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Exploring Old Native American Remedies

Various cultures throughout the globe have their own history of folk medicine.  In fact, many of today’s medicines and cures have their roots in folk and alternative remedies of yesteryear.  While it’s always safest to consult your healthcare provider before embarking on a folk remedy, many are well worth considering and may provide relief for various ailments.  As fall and the season of colds approaches, consider some traditional Native American remedies that may diminish a wide array of symptoms associated with common ailments.  
Native peoples lived in North America for thousands of years before they were discovered.  Over the course of that time, they developed skills and knowledge related to the natural world around them.  Smearing some bear grease on the body, for instance, was how many tribes warded away mosquitos.  Much of their knowledge of regional botanicals still survives today and some of their remedies appear to have genuine merit.  Consider some of the following remedies that were once widely used by Native American peoples.
Coughing is a typical cold symptom.  Native Americans of the Penobscot tribe are particularly associated with their use of sarsaparilla.  They crushed dried sarsaparilla roots and added them to warm water to drink.  While you may not have access to any such roots in your backyard, consider keeping some sarsaparilla root tea on hand.  You can purchase this tea online or, perhaps, at your local natural health food or vitamin store. Additionally, the Choctaws used echinacea to treat coughs as well.
Inflammation or Swelling
Witch hazel was popularly used by many tribes, but the Menominee tribe of Wisconsin was particularly associated with it.  Native practitioners of medicine would boil witch hazel leaves and rub the liquid on achy backs, legs, or other muscles as needed.  Witch hazel wipes and other remedies are available from many online and retail stores.
Digestive Complaints
From stomach aches to diarrhea, many of today’s common complaints were quite common for Native Americans centuries ago.  They used both black cherry root and fermented black cherry fruit to cure diarrhea.  Black cherry teas are widely available and certainly may help relieve these symptoms.  
For issues like heartburn, dandelion was taken.  Dandelions can be eaten as greens in a salad or made into teas.  
Upset Stomach
If you’re suffering from an upset stomach, consider using sage.  It has been used by various Native American tribes to sooth an aching stomach.  Sage can be added to everything from soups to casseroles and can easily be purchased from the grocery store.
Other Native American Remedies
Willow Bark: Cherokee Native Americans drank tea made from willow bark to combat fevers.
Wormwood: Some Native Americans drank wormwood tea to treat bronchitis.
Pennyroyal: Tea made from pennyroyal was taken by various tribes to sooth headache tension.
Tobacco Plant: Native Americans would use wet tobacco leaves to treat various insect bites.
While each of these Native American remedies is well-known among folk medicine practitioners, it’s always a good idea to discuss them with your doctor to ensure that they won’t interfere with medicine you might be taking for another condition.  Typically, however, these remedies feature items you can buy from the health-food store and are commonly taken in teas.  Remember, if you are pregnant, always check with a doctor before using any herbal treatments.
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