Here’s the list of some NATIVE AMERICAN HERBAL REMEDIES (some surprisingly NOT from Americas)
by Jesse J Elliot aka Julie Hanks, Ph.D
When I need specific material for an article or story, I always look to the books, lists, and sites of the professionals. Researching is exciting but time consuming. Also, if you’re unfamiliar with a topic such as specific guns or a more reliable horse, turn to someone who knows. I’m no specialist when it comes to herbal remedies, but I use them often enough in my writing to compile a list to which I can refer regularly.
One thing I always wondered about with these herbs, besides their use, was their origin. I was surprised to find many of the common herbs cited in novels and even Native American herbal remedies books are not native to the Americas. So while violence marked the meeting of the European settlers and original peoples of the Americas, the healers obviously met and exchanged herbs, medicines, and seeds.
Here is a list of the most commonly used medicinal herbs.
1. Alfalfa – this amazing plant relieves digestion and is used to aid blood clotting. You can use this powerful herb to treat other health problems as well, such as: arthritis, bladder and kidney conditions and bone strength. You can also use it to boost your immune system. Alfalfa is NOT indigenous to North America.
2. Aloe – you’ve probably heard about aloe. The aloe leaves contain high amounts of aloe gel that can be used to treat burns, insect bites and wounds. Aloe is NOT indigenous to North America.
3. Arnica - Arnica is used topically for a wide range of conditions, including bruises, sprains, muscle aches, wound healing, superficial phlebitis, joint pain, inflammation from insect bites, and swelling from broken bones. Found in the Mountains of North America.
4. Aspen – the inner bark or xylem is used in a tea to treat fever, coughs and pain. The bark contains salicin, which also is found in willow trees and is the foundation ingredient for aspirin.
5. Bee pollen – you can mix it with food and use it as energy booster. Bee pollen also aids digestion and boosts the immune system. Note: you should be very careful, because if you’re allergic to bee stings you will most likely be allergic to bee pollen. Bees are NOT indigenous to North America.
6. Beeswax – you can use it to soothe burns and insect bites, including bee stings. Note: it can only be used externally. Bees are NOT indigenous to North America.
7. Blackberry – you can use the root, bark and leaves. You need to crush them and make a tea. You can use this powerful tea to treat diarrhea, reduce inflammation and stimulate the metabolism. As a gargle it treats sore throats, mouth ulcers and inflammation of the gums.
8. Black Raspberry – you can use the roots of this plant. Just crush the roots and make a tea or you can just boil them and chew to relieve coughs, diarrhea and general intestinal distress.
9. California Buckwheat & Buckwheat– buckwheat seeds are used in soups and as porridge. People use these seeds to lower the high blood pressure. These seeds are also very helpful and useful with blood clotting and relieve diarrhea. Though California buckwheat is indigenous to western US, buckwheat is not—it apparently originated in Finland!
10. Cayenne – you should know that the pods are used as a pain reliever when taken with food or drunk in a tea. You can also use them to treat arthritis and digestive distress. Or, you can apply it to wounds as a powder to increase blood flow and act as an antiseptic and anesthetic to numb the pain. Though chilis were popular in the South and Central America, Cayenne is specifically from Cayenne, French Guiana.
11. Chamomile – you can use both chamomile leaves and flowers and make a tea, and use this tea to treat intestinal problems and nausea. Though it grows freely throughout North America, it is native to western Europe, India, and western Asia.
12. Chokecherry – the Native American tribes considered this herbal remedy as an all-purpose medicinal treatment, the berries were pitted, dried and crushed into a tea or a poultice to treat many different health problems, such as: coughs, colds, flu, nausea, inflammation and diarrhea. You can also use it to treat burns and wounds. Note: but, you should be very careful, because the pit of the chokecherry – much like apple seeds – are poisonous in high concentrations. So, make sure to pit the cherries if you’re considering this for any use.
13. Echinacea – this herb is also known by the name purple coneflower, and it’s a classic Native American medicine that is used to strengthen the immune system, fight infections and fever. Echinacea has powerful antiseptic properties and it’s often used for many minor ailments, such as: for colds, coughs and flu. Native to North America, though the prevalent species indigenous to the prairies and plains is endangered.
14. Eucalyptus – the eucalyptus oil from the leaves and roots is a common treatment when infused in a tea to treat coughs, sore-throat, flu and fever. The eucalyptus oil is a common ingredient in cough drops. Eucalyptus globulus, blue gum eucalyptus, is a tree that is not native to California. It is an invasive plant that was introduced from Australia and naturalized in the wild.
