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10 plants used by Native Americans for decades to improve their health

Thursday, 26 January 2017  |  David Watkins

Native Americans have always held many plants in high regard as natural remedies. The Cherokee tribe, indigenous to south eastern parts of the USA, believed that the abilities to understand and use these plants were given to them as a gift by their “Creator” many moons ago.

Here are their ten most popular, many of which can still be found and used today. Some are found in different parts of the world and may be known by different names.

Most natural dietary supplements available today owe their origin to the indigenous people where the plants are native. In many cases that use can go back decades or even centuries and appears to demonstrates the continuing reassuringly inherent safety of ethically produced and properly used natural dietary supplements.

Image of Wild Ginger from a list of 10 plants used by Native Americans for health

1. Wild Ginger

A mild tea brewed from the wild ginger plant was believed to help stimulate the digestion process. The Cherokee believed it could also treat stomach problems, colic and even intestinal gas.

Although mostly used by the Cherokee, the Meskwaki Native American tribe also used crushed wild ginger stems to treat ear infections.

Image of Buck Brush from a list of 10 plants used by Native Americans for health

2. Buck Brush

Buck Brush was used to treat a wide variety of conditions. Traditionally, it was used as a diuretic to stimulate kidney function, but it was also used to treat inflamed tonsils or lymph nodes and other oral issues.

To get all of the benefits from Buck Brush, the Cherokee would steep the leave and flowers in a boiling water for about five minutes then drink the tea while it was still warm.

Modern day laboratory research has indicated that Buck Brush can help to alleviate lymphatic blockages and hypertension.

Image of Green Briar from a list of 10 plants used by Native Americans for health

3. Green Briar

The roots of this plant are rich in starch and full of calories. Their rubbery texture makes their uses similar to roots like potatoes. The stems and leaves are high in numerous minerals and vitamins.

Green Briar were used as a mild diuretic in the case of urinary infections and to purify the blood. Its bark and leaves were also used for the preparation of an ointment to help heal burns and minor sores.

Its leaves were added to tea in order to treat arthritis, and the berries were either consumed raw, or made into jam.

Image of Wild Mint from a list of 10 plants used by Native Americans for health

4. Wild Mint

Mint remains popular today as a tasty herbal tea that’s also packed with antioxidants. It also contains magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, calcium, vitamin C, vitamin A and fibre.

The Cherokee used mint to assist with digestion, and also ground the leaves up to create ointments or for use in cold compresses. Mint was also added to baths to help relieve itchy skin.

Cherokee healers used a blend of stems and leaves to lower high blood pressure.

Image of Blackberry from a list of 10 plants used by Native Americans for health

5. Blackberry

These delicious berries are loaded with antioxidants and nutrients that help to support good health. Young edible shoots were harvested in the spring, peeled and used in salads.

A beneficial tea was made from the astringent root of the plant, which is said to help decrease swelling in the joints and bodily tissues. A similar concoction was also used as a mouthwash and for soothing sore throats. A syrup was also made from the fruit and root bark mixed with honey as a cough soother.

Image of Cattail from a list of 10 plants used by Native Americans for health

6. Cattail or Bulrush

This easily digested plant was regarded as a potent natural resource to promote recovery from various health conditions. Apart from the seed heads and the mature leaves, all other parts of this plant were thought to have health improvement properties. Its roots are high in starch and the male plants have protein rich pollen that was used in baking.

It was mashed and boiled in much the same way as potatoes and the resulting paste was used to alleviate sores and burns. The fluffy seed down was used to help prevent infant skin irritations.

Image of Summac from a list of 10 plants used by Native Americans for health

7. Sumac

Cherokee healers used every single part of this plant. Sumac bark can be made into a mild decoction that can be taken to soothe diarrhoea or gargled to help with a sore throat.

Ripe berries made a pleasant beverage rich in vitamin C. The tea from the leaves of sumac was used to reduce fevers and crushed leaves were made into an ointment to help relieve a poison ivy rash.

A recent study reported that sumac may help lower cholesterol levels when included as part of a suitable balanced diet.

Image of Wild Rose from a list of 10 plants used by Native Americans for health

8. Wild Rose

The rosehip fruits are high in vitamin C and were used to alleviate colds and flu. The Cherokee prepared a mild tea out of wild rosehips to stimulate the function of the kidneys and the bladder.

Wild rose petal infusions were used to soothe sore throats, and a decoction of the root was used to alleviate diarrhoea.

Its petals were also be used in the preparation of a tasty jam.

Image of Mullein from a list of 10 plants used by Native Americans for health

9. Mullein

This plant was used for its ability to soothe asthma and chest congestion. According to the Cherokee, inhaling the smoke from burning mullein roots and leaves works to calm the lungs, open up airways and alleviate problems with mucous membranes.

They also made a warm mullein anti-inflammatory decoction to soak their feet in to reduce swelling and joint pain.

Mullein flowers were used to make a tea which was said to have a mild sedative effect.

Image of Yarrow from a list of 10 plants used by Native Americans for health

10. Yarrow

This plant was known best for its blood clotting properties. Fresh, crushed leaves were applied to open wounds to slow and stop excess bleeding.

They also used the leaves to make a tea which would stimulate abdominal and kidney functions and assist in proper digestion. It also worked well for chapped hands and other skin irritations.

About The Author

David Watkins is a long-serving senior member of the management of Tonvara Natural Supplements, a family owned company based in the heart of the Sussex countryside in the UK.