Native Americans are renowned for their knowledge of medicinal plants. 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.
Here are the most versatile plants the Native Americans used in their everyday lives:
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.
Rosehip is the red to orange berry that is the fruit of wild roses. It is known to be a massive source of vitamin C. When eaten whole, crushed into a tea or added to food it can be used to treat colds and coughs, intestinal distress as an antiseptic and to treat inflammation.
Native American tribes considered this plant to be 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.
This fragrant flowering plant has been used since ancient Greece to stop excess bleeding. It is said the Greek hero Achilles used it on his wounds.
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 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.
The root, used as an infusion in a tea, relieves muscle aches, pain and is said to have a calming of affect.
As a tea it is used to treat digestive problems and often mixed with other herbs and plants such as aloe to soothe muscles. It is also used to soothe toothaches and a sore throat.
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 are combined in tea to reduce fever or made into a poultice to soothe poison ivy.
Aloe is a cactus like plant. The thick leaves can be squeezed to extrude a thick SAP that can be used to treat burns, insect bites and wounds.
Healers use 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.
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.
Black Gum bark
The Cherokee used to make a mild tea from Black Gum bark to relieve chest pains.
Commonly thought of today as a cause of allergies and sneezing, Goldenrod was actually considered another all-in-one medicine by the Native Americans.
It is used as a tea, an addition to food and a topical salve to treat conditions from bronchitis and chest congestion to colds, flu, inflammation, sore throats and as an antiseptic for cuts and abrasions.
This is one of the most famous survival plants the indigenous population used, not just for food but also as a preventive medicine. It’s an easily digestible food and is helpful for recovering from illness. Cattail is called the supermarket of the swamp as it can be used in multiple dishes.
The Native Americans use this plant for treating mouth and throat conditions as well as cysts, fibroid tumors and inflammation. It can also be made into a poultice to help treat burns, sores and wounds. The roots of this plant can be used to make a diuretic that stimulates kidney function.
The early pioneers used Humminbird blossom as a substitute for black tea. Recent studies have shown that it is effective in treating high blood pressure and lymphatic blockages.
Smooth herbaceous greenbrier
This was used as a blood purifier for relieving joint pain. Some healers made a salve from the leaves and bark mixed with hog lard which was applied to sores, scolds and burns.
The Native Americans use this plant as a preventative and a cure for a mild common cold. Wild rose tea stimulates the bladder and kidneys and is a mild diuretic. An infusion of Wild rose was used for a sore throat.
Since ancient times Native American herbal remedies would use this as an analgesic and a sedative. It is great to use for depression or mental clouding since it is full of flavonoids and produces a sedative effect on the nervous system. The lack of toxicity allows Passionflower to be administered to children
The native tribes of Florida such as the Seminoles use Saw palmetto for food. but medicine men used it as a natural remedy for abdominal pain. It also helps digestion, reduces inflammation and stimulates appetite.
The Native Americans used the inner bark of Slippery elm to fashion bow strings, rope thread and clothing. Tea was made from the bark and leaves to soothe toothe aches, respiratory irritations, skin conditions, stomachache, sore throats and even spider bites!
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.
This plant has been used as a natural remedy by the Native Americans for treating asthma but it has multiple other healing purposes, including rheumatoid arthritis, mumps and hepatitis. It also helps with upper respiratory tract infections such as pneumonia.
Healers used Wild Ginger for treating earache and ear infections. They also made a mild tea from root stock for stimulating the digestive system and relieving bloating. It also helps with bronchial infections and nausea.
Mullein, a tobacco like plant, was mainly used to treat respiratory disorders. The Native Americans made concoctions from the roots to reduce swelling in the joints, feet or hands.
This root is famously used for flavoring candies, foods and beverages. However, it has also been used by healers to treat stomach problems, bronchitis, food poisoning and chronic fatigue.
Although the name would suggest a poisonous plant the Native Americans used Devil’s Claw to heal various conditions, from treating fever to soothing skin conditions, improving digestion and treating arthritis.
Devil’s Claw tea may 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.
Alfalfa aids digestion and is used to aid blood clotting. Contemporary uses include treatments of arthritis, bladder and kidney conditions and bone strength. Alfalfa also enhances the immune system.
Prickly Pear cactus
This is another plant that has been used both as a food and as medicine. Native Americans used it in poultices 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 may help prevent diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
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.
Ashwagandha 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 advice in the use of this plant as it is toxic.
Because of the Bears affection towards the plants fruits, Uva Ursi is also known as Bear Berry and Bear Grape. The Native Americans use this plant mainly for treating bladder and urinary tract infections.
There you have it. 30 plants used by Native Americans and indigenous tribes for their powerful medicinal properties. Want to learn more about the healing benefits of plants? Watch this video.