Herbs, Magic & the American Indian

Good Morning!  or Afternoon!

With the advent of modern technology (I was just reading an article about vaccines and nanotechnology implants and how microchips — or nanochips can be added to vaccines).  I read both viewpoints (good and bad) and looked at all the things that can go wrong (or right), and I thought it might be prudent as well as a little fun to have a look at herbs, American Indian style.

I guess there’s always been “black magic.”  Many years ago I met someone who had at one time been a witch (not a good one), who had seen the error of her ways and had changed her whole life.   It was the first time I had run head on with the fact that there really is “good magic,” and “bad magic.”  Good magic would of course promote health and the feeling of well-being.  It would aid one in survival and help one’s family and friends.  Black magic would of course be the opposite.  It would promote death and destruction of oneself, one’s family and friends.  Perhaps even of the whole human race.  In some ways I view this nano technology when it is married with vaccines as a bit of black magic.

Getting back to Native American, however, fFrom different studies I’ve done, it’s now pretty apparent to me that there were witches and people (men and women) who engaged in the black arts in most of Native America.  Witches were feared and if one were suspected of being a witch, one might be driven out of the tribe.  Medicine men (or women) often countered the “spells” of those whose intentions were hardly helpful.  Often in order to counter these “spells,” they used herbs.  They also used song, and the power of one’s personality and wit to drive out the evil spirits.

I’ve often thought there was something very different and very special about the American Indian medicine man.  (Medicine in Native America meant originally mystery to do certain things, often having to do with healing or helping others.)  After reading much about them and about many of the cures that they delivered, I’ve begun to think of them in a very special way, indeed.  Often they were called upon to counter an evil spell, to heal the sick, to foresee the future for the tribe or war party.  They were generally very able not only in their physical body and mind, but in spirit.

But getting back to the original subject, which is of herbs, did you know that these medicine men or women, when going hunting for herbs, would first prepare their baskets (where they place those plants they had picked).  The baskets would be sprinkled with tobacco and would remain this way overnight.

Early the next morning the medicine man or woman would pray — actually all the American Indian tribes I’ve studied prayed first thing in the morning.    Then in the crisp autumn morning, the medicine man or woman would start on his/her journey to hunt for herbs.  The medicine man or woman would bring bundles of tobacco or wampum, beads, silver ornaments, quilled bands — many different things to offer as a sacrifice to the spirit of the plant.

They collected many different things — apple roots, hickory bark, sassafras, mandrake, prickly ash, wintergreen, elder bark, golden seal, ginseng, male fern, mint, sheep sorel, witch hazel, spruce, boneset.  The way in which the plant was picked was also important.  If one wanted its medicine to work and to cure, then one spoke to the plant first.  It was the Seneca prophet, Handsome Lake who is quoted as saying, “Now let this be your ceremony when you wish to employ the medicine in a plant:  First offer tobacco, then tell the plant in gentle words what you desire of it, and then pluck it from the roots.  It is said in teh upper world that it is not right to take a plant for medicine without first talking to it.”

Often the medicine man or woman would chante a song, singing to the plant to tell it what one intended and to let the plant know that seeds would be planted so that the plant would continue to live.  Then when the plant was at last pulled, its seeds would be planted, as one had promised to the plant.  Only in this way would the plant help to remedy the ills that would often befall those in the tribe.

Did you know that prior to the white man coming to this continent, there were no contagious diseases in America, except maybe one or two.  It was also believed that the air, sun, pure water and exercise were remedies for many common ills, also.  Many thought of sunlight as food, thus, when the white man came, blocking himself off from the sun by wearing so many clothes, the American Indian considered him unintelligent, and was not surprised when he seemed sickly and ill.

Of course now we know that Vitamin D3 comes mainly from the sun — and nutritionalists are finding this vitamin (D3) to help in so many of our modern ills.

The medicine man or woman would bring his precious find back to his home and would dry them, being careful not to let any impure person come near them.  Medicine men and women were often very successful.  But whether it was because of their herbs, their personal power or a certain magic that they developed over time, is hard to discern.

