23 Medicinal Plants the Native Americans Used on a Daily Basis

Anne
By Anne May 1, 2017 12:27

23 Medicinal Plants the Native Americans Used on a Daily Basis

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.


#2. Sumac2. sumac

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.


#3. BlackberryRipe blackberries

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.

Related: How I Make My Own Cough Mixture


#4. RosemaryRosemary

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.


#5. Mintmint

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 CloverRed 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 Barkblack gum bark

The Cherokee used to make a mild tea from the twigs and black gum bark to relieve chest pains.

Related: How Cherokees Used Trees of Southern Appalachia for Food, Medicine, and Craft


#8. Cattail4. cattails

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.

Related: Delicious Recipes Using Cattails The Supermarket of the Swamp


#9. Pull Out a Sticker (Greenbriar)5. 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)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 Rose7. 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 Palmetto8. saw palmeto

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.


#13. Sagesage

Sage is commonly used as a spice, but it was a sacred plant for many indigenous tribes as it was thought to have effective purifying energies and to cleanse the body of negative energies. As a remedy, it was used for treating medical conditions like abdominal cramps, spasms, cuts, bruises, colds, and flu.

Related: How I Grow My Herbs Indoors


#14. Wild Gingerwild ginger

Healers used this plant for treating earache and ear infections. They also made a mild tea from the rootstock for stimulating the digestive system and relieving bloating. It also helps with bronchial infections and nausea.

Update: One of our readers sent us original pictures of wild ginger to help people identify the plant easier. (Photo credit: Erik Nielsen, Rational Design Studio)

Wild Ginnger


#15. Slippery Elmslippery elm

The Native Americans used the inner bark to fashion bow strings, rope, thread, and clothing. Tea was made from the bark and leaves to soothe toothaches, respiratory irritations, skin conditions, stomach ache, sore throats, and even spider bites.


#16. Lavenderlavender

Healers used this plant as a remedy for insomnia, anxiety, depression, headache, and fatigue. The essential oil has antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties. Infusions can be used to soothe insect bites as well as burns.

Related: 79 Edible Flowers in North America (with Pictures)


#17. Prickly Pear CactusPrickly-Pear-Cactus

This is another plant that has been used as both a food and medicine. Native Americans made a poultice from mature pads as an antiseptic and for treating wounds, burns, and boils. Tea was made to treat urinary tract infections and to help the immune system. Now research shows that the prickly pear cactus helps to lower cholesterol and prevents diabetes and diet-related cardiovascular disease.


#18. Honeysucklehoneysuckle

This plant has been used as a natural remedy by the Native Americans for treating asthma, but it has multiple healing purposes, including rheumatoid arthritis, mumps, and hepatitis. It also helps with upper respiratory tract infections, such as pneumonia.


#19. Ashwagandhaashwagandha-herb

This plant was an important plant for healers because of its many unusual medicinal uses. It treats bone weakness, muscle weakness and tension, loose teeth, memory loss, and rheumatism. It can also be used as a sedative. It has an overall rejuvenating effect on the body as it improves vitality. The leaves and the root bark can also be used as an antibiotic. If made into a poultice, it helps reduce swelling and treats pain. Caution is advised in the use of this plant since it is toxic.


#20. Mulleinmullein

A tobacco-like plant, it was mainly used to treat respiratory disorders. The Native Americans made concoctions from the roots to reduce swelling in the joints, feet, or hands. Here you can find more medical uses for mullein.


#21. Licorice Rootlicorice root

This root is famously used for flavoring candies, foods, and beverages. But it has also been used by healers to treat stomach problems, bronchitis, food poisoning, and chronic fatigue.


#22. Uva Ursiuva ursi

Because of the bear’s affection toward this plant’s fruits, it is also known as Bearberry and Beargrape. The Native Americans used this plant mainly for treating bladder and urinary tract infections.


#23. Devil’s Clawdevil's claw

Although the name would suggest a poisonous plant, the Native Americans used it to heal various conditions, from treating fever to soothing skin conditions, improving digestion, and treating arthritis. The tea can reduce the effects of diabetes, while a concoction made from the plant’s roots reduces swelling and helps with joint disease, arthritis, gout, back pain, headache, and sores.

Remember that knowledge is the only doctor that can save you when there is no medical help around.

