Medicine, Medicine Men & The American Indian

bannerGood Morning or Afternoon or Evening and Happy Tuesday!

I’ll be giving away a free e-book copy of THE LAST WARRIOR today.  So come on in and leave a message, that’s all you have to do to enter.  Void where prohibited.

Today I thought we might have a look at medicine, American Indian style.  But before we start, let me define the word, medicine from the Native American view.  Medicine meant in the days of early America, something mysterious, powerful, unexplainable.  Different living things and even objects had different medicine and I suppose (although I don’t know this exactly) that this definition came into being because when the white man came into this country, he had so many things that the Indians of old could not easily explain and had no experience with, so that these things became “mysterious,” or thus they had “medicine.”  But originally the meaning of this word meant that something or someone or some animal or spirit had taken pity on you and had bestowed upon you its secret power.

thumbnailCAOLH4B1Because the American Indian lived so closely to nature, their medicine included not only herbs and plants and roots (as well as the medicine man’s expertise), it also included food, itself.   Did you know that the Eastern Indian — the Iroquois in particular — made corn their main food source, along with beans and squash (the three sisters).  What?  Corn?  Well, when the white man took the food, he forgot to get the recipe.  In Native America, corn was always cooked or soaked and fermented in wood ash (actual wood ash).  What genius.  Did you know that when corn is soaked or cooked in wood ash, that it starts chemical changes in the food, that results in the corn becoming a full protein with a complete amino acid base?   But there was another food source that was very important.

And what is that food source?  Buffalo, of course.  Buffalo was the staff of life to the Native Americas of yesterday.  Not only did the buffalo give the people its skins for clothes, shoes, bags, sheilds and shelter, The-Buffalo-Hunt,-c.1832-small[1]it gave the people medicine in the form of food.  It’s liver eaten raw (as we once saw in the movie, Dances with Wolves) gave vigor to the people.  Meat was cooked, yes, but for those who were sick, meat was usually eaten raw.  Why?  Because raw meat contain valuable enzymes and other trace minerals that our body needs.  When food is eaten raw, it should allow one’s own digestive system to take a rest, because the food itself has it’s own enzymes to digest the food, thus allowing your own system to recover somewhat.  Meat was also dried after smoking it, thus retaining its raw status.  Organs were also eaten, something that we in our society have forgotten.  How many of us would eat tongue, brain, intestines, liver, etc?  And yet there is an entire system of healing called glandular remedies today that will help to rebuild and repair those same organs or glands in your own body.  People with thyroid problems are aware of this kind of healing, since one of the main drugs for thyroid repair contains grandulars to rebuild your thyroid.

adam-beach.jpgThe theory in those days long gone was, build a strong system — we know this same premise today as build a strong immune system — and the body can take care of most anything.  For those who needed extra help, or who were injured, there were herbs to fix snake bites (poisonous ones), herbs to help with childbirth or pregnancy, herbs for the stomach, teas for various problems and there was always soup brewing in every tepee, available to anyone for the asking.  Soups?  You might say?  Soups have traditionally nourished thousands upon thousands of generations.  Do you know why your grandmother or great-grandmother used to cook her stews for 24, sometimes 72 hours?  And why she always insisted to make her stews with bones?  Because the nutrients in the meat and in especially the bones are filled with micro-nutrients, some of which haven’t even been studies or discovered.  These nutrients seep out into the broth during the cooking — if you cook it long enough.

Of course there are many other home remedies.   MSM for spider and snake bites, goldenseal for cuts, mammary for female problems and the Native American remedy, Black Cohosh for female late life problems, charcoal & honey for sparkling teeth.  So let’s open up the discussion today with home remedies.  I’ve named a few, but I bet you have an entire household full of remedies.  What did your mother, grandmother, father or grandfather teach you?

However, before we go onto this topic, let me backtrack a bit to a book that was recently released in November of last year.  I didn’t do much plugging of the book at the time because within only a few months, THE ANGEL AND THE WARRIOR came out in Tradepaper.  What was that book?  THE LAST WARRIOR.

And so I thought I’d share a review of the book with you.