But I thought, after reading about this nano-technology and those who would seek to profit from this technology by subjecting another to his whims, it might be nice to look at those things that help, those remedies that heal and those things that have been with man probably as long as there has been a man alive,  Hope you’ve enjoyed today’s blog and hope you’ll come on in and leave me a message, maybe quoting things (remedies) that help to bring hope and happiness and well being to those in one’s care.

And as usual I’ll be giving away a free copy of one of my books to some lucky blogger today.  So come on in and join in the discusssion.

Karen Kay
KAREN KAY aka GEN BAILEY is the multi-published author of American Indian Historical Romances. She has written for such prestigious publishers as AVON/HarperCollins, Berkley/Penguin/Putnam and Samhain Publishing. KAREN KAY’S great grandmother was Choctaw Indian and Kay is honored to be able to write about the American Indian Culture.
Please refer to https://petticoatsandpistols.com/sweepstakesrules for all contest rules.
Updated: August 27, 2010 — 10:57 am

39 Comments

  1. Hi, Kay! So lovely to see you here today! Thank you for a very enjoyable post. To me, Native American medicine has always been a “magic” union of spirituality and practicality. A combination of faith and the use of items found at hand. That’s the way it should be. Metaphysical plus physical. Careful thought and acting with care : )

  2. Interesting!

    Echinacea is used to boost the immune system and used for cold symptoms: sore throats, coughs and pain relief. I also read that it was given for snake bites.

    Lavender has a nice smell. It was also used for insect bites and to keep insects away. It was used as a relaxant, sleep aide. lavender oil was used to treat burns and headaches.

    Edelweiss flower = Talisman to ward off evil- A powerful medicine used by men over time to ward off beasts.

    Ginseng- calms you down, a relaxant, used to relieve stress

    Garlic- expectorant for coughs and croup,prevents heart disease= vasodialater, regulates blood sugar levels, possible cancer preventing benefit.

    PLUS additional antibacterial,antiviral and antifungal uses.

    Mint(=mentha)

    Breath refreshner, treatment of stomach aches and chest pain, decongestant, used to repel insects and kill them

    Garlic cloves fight infections

  3. Enjoyed reading the comments. I remember my grandmother drank sassafras tea at a certain time of the year and she had a lot of home-remedies using some herbs.

  4. Great post, I know a lot of the older people used herbs for a lot of different things, it seemed like making tea from them would be a cure for everything. I think sometimes they do work. My grandmother use to do things like this. She also had a Sassafras tree in her back yard and the leaves smelled so good! Haven’t seen a sassafras tree in years now.

  5. Kay, when I found I had high cholesterol, my doctor and I turned to natural remedies instead of jumping off into high dollar (and with so many side effects) cholesterol medicine. I’m taking Red Yeast Rice, Cinnamon, and Niacin. Plus watching what I eat and getting some excercise. However on the excercise part, I don’t do near enough. I’ve never been especially good at exercising. I start with good intentions but before I know I’ve slacked off and then stopped. But, the good news is that my cholesterol lowered dramtically and my doctor is pleased. So am I. I also take fish oil capsules because I don’t eat enough fish. I know I should but I really don’t like the taste and smell of it.

    Good luck with your book sales!

  6. Very interesting, Karen. I think that many of us would like to take meds with fewer side effects. My mom raised me with many home remedies. And I’m glad I learned them. Many have come in handy over the years when going to the doc wasn’t possible. And your discussion of magic is interesting too. I do believe there is a spirit world and protecting ourselves from bad spirits is not a crazee idea.

  7. Hi Virginia C!

    It’s great to see you here today too. I feel like I’ve been away for a while. Many different interruptions came into my life as I was touring, and I’m only now starting to “resurface.”

    Thanks for your thoughts. So very appreciated. 🙂

  8. Wow Laurie!

    You are an encyclopedia of information. I love it!

    As for garlic, I have another use for it — when my eldest daughter was little, she had a wart on her face that bothered her. For about 2 weeks I put garlic oil on that wart every night before she went to sleep.

    The result of it was that the wart went away and has never returned. As a matter of fact her body stayed and has stayed to this day wart free. 🙂

  9. Another use by the way for godenseal and echinacea when combined with MSM can help with poisonous spider bites. They can soothe a brown recluse bite and heal it without a scar.