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Anne
By Anne May 1, 2017 12:27
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40 Comments

  1. Randy May 1, 13:58

    the pic for blackberry is really a black raspberry

    Reply to this comment
    • LeeVA May 2, 11:46

      That is what I thought also, blackberry seed section is larger and leaves are different size and color.

      Reply to this comment
    • Anne Author May 2, 15:56

      Thank you much for bringing this to my attention. I just made the appropriate changes.

      Reply to this comment
    • Tonto June 27, 16:00

      No. It looks like blackberry.
      You can see the white pith at the bottom of the stem.
      The black raspberry is smaller and hollow inside when the stem is removed.

      Reply to this comment
  2. Jack May 1, 14:01

    In Europe, Saw Palmetto is widely prescribed for prostate issues.

    Reply to this comment
  3. sally May 1, 14:11

    good info…thanks…I wish I could grow all the plants. the cattails are useful /. I don’t like a lot of email, but this was worth it.

    Reply to this comment
  4. PaPa Don May 1, 14:28

    Very worthwhile information

    Reply to this comment
  5. TFZ May 1, 14:39

    Great piece! I already use an teach these in my survival classes. I’m glad other people can see how to use them as well. TFZ

    Reply to this comment
  6. Big Boy for MO May 1, 15:09

    I have never seen wild ginger but that picture looked like wild violet.

    Reply to this comment
    • Runigh May 1, 20:58

      The picture for wild ginger is indeed accurate. There are several varieties. The small violet flower that shows on one leaf is an accident. The actual wild ginger flower appears early in spring when the leaves appear. I have many pictures of this plant as it grows prolifically where I lived for 40 years. This particular variety is the Canadian variety. The Huntsville (AL) Botanical Society sold 3 varieties at their plant sale this spring. The other 2 are common in the south. The wild ginger has distinctive leaves in sets of 2 unlike the violet. The leaves of the Canadian one are not glossy like the other varieties. It is an endangered species as deer love to feed on it. It is also called Canada snakeroot and favored in the perfume industry. The aroma is awesome.

      Reply to this comment
    • jhbd May 1, 22:03

      As far as I know the wild ginger doesn’t flower but the flowers you see are indeed wild violet growing in and around it.

      Reply to this comment
      • Runigh May 2, 15:31

        jhbd, yes, the wild ginger does flower but it’s very easy to miss seeing it. The flower is very low to the ground and looks like a tiny cup with 3 points coming off the lip that are pink to rusty brown in color. It is short lived and once the leaves have grown a few inches it will disappear. The southern varieties have a more sack like blossom and are called “jugs”. When you see leaves the size of those in the picture, there likely won’t be much left of any blossoms and those would be way down at the base of the stems. The leaves grow in sets of 2. Yes, wild violets, dandelions and wood land plants grow among them. Ours were in the wood lands along Lake Michigan in Manitowoc WI area.

        Reply to this comment
  7. Carey May 1, 15:22

    Love this article as I do all. Very informative with great pictures making the plants identifiable. Please put them in downloadable format so they can be saved and not just printed!

    Reply to this comment
    • Keene May 1, 16:46

      download a free program called CutePDF Writer and when you go to print the file select your CutePDF “printer” and it will print the article as a pdf file, saved wherever you choose.

      Reply to this comment
  8. BikerMom May 1, 15:59

    Anne,
    The lovely picture you have for blackberries is a picture of black raspberries.

    Reply to this comment
    • Anne Author May 2, 15:57

      Thank you much for bringing this to my attention

      Reply to this comment
    • marty May 3, 19:24

      I have spent many days picking both blackberries and black raspberries over the past 60+ years….. this pic is blackberries no doubt… check a seed catalog for pics and compare

      Reply to this comment
  9. Dan May 1, 18:27

    I wish that you would have explained to to use each plant. I don’t know what to do or how to use them.

    Reply to this comment
  10. Runigh May 1, 21:02

    There are a number of reputable schools of herbal knowledge. The one I am most familiar with is Dr. Christophers’ School of Natural Healing. His text book is sometimes found on Amazon as a used book. It is very precise in how the herbs work, what they are used for, precautions and historical use.

    Reply to this comment
  11. Akecheta May 2, 07:41

    This is an excellent piece of work!

    Reply to this comment
  12. vocalpatriot May 2, 14:44

    What good is a list of medicinal plants that many of which do not grow in your country?
    Do your research folks. Find the plants that grow near you and make your OWN list.

