American medicine is a term that refers to the historical collection
of information, and treatment modalities of many different North American
tribes, over thousands of years.
Much about the practices
of these various peoples have been passed down through strictly oral
traditions, a factor that makes documentation of it's origin, and initial
use a relative mystery. What is known to date is that much of their
existing medicinal knowledge was in use when the Europeans first visited
this land more than 500 years ago. Some estimates suggest the first
medical practices of the North American Indians at some 40,000 years
In a manner similar
to that of TCM and Ayurveda, the approach of Native American medicine
is one that takes all aspects of one's inner self, lifestyle, emotions,
social setting, as well as their natural surroundings into consideration
when recommending treatment.
The philosophy is
one that strives to bridge the unseen relationships that exist between
man, and the natural world that surrounds him. At the core of the approach
is a respect for the impact each has upon the other. Overall balance,
and through it, health, is a target that is achieved by taking into
full consideration the forces that flow within, and without one's body,
and in the growth of his/her understanding of the apparently simple
truth that all life relies inherently upon all other life.
Native American medicine
is a tradition that is rich in subtlety, and difficult to document
and communicate fully outside of its varied traditions, and ceremonies.
With a body of knowledge spread across hundreds of tribes, thousands
of miles, and many years of unrecorded use, there is little that can
be said to be standardized about its practice.
in approach can be seen across the various tribes, the differences
are also clear, often relative to the lifestyles, and needs of each
specific region, as well as the medicinal properties of those plants
native to that region.
It has also been
noted that even the approach of various practitioners within one tribe
could differ significantly, based on the individualized, and intuitive
grasp each had on the world around him.
This lack of 'standardization'
was not seen as an indication of weakness surrounding the varied treatments,
but as an added strength, respecting each individual's connection with
the natural world, and from that connection, their ability to offer
a fuller, and more all-encompassing approach to the treatment of those
in need of healing.
The preferences of
the patient are always respected within this cultural tradition. It's
focus on a reverence for all things naturally designates the patient
with a complete freedom to utilize their understanding, and connections
to enable a determination of their own path towards balance, and ultimately,
Although many of
the ceremonial practices of Native American medicine have survived
centuries of tribal extermination, and integration, one must presume
that knowledge of profound value has been lost.
As a medical tradition
never recorded in writing, the death of individuals designated to carry
forward these practices to the generations that followed would immediately
end a path of communication stretching back thousands of years, one
ripe with information that can never be reclaimed.
In spite of this
tragedy, what has survived intact to this day is a body of knowledge
that continues to impact the health of both Native Americans, and non-natives
alike. Many common natural, and pharmaceutical remedies make use of
plants and herbs discovered, and utilized by these peoples, for hundreds,
if not thousands of years.
As the tide of medical
theory begins to swing back towards an approach that recognizes, and
respects every aspect of the individual, science, and those in need,
search out the knowledge behind this highly regarded tradition, with
the intent of an improved well being for all.