LastWarrior-The72lgFrom the mists of time, people have had legends about lost peoples, lost tribes, and lost civilizations. Karen Kay has chosen her topic well, brought forth legend and times when they were honoured. The Last Warrior is an intensely beautiful book, written on a backdrop of the 1890’s west, Karen takes us on a voyage of discovery with a young brave who has values not understood in the white world. Black Lion is led on a quest that leads him not only to Europe, but to the very one he seeks. There, yet unknown at the time, he finds the meaning of love. Too preoccupied to do anything but his job, the revelations come to him later when he finds a pregnant and very lost Suzette in The Song Bird’s tent. Known for her voice, Irena has followed Bill Hickcock and his show to America, she has her own agenda, her own quest, but when Suzette joins her, and when Black Lion comes into the mix, then the world spins, and thunder rolls, and only the gods can know what might come from the mix.

The Last Warrior has a rich background, a wealth of beautiful scenery, a host of magnetic characters, and a story you will not be able to put down. The tension and attraction that flares between Suzette and Black Lion is riddled with passion and desire. From their first accidental meeting in England when he proposes marriage, to her acceptance of his proposal in her aunt’s tent at the Wild West Show in the US, We are rooting for them both as we learn of the circumstances, of the bond, and of the sacrifices each are willing to make for the other. Only when you finish the book will you understand. This is a book of depth and sensitivity as well as being a wonderful romance. The Last Warrior will make you laugh, cry, and cheer as the terms of the quest are outlined, and the players take their places in the drama to come. Only then does Karen Kay allow the readers to see the possible ending, and even then keeps one on the edge of the seat until the end. The Last Warrior makes room and stands among the books by authors like Madeline Baker, Susan Edwards, and Cassie Edwards… The Last Warrior is a book you will read over and over again, and a great addition to your keeper shelf.

Yours in good reading,


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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.
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41 thoughts on “Medicine, Medicine Men & The American Indian”

    • Hi Debra!

      Thank you for that. Baking Soda I use also for ant bites — but not for spider bites. Then I use a mixture of MSM and echinacea-goldenseal — my husband used this for one of our dogs that was bite by a rattlesnake — her face was all swollen to almost twice its size — he gave it to her at night and the next day you couldn’t even tell she’d been bit.

  1. Wonderful post! I loved learning about the corn and wood ash! It must have taken years for these people to learn these remedies and how sad that instead of absorbing the best of all cultures, even today we view with suspicion remedies and medicine that we don’t understand or refuse to understand. Natural honey is good for so many things! I wish I could tell you that my family handed down something to me. All I can think of is warm olive oil drops in my ears and a hot water bottle for an earache when I was little. (With a cotton ball to “plug” the oil in.

    • I remember that remedy for earache also — but it wasn’t my own family that had so many remedies — somewhat — it was more my husband’s family. So many remedies — and I have tried my best to learn.

  2. We always had soup in our home. Not just chicken soup but potato soup, ox tail soup and spaghetti soup (made with ham, tomato,and bacon) were staples on the stove.

    • Hi Gayle!

      We have that alot, too. I always try to have some sort of broth freshly made each week.

  3. What a fascinating post! Thanks so much for the giveaway opportunity. I would love to read THE LAST WARRIOR!

  4. Thank you for sharing your knowledge! I use many remedies passed down in our family. I don’t recall any unusual ones at this time. I grew up in a small town in East Texas and everyone shared the knowledge they had for treating and caring for families and animals. I enjoy your blog and look forward to reading THE LAST WARRIOR! What a great review!

    • Hi Dianne!

      How fascinating. I, too, great up in a small town, but it was in Illinois — Texas is so much more romantic, I think. Thanks for your thoughts. : )

  5. Very interesting post. Unfortunately, my family didn’t hand down any home remedies. I am a huge fan of apple cider vinegar. I use it for my face, to help relieve the itch from bug bites, and to reduce acid reflux. I know that there are so many more uses for it I just can’t think of anymore right now. I can’t wait to read The Last Warrior.

    • Hi Rebekah!