    Reply to this comment
  13. DogWrangler May 2, 19:51

    Good article. However:

    PLEASE STOP WRITING ABOUT NATIVE CULTURES IN THE PAST TENSE !!!!!!

    These cuties are NOT monolithic and more importantly, although under duress, Native Culture an People’s are in no way dead and gone!!! Most aren’t even “conquored” as the prevailing mythology goes. They just relied on treaties and conversations that the more powerful and more numerous decided we’re no longer (if ever) to be followed.

    DO NOT WRITE US OFF. We know things we will ALL need to know in the not to distant future.

    Reply to this comment
    • DogWrangler May 2, 19:52

      Good article. However:

      PLEASE STOP WRITING ABOUT NATIVE CULTURES IN THE PAST TENSE !!!!!!

      These cultures are NOT monolithic and more importantly, although under duress, Native Culture an People’s are in no way dead and gone!!! Most aren’t even “conquored” as the prevailing mythology goes. They just relied on treaties and conversations that the more powerful and more numerous decided we’re no longer (if ever) to be followed.

      DO NOT WRITE US OFF. We know things we will ALL need to know in the not to distant future.

      Reply to this comment
  14. Keene May 3, 05:28

    To Dogwranger — you’re absolutely right and we have much to learn from the Native Americans. I only wish my ancestors hadn’t been so arrogant to not understand that. Thanks for the reminder.

    Reply to this comment
  15. DogWrangler May 3, 23:07

    Hmmmm. I’ve always been told black raspberries and black berries we’re the same thing…..

    Reply to this comment
  16. jerrible May 5, 21:33

    Where can I get a book that shows these plants as well as how to prepare them for use

    Reply to this comment
    • Jim May 7, 15:04

      Euel Gibbons had such a book. We used it in a college class I took called ‘S sling Wild Food’s. You might also search for the ‘Foxfiire’ series of books.

      Reply to this comment
  17. Lydia May 9, 08:59

    I have had bouts of bronchitis for about 10 months out of the year for the last 2 years. I’ve been given z pack antibiotics, steroids which are ineffective and occasionally the prescription cough syrup which works for a 2-3 hours at a time. I am desperate for relief. I am on my third doctor in 6 months and he is treating me with the same drugs. So far no improvement. So far the bronchitis has caused scarring in my lungs, laryngitis, pulled muscles, and a fractured rib.I was desperate for help to help me feel better. i was introduced to Health herbal clinic in Johannesburg who have successful herbal treatment to bronchitis . I spoke to few people who used the treatment here in USA and they all gave a positive response, so i immediately purchased the bronchitis herbal formula and commenced usage, i used the herbal supplement for only 7 weeks, all symptoms gradually faded away, herbs are truly gift from God. contact this herbal clinic via their email healthherbalclinic @ gmail. com or visit www. healthherbalclinic. weebly. com

    Reply to this comment
  18. Makwa May 11, 14:14

    Some of these are accurate some are not, study before you use natural
    Meds. A brief article is not the way to learn. These are meds after all. Treat them as such.

    Reply to this comment
  19. Miller May 15, 12:37

    I am a male of 55 years now and I have been confirmed diabetic. I am having lots of symptom like weak erection, weakness of the body, dry lips and palms, and even restlessness in the legs and shrinking of my general body build ups. My head is itching very much. I’m a male and at the time of diagnosis, I weighed about 215. (I’m 6’2″)Within 6 months, I had gained 30 to 35 pounds, and apparently the diabetes medicines (Actos and Glimiperide) are known to cause weight gain. I wish my doctor had mentioned that, so I could have monitored my weight more closely. It’s been very hard to lose this weight.nothing was really working to help my condition. Finally i started on Diabetes herbal formula i purchased from Health Herbal Clinic, i read alot of positive reviews from other patients who used the Diabetes herbal treatment. I used the herbal remedy for 7 weeks, its effects on diabetes is amazing, all my symptoms gradually faded away, i walk very more freely by myself now! Visit www. healthherbalclinic. weebly. com or email at healthherbalclinic@ gmail. com I recommend this diabetes herbal formula for all diabetic Patients.

    Reply to this comment
  20. Zom Sanchez June 17, 22:45

    thank to doctor Monday,I am from USA, I was diagnosed of Emphysema
    (COPD) in 2014 and I have tried all possible means to get cured, i even
    visited phonologist but all to no avail, until i saw a post in a health
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    Reply to this comment
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