  10. Hi Joye!

    Someday I’d like to write about my grandma’s cupboard and all the home remedies she had. There were so very many of them. I’d like to commit them to writing so that we never lose them.

  11. Hi Quilt Lady!

    Sassafras trees — long time since I’ve seen any of them, either. When I was in 3rd grade our teacher brought in sassafras and made a tea of it and explained to us its medicinal use. The good old days, heh?

  12. Hi Linda!

    Isn’t that great news about how these natural things (given to us from God) can help? There’s another food that’s good for blood pressure problems and that’s non-GMO beets (raw) — in juices or that sort of thing.

    We have a garden this year and I a bunch of beets just awaiting my juicing them.

    Might I suggest on the exercise thing that you try someone called Cathe — http://www.cathe.com. I started exercising almost 25 years ago — every day — mostly because my parents both died young from things that exercise might have prevented — and so I started exercising young.

    But to keep myself interested I now exericse to video tapes. And Cathe is the best — interesting, cute, and I don’t injure myself doing those exercises. I do weight workouts, too — never going too heavy — I don’t go beyond 8 lbs in each hand (or 16 lbs total). But Cathe is so good, I can’t recommend her highly enough. And exercise is so important. There’s a form of exercise (called anaerobics) that stimulate the HGH in an older person, thus helping them to remain younger looking in body and in form.

    Anyway, there you go. 🙂

  13. Hi Lyn!

    In many ways, the American Indian lived and worked in a world very different from our own — even though the environment was the same, the way in which it was looked upon was quite different. There were many superstitutions, too, which in my consideration isn’t a good thing — but there was definitely what I would call magic. And often those medicine men and women would heal simply by their presence alone.

    I think in this very materialistic age in which we live, we sometimes forget that such things exist and can have a power that is often overlooked. 🙂

  14. Another remedy that is easy and simple is for blood sugar, by the way — and that is cinnamon — but it has to be the Ceylon cinnamon. Did you know that there are two different kinds of cinnamon and that the kind that is usually on the market is a little toxic? That it can have ill effects on the liver? It isn’t actually cinnamon per se — so when looking for cinnamon to help with blood sugar — be certain you’re getting Ceylon cinnamon — it has a sweeter taste and more delicate taste.

    Interestingly, since learning this difference, I bought the Ceylon cinnamon and after using it for a while (it is different) I remembered the taste from my childhood, when the Ceylon cinnamon was in full use.

  15. In recent years, my mother has turned to more natural products… garlic, cinnamon, etc… and she looks for more great information all of the time for others… she is always telling me something new…

  16. Hi Colleen!

    I have to admit that I seem to be following in your mother’s image. I look for more and more natural products. I’ve decided as far as skin creams, soaps, make-up, etc., that if I can’t eat it, it doesn’t go on my face or on my body.

    I wish I’d understood this years ago — but since the skin is the bigger organ in the body, everything you put on your skin eventually makes its way into your body — and all those creams that say they are not for internal use — is useless. Everything that goes on the skin gets into the body eventually (if you don’t wash it off).

    I even make my own moisturizer (did I spell that right)? And I search for makeup that is pure, natural and doesn’t use petroleum products as part of its main ingredients.

    Unfortunately science (which so enabled us at first) has been turned against us in many cases. One really has to do the research nowadays.

  17. What an informative, interesting post! I am certainly going to look for the Ceylon cinnimon. Think this post is going to send me researching.
    I do take vitamin D daily and feel much better for it. I work in a room with no outside light and was often feeling down until the Vitamin D was suggested.

  18. Hi Connie!

    Yes, do look up the difference between what they call Ceylon cinnamon and what’s commonly on the market nowadays which isn’t really cinnamon — it’s real name is Cassio — it’s from China or Indonesia — sometimes from India — but mostly China or Indonesia — and it is toxic to the liver, whereas real cinnamon — or Ceylon cinnamon isn’t toxic to the liver.

