Native Americans are renowned for their medicinal plant knowledge. It is rumored they first started using plants and herbs for healing after watching animals eat certain plants when they were sick. In order to protect these plants from over harvesting, the medicine men used to pick every third plant they found.
The Native Americans had a spiritual view of life, and to be healthy, a person had to have a sense of purpose and follow a righteous, harmonious, and balanced path in life. They believed some illnesses were life lessons the person needed to learn and that they shouldn’t interfere. Many modern remedies and medicines are based on the Native American knowledge of the different plants and herbs they used for thousands of years.
Here are the most versatile plants the Native Americans used in their everyday lives:
#1. Yarrow (Achillea millefolium)
This fragrant, flowering plant has been used since Ancient Greece began using to stop excess bleeding. It is said the Greek hero Achilles used it on his wounds, hence the name. Pioneers and aboriginal people applied this on open wounds and cuts as a poultice made from the leaves to help clot the blood. They also combined fresh yarrow juice with water to help an upset stomach and for intestinal disorders. A tea made from the leaves and stems will act as an astringent.
This plant can be used for multiple medicinal remedies, but it is one of the only plants that the healers used in treating eye problems. A decoction from sumac was used as a gargle to relieve sore throats or taken as a remedy for diarrhea. The leaves and berries were combined in tea to reduce fever or made into a poultice to soothe poison ivy.
The Cherokee used this plant for treating an upset stomach. They used blackberry tea for curing diarrhea and soothing swollen tissues and joints. An all-natural cough syrup to heal sore throats can be made from blackberry root mixed with honey or maple syrup. To soothe bleeding gums, they used to chew the leaves. This plant is also good for strengthening the whole immune system.
Native American tribes considered this plant sacred. They used it mostly as an analgesic for alleviating sore joints. This herb improves memory, relieves muscle pain and spasm, and helps the circulatory and the nervous systems. It also improves the immune system and treats indigestion.
The Cherokee used to make a mint tea to soothe digestion problems and help an upset stomach. They also made a salve from the leaves to relieve itching skin and rashes.
#6. Red Clover
This plant has been used by healers for treating inflammation and respiratory conditions. Recent studies have shown that red clover helps to prevent heart disease by improving circulation and lowering cholesterol.
#7. Black Gum Bark
The Cherokee used to make a mild tea from the twigs and black gum bark to relieve chest pains.
This is one of the most famous survival plants the indigenous population used for food but also as a preventative medicine. Because it’s an easily digestible food, it’s helpful for recovering from illness. It is called the supermarket of the swamp as it can be used in multiple dishes.
#9. Pull Out a Sticker (Greenbriar)
This root tea was used as a blood purifier or for relieving joint pain. Some healers made a salve from leaves and bark mixed with hog lard, which was applied to minor sores, scalds, and burns.
#10. Hummingbird Blossom (Buck Brush)
The Native Americans used this plant for treating mouth and throat conditions as well as cysts, fibroid tumors, and inflammation. It can be made into a poultice to help treat burns, sores, and wounds. A diuretic that stimulates kidney function can be made using the roots of this plant.
The early pioneers utilized this particular plant as a substitute for black tea. Recent studies have shown that hummingbird blossom is effective in treating high blood pressure and lymphatic blockages.
#11. Wild Rose
The Native Americans used this plant as a preventive and a cure for a mild common cold. The tea stimulates the bladder and kidneys and is a mild diuretic. A petal infusion was used for a sore throat.
#12. Saw Palmetto
The native tribes of Florida, such as the Seminoles, used the plant for food, but medicine men used it as a natural remedy for abdominal pain. It also helps digestion, reduces inflammation, and stimulates appetite.