Native American turquoise jewelry is very popular and well known in North America – and justly so, for it is beautiful and unique. What is less well known, though, is the Native American herbal medicine tradition and that is truly a shame. Most everyone interested in natural remedies is aware of the traditional medicine of India (Ayurveda) and China and we often pay extravagant sums for medicines from these countries … while Native American herbal remedies are right in our own back yard.
The contrast between today’s medical attitudes and Native American medicine are dramatic:
The medical establishment believes the power to heal depends on doctors and drugs.
The Native American traditions insist that healing depends on:
* The power of the plant or herb …
* The power of the shaman or medicine man or woman …
* Most of all, on the power of the person being healed …
In other words, today’s medical establishment insists that the responsiblity for healing lies outside that of the patient. This is a huge mistake! Our attitudes have objectively measurable effects on our health or illness. Without belief in our ability to get well, it will be tough for healing to occur – and the Native Americans knew this well.
Native Americans had a strong faith in the power of their healers. We see the body as totally physical, but their healing involves a strong relationship with the spirit world. The shaman or medicine woman/medicine man was not a hereditary position. Instead, those who had a talent for interacting with the spiritual world would become healers. Those healers saw themselves not as the one doing the healing but as a connector between the patient and the spiritual world. In other words, their job was that of a facilitator. They knew that they were not healing anybody but that the power and responsibility of healing was that of the patient himself.
In other words, the power is in the sick person and nowhere else. This is, of course, unlike modern attitudes that see the doctors as the source of healing. This is the distinction between a healer and a doctor.
Accordingly, Native American herbal medicines were only a part of a healing tradition that involves rituals and dancing. These practice served to strengthen the connection between the spirit world and the patient.
Further, the healer did not see a disease of a specific "part". Instead, it was a disease [dis-ease] of the entire person. The purpose of the ceremonies was to persuade the patient that (s)he was getting the help needed.
Sadly, we have lost the spiritual aspect of healing today. Unlike the native Americans, we have put the power in the herbal remedy rather than in ourselves. We believe the substance has the power – not us. This attitude is "new" since humans have been on this planet, in some form or other, for a million years – yet it is only in the last 100 or 200 years that we have believed that we are separate from Spirit.
Actually, there are healers today – including MDs – who are aware that it is the sick person, rather than the substance who heals the body. Our bodies have a remarkable capacity for self healing. If this were not so, we would have become extinct thousands of years ago.
This doesn’t mean that we have to perform Native American dances or rituals to heal today. What is more important is that we heal the splitbetween body and spirit and recognize that if the Spirit does not heal, the body will not either. It is a flat fact that our minds and attitudes are as important – if not more important – than any substance or surgery. By understanding these spiritual components of Native American herbal medicine, we can begin to heal ourselves and our society. WE have the power … and we always have!