it has laxative properties, it promotes good digestion and bowel movements. It cures both constipation and diarrhea. It is also used for curing infections caused by different bacteria due to its antibacterial compound rumicin. Cherokee were familiar with all these properties of yellow dock. They also made a poultice from the ground herb, beeswax and oil to cure skin sores, rashes and eruptions.
Buck Brush- Ceanothus
Buck Brush, or Hummington Blossom, Jersey Tea, Mountain Lilac, Oregon Tea tree refers to around 60 sorts of North American short bushes. Native American tribes used one species of the plant, or Red Root to cure inflamed tonsils, swollen spleens and lymph nodes, cysts, mouth and throat diseases. They also used it as a kidney stimulant, since it has diuretic properties. Skin burns and wounds were also treated with poultices made from this plant. It has also been found to treat high blood pressure.
Sumac – Rhus genus
There are both edible and poisonous plants in the Rhus family, so one should be very careful with this plant. One of the inedible, poisonous species of sumac has white berries.
The edible sumac is actually a powerful spice that has a lot of medicinal properties. It is one of the richest sources of antioxidants among herbs and spices. The edible sumac is also beneficial for the cardiovascular system. It has been found to reduce cholesterol levels and stabilize blood sugar.
The Cherokee used it to cure diarrhea, fever and a sore throat in the form of a decoction from sumac bark and tea, which they made by steeping sumac leaves.
Rose Hip – Rosa Rugosa, Rosa Canina
Other names of this precious plant are: wild rose, wild boar fruit, hop fruit, Persian rose
Rose hips are also commonly used plants today. My mother never misses the opportunity to pick rose hips for the preparation of delicious and healthy tea.
Rose hips are a rich source of vitamin C, which is essential for the immune system. Rose hip tea is used to prevent and treat flu and cold. Rose hips are also beneficial for the gastrointestinal system since they heal spasms, prevent ulcers and stomach irritations.
The Cherokee drank rose hip tea to improve kidney and bladder function. Their traditional remedy for sore throat was tea made from rose hip petals. They also treated diarrhea with rose hip roots.
Cattail – Typha Latifolia
Native American people used all the parts of this plant for different purposes. It served as food to them since it contains a lot of starch and can be ground into flour.
The roots and the pollen were used to prevent both external and internal bleeding. The jelly-like substance found at the base of the leaf has antiseptic quality and they used it to treat wounds, sores and skin infections.
Recent research has shown that it can detoxify poisoned water, which makes it a precious water purifying agent in the developing countries with drinkable water shortage.
Greenbriar – Smilax Rotundifolia
Roundleaf Greenbriar or Catbriar is a woody vine with pricks and it can grow very tall.
All the parts of this plentiful plant can be used: vines and tendrils can be eaten in all forms, the roots can be ground and made into starch, berries can be used to make jams and jelly or eaten raw. The tubers have a high content of starch and minerals, while the leaves and stems are also a rich source of vitamins.
The Cherokee Indians treated urinary problems and purified blood with this plant. They used the leaves and the bark in the form of ointment to treat burns and sores.
We have to bear in mind that all these herbs contain powerful chemicals that can be potentially harmful when used improperly, so I advise you to obtain them from a herbal pharmacy and use them according to the authorized herbalist’s instructions.