Manataka® American Indian Council
Spiritual and Natural Medicine
By Harvey Walks With Hawks Doyle, Jr.
We are inter-dependant of the physical, mental, spiritual and natural ways that leads us to a way of better understanding on how to pursue natural medicine for our health and healing of our people.
Our health issues must be surrounded by harmony and balance. Our way as Native American has always been “May or Can I help you?” This is the old way and this is the way that we should strive to keep the Medicine Way or Medicine Wheel alive in our lives. This is the Native American traditional approach as taught in the stories and by our Elders that we are “helpers”. The Cherokee and other Nations were among many tribes that contributed remedies and herbs from the Green Pharmacy of Mother Earth.
Appalachian folk medicine brought us many remedies for “curing the ills of folks”, as my grandfather used to say. Garlic to fight colds, tea bags for canker sores; baking soda for itches; and ginger for digestion and for calming the stomach. Others in the mountains of the southeastern US used Ice for the “cure all”, to relieve insect bites, sinuses, toothaches, pain and swelling, if you had a refrigerator. We had an Ice Box and could not afford much ice. An Ice Truck delivered it in large blocks. Other times we would hang a bucket in the well to keep items cool. I can remember some people had dirt floors. These are a few of the many remedies used by my grandfather who learned them from my grandmother who died rather young age of 47 from a diabetic coma. She had 12 children. My mother was also a border line diabetic and the only way that I did not become a diabetic was controlling and watching my diet. I knew at a young age that I could be prone to diabetes so I always did watch my sugar intake and try to eat proper foods that helped my body cope with it and I guess that is why I am not a diabetic today and I still watch what I eat. Diabetes is a disease that is prevalent in Native Americans.
There are many natural herbs that can be found in Mother Nature’s medicine cabinet. Many people ask “What herbs should I use or where should I go for help”? Here are some herbs that might be helpful for diabetics. Bean-pod Tea: made up of kidney beans, white, navy, lima, and northern beans detoxifies the pancreas. Cedar berries are excellent nourishment for the pancreas. Dandelion root or leaves protects the liver, which converts nutrients into glucose. (Note: If you suffer from gall bladder problems do not use large amounts of dandelion.) Fenugreek seeds have been shown to reduce cholesterol and blood sugar levels. Ginseng is said to lower blood sugar levels. (Note: Do not use ginseng if you have high blood pressure). Huckleberry helps to promote insulin production. Juniper berries has been said to lower blood glucose levels. Other herbs that may be beneficial for diabetes includes bilberry, buchu, dandelion root, goldenseal, and uva ursi.
Caution: Do not take goldenseal on a daily basis for more than one week at a time; and do not use during pregnancy. If you have a history of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, or glaucoma, use it only under a health care provider or under a physician care. In the Native American way each person learns about certain natural and herbal remedies from their, family, and clans. We should never hoard information that might help our brothers and sisters or anyone. The next source can be the Medicine Man or teachers; grandfathers and grandmothers as “special persons” or our Elders; and finally educational materials. No matter how good books are there is nothing like hands on education from your loved ones, a walk in the woods and it is a time for sharing all aspects of the Medicine Wheel of Mother Earth and our spiritual experiences. Mother is our natural pharmacy.
What can we do? As human beings of choice, we can do plenty! We can teach our children and ourselves as adults to go back to our roots; to plant and protect our trees and herbs; to recycle; to learn how to compost our organic garbage; to understand the environment issues; and to protect each and every plant as it is our breath of life. We are keepers of Mother Earth and we all can make a difference as keepers. I remember an Elder once said at a Powwow: If our plants and trees are diseased, then so are we, because we share the same energy that the Creator or Great One has on Mother Earth.
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