      I think I say this each time I see your name, but I so love the spelling of it. My family had some home remedies, but really it is my husband’s family who passed down so many of them to me. I am so thankful for that. : )

  6. Feverfew works wonders for a migraine. Take it at onset with Tylenol and a couple of magnesium/calcium citrate tablets/capsules. They prescribe the feverfew for migraine suffers in Europe. The mag/cal is helpful to relax the muscles…valerian also helps with that…

    • Hi Michelle!

      I have used feverfew and of course the cal/mag to help relax the muscles. I’ve also taken valerian — mostly I take that to help me sleep. Does it do the same thing for you?

      Love your comment.

  7. Let’s not forget that when indigenous peoples with their healthy diets and strong immune systems came into contact with measles, smallpox, diptheria, typhoid, etc, they died by the thousands. Pathogens don’t care what you eat.

    • Hello Shay,

      But let’s also not forget that those diseases were oftentimes spread deliberately as a form of germ warfare by the military and other forces at the time. So that blankets that were infected with these diseases were spread amongst them. And so their exposure was oftentimes much greater than would have been if they had simply been in contact with another person who had the disease.

      • With airborne diseases like measles and diseases with high morbidity/mortality rates such as small pox, it would make no difference whether it was spread deliberately or not. The healthiest diet in the world will keep you healthy — as long as you aren’t around a source of contagion.

      • Am not so sure I agree. If that were true, then down through the ages all those people / nurses / doctors and medicine men/women would have gotten the illnesses, too. And if one carefully examines the statistics on this, this is not very usual that they contract those illnesses that they supervise. Occasionally, yes. Unfortunately, also, those very occasional ones are really blown up on our controlled news media. On his deathbed, Pasteur recanted his own work and acknowledged that it was the environment of the inner body that was all important, not the bacteria/virus. If one does the research on this, and the study, one can see that something else is at work here and bacteria/viruses are not as fearful as the news media might have us believe.

  8. One of the best home remedies that was past down to my great grandmother, from her great grandmother as I remember hearing her say, when I was about 4 years old. Was to never go to bed over an unresolved argument with any family member, but especially with your spouse, if it is at all possible to resolve that day.

  9. What a wonderful post and comments! I have some Cherokee Indian from my mom’s side of the family. It was her great or great great grandmother married an Indian. Mom couldn’t remember nor I, I’ve asked her over the years. Now mom is 92 yrs old and she has told me a few remedies. Her mom and grandmother made a herb pack(which I can’t remember) that they rubbed on their chest when they had a cold. Warm sweet oil for earaches. Hot tea with honey and lemon for a sore throat, as adults add some Brandy or Whiskey in it. I wish I would have wrote down all the remedies years ago. Mom said they would put ears of corn on the hot wood stove and that’s how they made popcorn. Mom is from Tennessee grew up when you smoked the meat in the smokehouse, churned butter, made patterns out of paper to sew their own dresses, etc. I’ll say again, I wish I would have wrote down all this over the years.
    I’d love to read this book!

    • Hi Donna!

      Wonderful comment. My mom grew up in much the same manner — some of these remedies I have known — like the honey and lemon tea for a sore throat. There’s another remedy for a cough that I can’t remember quite now — using similar ingredients, but also with garlic — and letting it sit and ferment for a day or so. Interesting…

  10. i love the cover, it’s gorgeous and the book sounds wonderful. i look forward to reading it. 🙂
    We often used a small amount of mud on the bee sting if the stinger was still in and when it dried a bit just peeled/scratched it off and the stinger came right out.
    For spider bites or any other insect really we tend to use a poultice of milk and bread. soak the bread in milk place on the bite and let it draw the poison out. you can actually feel it throb while it does. once it is sticky and dry on the edge pull it off and reapply if needed,but you should not need to.
    tammy ramey

  11. The folks of Mexico (in the Rio Grande Valley) eat the brains, tongue, tongue and intestines.. even the restaurants sell them.

    This story sounds lovely!

  12. Hi Melody!

    I have heard how good those things actually are for one. One of my books (and I can’t remember which one right now) has the heroine making a dish from intestines — I think the book is WHITE EAGLE’S TOUCH.

    Thanks so much for your compliment.

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