Native American Medicine Wheel and Healing Traditions


Native American Medicine Wheel and Healing TraditionsFor tens of thousands of years, Native Americans have used their own healing traditions. North American settlers stumbled upon these more than 500 hundred years ago, but the Native American Medicine Wheel dates back tens of thousands of years.

The medicine wheel is a symbol of the many aspects of the the Circle of Life through which all sacred energies flow such as the four directions and the four seasons. It assists in utilizing the energies of the universe in the healing of the four facets of ‘the self’ on the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual planes.

How can “modern medicine” negate the healing traditions that have worked for centuries? After all, the lowly willow tree contains salicylic, the active painkilling ingredient in aspirin. Native Americans knew about this property centuries before medicine was ever put into a pill. In fact, more than 200 medicines today are derived from the Native Americans’ knowledge of the raw healing power of plants.

Native American Healing Traditions Still Valuable

By taking a page from the Native Americans’ book, it’s possible for everyone with access to certain herbs to enjoy the medicinal qualities of astounding plants without resorting to high and mighty modern medicine. Here’s a partial list of some plants the Native Americans use as medicines:

  • Black Cohosh: Remedy for joint pain, sore throat and menstrual cramps. The pain relieving and muscle relaxing properties of black cohosh make it strong enough to even relieve pain from childbirth.
  • Boneset: Used to relieve snakebites, indigestion and break-bone fever caused by influenza.
  • Echinacea: Treatment for insect stings, snakebites and toothaches. It also contains natural antibiotic properties that help the user fight infection.
  • Evening Primrose: Used as a sedative and painkiller.
  • Goldenseal: Remedy for mouth ulcers, sore eyes and tuberculosis. It even acts as a natural insect repellent.
  • Hops: The blossom is used for its sedative effects, and the dried plant treats toothaches thanks to its pain relieving and anti-inflammatory properties. Native Americans even create a hops poultice and place it on the forehead for rest and relaxation.
  • Juniper: Brewed as a tea to relieve colds, treat joint pain, and soothe stomachaches.
  • Passion Flower: Used in a poultice to relieve pain from a number of different injuries.
  • Psyllium Plantago: Remedy for sprains, cuts and sore eyes.
  • Sage: Used as a tooth-cleaning agent and to mend wounds.
  • Uva Ursi: Cure for sore muscles when applied as a poultice. It can also be combined with tobacco leaves and smoked for relief from muscle pain.
  • Valerian: Treatment for wounds because of its astringency and blood clotting ability.
  • Wintergreen: Brewed as a tea for joint pain and sore muscle treatment.
  • Yarrow: Used to treat fever and stomachaches when brewed as a tea. Yarrow can also be applied to burns and cuts when turned into a poultice, while chewing the leaves eases toothaches. The plant contains salicylic, the ingredient that gives aspirin its painkilling properties.

The Chickasaw Nation

It’s a shame that so many of Native Americans’ healing traditions have been lost due to oral documentation that died out as traditions have changed. Still, it’s a blessing to have access to the information that’s available. Some tribes, like the Chickasaw Nation, have kept their traditions alive. The Chickasaw culture continues to learn from its ancestors and have even preserved them as a part of their cultural center in Oklahoma.

Depending on the region in which you live, you may have the opportunity to grow and use your own medicinal plants the way Native Americans have for thousands of years. After all, why shouldn’t everyone benefit from the knowledge that took generations for Native Americans to perfect? There’s no need to reinvent the wheel with effective remedies and medicines growing right outside your door.