15. Fennel – this amazing plant, which has a licorice flavor, is often used in a tea or chewed to relieve coughs, sore-throat, aid digestion, offer relief to diarrhea and was a general treatment for colds. You can also use fennel as a poultice for eye relief and headaches. Fennel is native to southern Europe and the Mediterranean region where it has been cultivated for centuries for culinary and medicinal properties. In California, it presumably escaped cultivation in the mid-1800s. Fennel grows wild in the slough near my house.
16. Feverfew – people still use this herbal remedy as a natural relief for fever and headaches – including severe headaches like migraines. You can also use it to treat digestive problems, asthma and muscle and joint pains. The plant is native to North America.
17. Feverwort (or boneset) – you can use this herbal remedy for many ailments, such as: soothe general pain, itching and joint stiffness. It can be ingested as a tea or chewed, or crushed to a paste as a salve or poultice. It is native to North America. Doctors once believed if wrapped around a broken bone, that it would help the boneset—it didn’t.
18. Ginger root – is one of the healthiest roots on the plant and a super plant in Native American medicine. There are many different ways to incorporate ginger into your healthy diet: crushed and consumed with food, as a tea or a salve or poultice. Ginger root will improve your digestive health, and it also has powerful anti-inflammatory properties, aids circulation and can relieve colds, coughs and flu, in addition to bronchitis and joint pain. It is NOT RELATED to true ginger.
19. Ginseng – this amazing herb has a long history that goes back across cultures for millennia. Ginseng roots were used by Native Americans as a food additive, a tea and a poultice to treat fatigue, boost energy levels, boost the immune system and help with overall liver and lung function. Note: the ginseng leaves and stems also were used, but the root has the most concentration of active ingredients. Ginseng is native to North America, and it is shipped everywhere, especially to the Asian countries.
19. Goldenrod – people nowadays think that this herbal remedy is just a source of allergies and sneezing, but it was actually considered another all-in-one medicine by Native Americans. As a tea, an addition to food and a topical salve, it is used to treat conditions from bronchitis and chest congestion to colds, flu, inflammation, sore throats and as an antiseptic for cuts and abrasions.
20. Honeysuckle – you can use all parts: berries, stems, flowers and leaves – and you can use them to topically treat bee stings and skin infections. As a tea, it is used to treat colds, headaches and sore throat. It also has anti-inflammatory properties. This plant is native to North America and Eurasia. There are over a hundred types of honeysuckle.
21. Hops – you can make a hops tea and use it to treat digestive problems. Or, you can mix it with other herbs or plants, such as aloe, to soothe muscles. Hops is also used to soothe toothaches and sore throat and as a sedative. Native to new and old world.
22. Licorice – you can use the licorice roots and leaves to soothe chronic coughs, colds, sore throats. Note: the root also can be chewed to relieve toothaches.
23. Mullein – the Native Americans used this herb to make a tea or they add it to a salad or other food, and they used it to treat inflammation, coughs and congestion and general lung afflictions. It is quite common and you probably have it growing in your backyard or somewhere close.
24. Passion flower – you can use the passion flower leaves and roots to make a tea to treat anxiety and muscle pain. A poultice for injuries to the skin such as burns, insect bites and boils also can be made from passion flower.
25. Red clover – this amazing plant grows everywhere and the flowers, leaves and roots are usually infused in a tea or are used to top food. This amazing herb is often used to manage inflammation, improve circulation and treat respiratory conditions. This is NOT indigenous to North America.
26. Rose hip – have you ever heard of the rose hip? Well, this is the red to orange berry that is the fruit of wild roses and it’s already known to be a massive source of vitamin C and when eaten whole, crushed into a tea or added to food it is used to treat colds and coughs, intestinal distress, as an antiseptic and to treat inflammation.
27. Rosemary – is a member of the pine family and used in food and as a tea to treat muscle pain, improve circulation and as a general cleanser for the metabolism.
28. Sage – is the most powerful and most effective natural insect repellent and it can be used for the standard list of digestive disorders, colds and sore throat.
18. Spearmint – this amazing herbal remedy was used by Native American tribes for treatment of coughs, colds, respiratory distress, diarrhea, and a stimulant for blood circulation. It is native to North America and parts of Eurasia.
19. Valerian – valerian root was used as an infusion in a tea that relieves muscle aches, pain and is said to have a calming effect. Good for sleeping and is relatively safe. Found in North America and parts of Eurasia.
20. White Pine – You should know that the ubiquitous and the needles and the inner bark can be infused in a tea. Used as a standard treatment for respiratory distress and chest congestion.
1. Europe’s Medicinal and aromatic: Their use, trade, and Conservation by Dagmar Lange
2. 23 Medicinal Plants the Native Americans Used on a Daily Basis
3 .Gobotany.nativeplanttrust.org National Botany Foundation