19 Native American Home Remedies

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By harnessing the natural power of weeds, flowers, and the barks of various trees, Native Americans established a host of remedies that treated a wide range of illnesses and medical conditions. Their extensive knowledge of their surroundings played an important role in their survival. Some techniques associated with Native American home remedies have found a place in modern medicine and are embraced by many self-healers.

native american home remedies

Native American Remedies in Brief

In the United States, Native American cultures developed a wide-ranging knowledge regarding the physical and emotional effects that certain herbs produced. In addition to herbal cures, many nations also relied on traditional healers (who focused on treating individuals as a whole rather than address the specific symptoms of an illness) and other methods of treatment, such as sweat lodges. Home remedies also differed from nation to nation, and made the best use of their environment.

Native American home remedies also incorporated folklore, which expanded upon tales involving animals and plants. Sometimes, herbs were viewed effective because of their appearance in relation to a specific condition. For instance, worm root looked like worms, so it served as a common treatment for worms in the body.

Home Remedies from Early America

Native American healing often involved entire communities with symbolic rituals and ceremonies that generally included chanting, singing, painting bodies, dancing, exorcisms, and sand paintings [1]. These rituals could last hours or even continue on for weeks. Prayer and the inclusion of spiritual intervention also played a role in all of their healing techniques.

For Native American home remedies that you may embrace on your own, try considering some of the following options:

a) Flaxseed:

Used to treat mild ailments (such as indigestion), flaxseed had a place in Native American medicine.

b) Buckwheat:

It was not uncommon for Hopi women to receive an infusion made from the buckwheat plant as a way to stop postpartum hemorrhaging (bleeding).

c) Chamomile:

Known for its soothing properties, chamomile was used to make a tea to fight inflammation and minor illnesses.

d) Aloe:

Aloe was viewed as an effective treatment for the skin. For instance, aloe vera gel was used as an external remedy for wounds, as well as for clearing up skin blemishes. Breaking off an aloe leaf and slicing it down the middle is one way to extract the gel.

e) Milkweed:

Milkweed is a common, perennial plant that produces a milky juice. Today, you can find the plant growing in fields, roadsides, and along fences – especially in the eastern part of North America. Many nations have boiled the roots of the milkweed plant to treat ailments, such as kidney issues, bladder conditions, water retention, asthma, stomach ailments, gallstones, female disorders, arthritis, and bronchitis [2]. Milkweed also has the power to increase perspiration, which can help in reducing a fever. Some Native Americans rubbed milkweed juice on skin conditions, such as warts, moles, ringworms. Milkweed was also known to produce a diuretic effect. For some, the concoction was typically consumed about once a week.

f) Dandelion:

The same weeds that plague your yard in the summertime were respected by the Native Americans for its healing properties. The Pillager Ojibwas would use dandelion root to make a healing tea for heartburn. The Mohegans used dandelion leaves to make a tonic. Other nations used the detoxifying dandelion tea as a daily cleanse. To make a cup of the brew, add one teaspoon of dried herb per cup of hot water. Allow the contents to steep for at least five minutes.

g) Witch Hazel:

Nations, such as the Menominees of Wisconsin and Potawatomi used witch hazel as a way to treat muscle aches. An example of a native witch hazel treatment was to boil the leaves and rub the liquid on the legs of men participating in sporting games.

h) Tobacco:

Native Americans would apply wet tobacco leaves to the skin as a treatment for bee stings.

i) Persimmons:

The Catawba stripped the bark from a persimmons tree (which produces red to orange-colored fruit) and boiled it in water. The dark liquid that emerged was used as a mouth rinse. The Cherokee prepared persimmons in different ways to treat a range of ailments and disease. A persimmons infusion came in handy to relieve a toothache, and was prepared in a manner similar to boiling tea. Swishing the remedy around the mouth was believed to provide relief for a baby with thrush. Topically, the remedy was poured over the skin to treat conditions, such as burns and hives.

j) Echinacea:

To fight cramps, echinacea was used to make a healing tea. When combined with a bit of whiskey, the herb was believed to treat stomach pains. Native Americans would also mix echinacea with camphor to address painful joints.

k) Wild Licorice:

Wild licorice was used by the Blackfoot to prepare an infusion that treated earaches. Other nations would eat fresh licorice as a way to address the symptoms of
fever, menstrual cramps, PMS symptoms, irritated bowels, and irritated mucous membranes.

l) Sage:

The Native Americans used sage as a natural mouthwash and remedy for sore throats. It was also known to assist infants with colic.

m) Pine and Fir Trees:

The gum turpentine that came from pine and fir trees was used as a remedy for bronchitis, toothaches and other illnesses.

n) Mint:

The menthol found in peppermint has proven a suitable remedy for ailments, such as indigestion, flatulence, and colic.

o) Wintergreen:

Methyl salicylate is an active ingredient in wintergreen (found in the leaves and berries), which many Native American nations have used to treat a range of ailments. Wintergreen poultices were applied to achy muscles and joints. The Sioux, Penobscot and other nations also used wintergreen leaves to treat a range of ailments.

p) Wild Carrot:

The Mohegans would steep the blossoms of the wild species of carrot in warm water and waited for them to fully bloom before drinking as a remedy for diabetes.

q) Geranium:

The entire geranium plant was boiled by the Chippewa and Ottawa tribes to create a tea that was used to treat diarrhea [3].

r) Wild Onion and Garlic:

The bulbs of wild onions and garlic were crushed, and then applied to the skin as a treatment for insect bites and stings. This remedy was followed by the Dakotas and Winnebagos.

s) Wild Lettuce:

Known to possess sedative qualities, Native Americans believed that wild lettuce effectively helped to treat nervous disorders.


[1] http://www.cancer.org/treatment/treatmentsandsideeffects/complementaryandalternativemedicine/mindbodyandspirit/native-american-healing
[2] http://medicinalherbinfo.org/herbs/Milkweed.html
[3] http://www.powersource.com/cherokee/herbal.html