Native Indigenous American Herbalism

by Jason Duke - Owner/Artisan

Fresh Content: January 1, 2019 11:24

Indigenous Herbs of Sweetgrass and Sage 


Native American herbalism primarily incorporates handed-down empirical knowledge that is passed from one generation to the next about the healing uses of herbs. The medicine of native cultures focus on balancing the body in accordance with nature. A native person understands energies and seeks spirit guidance for the application of medicinal remedies in the support, maintenance and promotion of health, wellness, and well-being.

See-non-ty-a, an Iowya Medicine Man, by George Catlin, 1844-45
Iowa Medicine Man 

Native Herbalism Heals the Body, Mind, and Spirit

To summarize the basic modality of Native American herbalism is to understand that the medicinal herb is not fixing nor curing the body. Instead, native cultures viewed that the nature of the herb is a part of the nature of the body which requires the herb's energies to restore balance. An indigenous medicine man is a healer who would not only ask the questions, "what does the herb do or how does an herb work?", but instead use intuition and seek guidance from spirit to discover where a person is out-of-balance with nature and then select an herb from traditional application and wisdom of the herb's energies to restore balance.

Colonialization Appropriates Native Remedies for Quackery

Prior to European colonialization of the Americas, the native cultures had no concept of theoretical herbal medicine and the biochemistry of herbs nor did they have the concepts of considering herbs for treating, managing, and diagnosing ambiguous diseases, as with the modern theory of allopathy. Quacks of the past and present, most commonly allopathic medical doctors, appropriate native medicinal remedies for incorporation into the allopathic medicine system to be used as fraudulent snake-oil pharmaceutical drugs.

Arikara Nation Native American Medicine Men 1908 

Native American Herbology Contributions

North American native cultures contribute several herbs to herbology, including echinacea, goldenseal and American ginseng. Traditional South American cultures of the Amazon add plenty of very effective medicinal remedies to herbology, such as the pau d' arco, muria puama, and maca.