    Vitamin D3 is the vitamin of choice nowadays — it’s really been recently rediscovered. 🙂 So check your source and make sure it’s vitamin D3. 🙂

  19. When we were young, our mother would make a tea of
    an ashy, gray plant she called what sounded like
    “senisa” in Spanish. It was used for its calming
    properties & with nine children she had great need
    of those properties! My grandmother always used
    various plants and herbs to treat the family for
    a variety of problems. She was taught how to promote
    healthy healing by her mother in Mexico.

    Pat Cochran

  20. I have to check if the cinnamon I use for baking is Ceylon cinnimon.

  21. Wow, Pat! So enlightening.

    I so love this. My only fear is that the knowledge of this is being lost not due to our elders not passing it along, but rather to the advent of TV, drugs and the culture in general that seems to hold such things in disregard.

    And yet the herbs and the person who had knowledge of them — was an essential and respected person in all tribes and in all cultures (except maybe our own at present).

    I call these natural remedies that one can go and pick for oneself, “God’s remedies” rather than man-made remedies that often come with not only the “remedy” but many other side effects also. Just my own language for it — but I like the distinction. For my own part, my own opinion, when man starts to reinvent “God,” and pretend to do His job just as well as He does, we’re in for a rough ride.

    My thoughts.

  22. Hi Minna! I had to do the same thing and eventually it came down to calling the company that provided the cinnamon in the first place.

    I was surprised (because I only eat organic) that the cinnamon that I commonly buy was Cassia and not cinnamon at all. The real Ceylon cinnamon has a lighter color, a more delicate taste and a sweeter taste. At first I thought I didn’t recognize that taste, but as I ate if more and more I discovered that I remembered it from my youth. That was the taste that I had remembered, not the Cassia, which is the most common form of cinnamon on the marketplace today.

    Just remember that it can cause a toxic reaction in the liver, whereas the real cinnamon, Ceylon cinnamon, does not.

  23. I always enjoy your Native American posts!

  24. As always, a terrific post, Kay. And another dose of Adam!

    We just got back from our wagon-train trip around the Tetons. Incredible!

    My mom used to make me tea with ginger in it for bad cramps. It worked.

    Many hugs! oxoxo

  25. What a great post. I’m learning so much. I too am going to now look for the Ceylon cinnamon. I’ve heard for every disease there is a cure in nature but unfortunately we seem to be destroying things faster than we can find them. Has anyone read Jean Auel’s Earth’s Children series? It too talks a great deal about how medicine was passed on in the very beginning.

  26. ah karen–a great post as always
    i find the native american medicine man/woman uterly fascinating!
    i STRONGLY believe that most of our health is determined by diet and lifestyle and not genetics like we’d all sometimes rather believe (less guilt that way)
    I highly recommend the book, The China Study—it’s the largest study on diet/health ever done and has some staggering information that might change your life

    i too believe that all the shampoos, soaps, cleaning products, etc are toxic to our bodies and try to stick to the most natural diet and lifestyle that i can

    i also have decided i think vitamins are mostly bad….isolating vitamin a or b or any such vitamin and artificially putting it into a pill isn’t how your body can actually use it…plus it’s not including all the “co-factors” that naturally would occur with that vitamin to help it work…i’ve read some interesting research about the dangers of vitamins…
    seems to just take us full circle..the more we think we can scientifically create health…the more it seems obvious we need to derive it from the world around us, naturally–like we were meant to
    i strongly believe if we all at whole foods and actually moved our bodied would be healthy enough to fight off many of today’s maladies

    ps–will check out your exercise link and the ceylon cinnamon

  27. Thanks so much Estella! 🙂

  28. I want to remember that remedy for cramps. And I so love ginger. Did you also know that it’s good when you feel dizzy. Great herb.

    How were the Grand Tetons. Beautiful, I bet. One of the most beautiful places on earth, I think.

  29. Hi Catslady!

    I haven’t read that series, but it sounds fascinating. I wish I still had the links to go and research the Ceylon cinnamon — I’ll have to go back and see if I can find them.

    Yes, our society does seem in a mad rush to destroy — not only nature, but itself as well. Sigh…

  30. Hi Tabitha!

    I, too, believe as you do. I eat only organic, but even the word organic is being torn down by corporations that are looking at the organic industry with a profit driven eye.

