Long before the first settlers of America had arrived, the natives living there already had their own ways to treat themselves when they were faced with diseases or injuries. When the first settlers arrived, they were shocked to see the Native Americans had their own medicines that all seemed better than the European practice of medicine.
The Native Americans, the Indians, were able to treat themselves of injuries that all seemed to be fatal for the settlers. In a Native American tribe, they have a hierarchy. For treatment and herbal medicines, they have a medicine man or woman. That person is well respected amongst his tribesmen and is living abundantly.
The tribe’s medicine man or medicine woman was able to treat a wide range of diseases and injuries. They know what herbs to use to treat a cold or how to handle childbirth. With every request of the tribe’s people, they are given a “reward” or payment in terms of good accommodation, food, assistance and many gifts. The more that the tribe’s medicine man or woman can heal, the wealthier and more respected he or she gets in the tribe.
The Native Americans now just comprise a small percentage of the total population of the United States of America. Although herbal medicine is still being used by these tribes, the infiltration of modern medicines can not be prevented. The modernization also affects the Native Americans but a small few still keep their ancient beliefs and traditions. Unfortunately, some of the ancient traditions in herbal medicine that were practiced by the Native Americans are now forgotten. If not forgotten, the herbs that were used are now very rare or are very expensive. And so, these ancient herbal medicines are rarely being used and are replaced with the cheaper alternative of modern medicines in the forms of tablets, capsules and syrups.
Native American herbal medicines can now be studied as books and copies of their techniques are now available. You would find it amazing that some of the kitchen vegetables we often use for cooking actually have very special effects on different ailments. For example, horsemint is used by the Native American tribes to ease back pains or fever. Wild black cherries are used as an anesthetic during childbirth. They brewed the wild black cherries and the pregnant woman would drink it and to lessen the pain.
The Native American’s traditions and culture is only a small fraction of what it used to be. Their lifestyle was nomadic and required many miles of territory, which conflicted with the white settlers and eventually led to their defeat. They were forced to live in reservations, usually on land far away from settlements that no one wanted because it was inhospitable. The younger generations were forced into government run school and made to learn a new language and encouraged to give up and forget most of their traditional ways.
Knowledge of most of these old ways was always handed down by word of mouth so there are very few written records. As the Native American elders die and the young are not interested in practicing the old ways, the old ways disappear. Many of the traditional Native American languages are almost forgotten with only a few old people even knowing how to speak them anymore. Once these elders are gone the language could disappear forever.
There are a few records of Native American herbal medicine that have been recorded by explorers in the early days and there are some that have been recorded by anthropologist. Even with these few written records, vast amounts of the old knowledge has been lost forever.