    Whole Foods Market used to be a great place, but recently the owner/founder of it made some statements about raw milk (as nature intended it to be) — and some degrading statements about those people who eat meat. I can only conclude that he’s being ill advised or has sold out — either way, I only shop there now if I absolutely have to — only because even the word “organic” is being misused nowadays.

    I have heard of the thing you’re talking about about the co-factors being missing in the vitamins — only thing is — for some people this is the only way they have of getting those vitamins cause our food source is so deficient. Also some vitamin companies realize this and make them so that they are more bio-digestible — like the Standard Process company.

    Anyway, yes, I so agree with you. 🙂

  31. Great Post Kay.

    A medicine man told me if you have a cough to take a small amount of honey and it would stop the cough. I believe the medicine men and woman are special. I could sit for hours just listening to them.

    Thanks Kay for doing such a great job

    Walk in harmony,
    Melinda

  32. hi kay!
    i realized i didn’t add anything in about remedies etc with my tagent, lol

    yes–i do believe that vitamins do have some use and that there are some good manufacturers out there that produce some “whole foods” vitamins…i was in a hurry and kinda just got on the rant tangent and left my post a little rough
    just meant that most of the vitamin popping population is under false pretense that these bottles of pills are giving them optimum health

    i’m quite certain that the native american were so strong and healthy because of their lifestyle…though many of the living conditions long ago are a bit horrible sounding…i always think living with the indians sounded comfortable (well–other than some of the strange things some of the tribes ate, lol)

    melinda–i give my children honey for coughs…i think it helps and it sure makes them happy 🙂

  33. I like to drink herbal teas for my good healath. Many people think they have medicinal qualities.
    Place a sprig of mint or spearmint in a bag of flour, cornmeal or pancake flour and be weavel-free.

  34. Hi Melinda!

    So good to see you here! It’s been a while since we talked. Add a little lemon to that and you have my grandmother’s remedy for a cough, also. : )

    Yes, medicine men and women are special beings, I do believe.

  35. Hi Tabitha!

    Yes, I agree. And as Big Pharma gets more and more into the act of making vitamins, we’ll probably see them decrease in their ability to help the body also. After all, vitamins are not Big Pharma’s big profit margin.

    Do I sound sardonic? I hope so. 🙂

    Yes, I gave my kids honey, also, but with lemon — make that raw honey, by the way. Cooked honey is a little toxic.

  36. Hi Jackie!

    Thanks for that tip on the mint in a bag of flour. I have many grains that I keep here — and they almost always get buggy and I spend hours getting the bugs out of them. I’m going to try that mint or spearmint. 🙂

  37. Here’s one that works for me every time (well almost every time) — and that’s charcoal for a stomach ache. You can get it at Health Food Stores — activated charcoal — add some edible clay with that — and the clay acts to attach itself to whatever the toxins are and will wash it out of the body — or if you don’t have clay — raw cheese does a similar kind of thing as the clay. 🙂

  38. Avatar

    Using the natural qualities of a plant makes sense. While you need to be careful, for all the good they can do some can be quite deadly. We have collected rose hips to chew a little on and to use to make rose hip tea. It is a great source of Vitamin C.

    The further we get from natural foods and the more processing that is done to them, the lower the quality.

    I’m falling asleep at the keyboard. Thanks for a good post as usual, Karen. I hope to start THE LAST WARRIOR in the next few weeks. Thanks.

  39. Wow, I didn’t know about the raw cheese acting in a similar manner to clay.
    Charcoal and Bentonite clay will also help you detox if you live in the Gulf of Mexico.
    Amazing blog as usual! I do talk to my tomato plants before I pluck the tomatoes. And, I have thanked my herbs many times.
    Herbs and natural supplements have saved my life so many times I’ve lost count now.
    Being severely allergic to every drug, prescription and over the counter, I’ve relied exclusively on natural remedies for the past thirty years, at least.
    I’ll have to get some Ceylon Cinnamon. I had read about the difference, but not in the detail you spoke about. THANKS!

Comments are closed.