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Native American Medicinal Plants You Should Know

While on my quest to find more natural ways to prevent and cure any ailment known to man, I ran into an array of plants that I had never seen before. As a child, one of my father’s hobbies was harvesting plants and growing fruits and vegetables. After school, I would go outside to help him even though I did not have much of a green thumb. He often would gain knowledge about a new plant he should grow for us to enjoy the health benefits from such as, Buckwheat, Blackberries, Alfalfa, Aloe, Ginger Root, Rose Hips, Echinacea and Ginseng which most of us have heard of or seen in our local stores.

Many of the plants that will be discussed in this article will be plants you probably have never even heard of, especially if you are not someone who is an experienced harvester or planter. For those of you that don’t have a green thumb like me, I will suggest some natural supplements, salves, oils, teas, tinctures, tonics and poultices that you can buy or make on your own.

In the Amazon Rainforest, there are numerous uses for more than 500 different local plants. The Native American Shamans and indigenous people there have all the knowledge that hopefully will become publicly known to us thru a project called PlantMed to build the world’s first centers for the practice, research, and preservation of Amazonian plant medicine. These plants are said to cure diseases such as HIV, Cancer, and Hepatitis; therefore, never underestimate the power of the plant!

5 Medicinal Plants Used By Native Americans

There are over 30 different types of plants that can heal cuts, and cure ailments such a sore throat, a common cold, asthma, ear infection, congestion, fever, headaches, migraines, infections, coughs, diarrhea, bladder infections, inflammation and any type of flu. Moreover, such plants will also promote relief from arthritis, digestive issues, eye strain, burns, stiff joints, sore muscles and any other types of pain you may be experiencing. The ten plants that are chosen for this article are special because they cure many common ailments most of us tend to experience seasonally and strengthen our immune system as a preventive against diseases. Each plant will have remedies that consist of recipes for teas, foods and topical substances such as salves and poultices. Also, look out for links to buy supplements, topical ointments, and teas which may be an easier way to use or consume. All products will be all natural and organic.

1. Willow Bark

I have seen this plant also be referred to as White Willow Bark or Weeping Willow. The main uses for this plant are to relieve inflammation, pain, headaches and fever. I am all for natural ways to get relief from pain because some pharmaceuticals and OTC pain meds irritate my stomach, make me nauseous and constipated which are common side effects many people suffer from. This plant has known to have the same effects as aspirin. Therefore, please beware of this plant if you are sensitive to aspirin, suffer from a gastrointestinal disorder or have tinnitus. Long-term use can cause upset stomach, stomach, and ulcers. If you are in pain and choose to consume this herb, please use it in moderation. Children under the age of sixteen should not be given this as a remedy. Also, women who are pregnant or nursing should avoid consuming this plant in any form.

Options and Recipes for Willow Bark

If you decide to go to a nursery nearby instead of harvesting this plant yourself, willow is known to be one of the easiest plants to identify. Spring is the best time to strip the bark from the young branches before the sap begins to run if you are you planning to harvest your own plants. Once the strips of bark are harvested, let it dry at room temperature in a dry, airy place, stirring frequently until it is fully dry before placing it in a jar and storing it in a cool, dry area.

Willow Bark Tea

  • Pour 8 ounces of water in a pan.
  • Add 1-2 teaspoons of powdered or chipped white willow bark.
  • Boil water and willow bark contents for 5 – 10 minutes.
  • Leave it to steep for 20-30 minutes. *Strain and add cinnamon and organic raw honey, ginger root or lemon (optional).

Willow Bark SweetSleep Tea

You will need:

  • 3 Tbs of dried Chamomile
  • 3-5 small dried Rosebuds
  • 1 Cinnamon stick (for stirring purposes)
  • Combine all ingredients in a medium teapot.
  • Add 3-4 cups of boiling water.
  • Allow to steep for several minutes.
  • Pour thru strainer.
  • Add organic raw honest to taste.

Willow Bark Best Buys

  • White Willow Bark Extract Powder
  • Organic White Willow Bark Cut & Sifted
  • Solaray White Willow Bark Capsules.
  • Nature’s Answer Alcohol-Free White Willow Bark Tincture

2. Chokecherry

This suckering shrub produces a dark red fruit that is also known as the bitter berry. It is a species of bird cherry which is native to North America. The health benefits of this fruit are known to improve the digestive tract, protect the body against free radicals, aid in weight loss, reduce inflammation, protect the immune system, prevent diabetes, improve eye health, combat cancer, lower blood pressure, and stimulate repair to the body. This super fruit has more antioxidants than blueberries and pomegranate.

Be careful when buying this fruit because it can be easily confused with other unique berries. Late in the season when a frost where the cherries darken from a bright red to a purple-black or dark red is when they are most appetizing.

Options and Recipes for Chokecherry

There are deliciously edible options for this fruit such as eating it with your favorite yogurt or dairy free ice cream. You can also blend it with your morning smoothie, brew it into a tea, and infuse it into your water. This super berry is so super delicious that I cannot wait until you try some of my suggestions!

Chokecherry Juice

  • Pick or buy the berries (if you have a nursery near you).
  • Put them in a pot.
  • Just barely cover with water.
  • Boil water to a low boil until chokecherries turn mushy.
  • Pour into a strainer over another pot to catch the juice (with seeds left in strainer).
  • Use a masher tool to extract more juice thru the strainer.

Chokecherry Smoothie

You will need:

  • 1 Ripe Banana
  • Handful of Chokecherries
  • 1 Cup of Kephir, Coconut Milk or Almond Milk
  • Organic Raw Honey
  • A squeeze or two of Lemon Juice
  • Put banana chunks, chokecherries and coconut (or your choice of non-dairy milk) into your blender.
  • Blend ingredients until smooth and/or icy.
  • Taste it and if it is not sweet enough add organic raw honey in it and season it with lemon juice.

Chokecherry Best Buys

  • Organic Chokeberry Juice
  • Fresh Frozen Chokeberries.
  • Chokeberry Chews.
  • Chokecherry Freeze Dried Capsules.
  • Chokeberry Wellness Shots
  • Chokeberry Extract Powder

Note: Chokeberry and Aronia Berry is the same as Chokecherry. If over eaten, these berries can cause a slight headache, constipation and ushering ulcers. The leaves and seeds are toxic so please do not eat them as they could be fatal.

3. Fennel

This bulbous vegetable looks similar to celery but is in the carrot family. It is a flowering plant species best harvested from fall to early spring. The taste of it reminds me of licorice which I love but is crunchy. Although this plant is great as a breath freshener, there are some amazing health benefits and cures too. Fennel is really beneficial for women because it reduces PMS and menopause symptoms, helps pregnancy and is also said to increase breast size. Some cures that result in consuming fennel are diarrhea, acne, asthma, respiratory illnesses, anemia and overall great for digestion. It also is an excellent preventative against cancer.

Options and Recipes for Fennel

Fennel tastes so good that you can eat it as a snack, throw onto your salad with your favorite vinaigrette, eat it raw or use it for soup stock. If you don’t wish to eat it, you can also brew it into a tea as a digestive cleanse.

Fennel Tea

  • Crush 1 teaspoon of fennel seeds into a powder.
  • Add powder to 1 cup of boiling water.
  • Steep powder and water for five minutes.
  • Strain the tea.
  • Let it cool for about 30 seconds and drink it.

Fennel Slaw

You will need:

  • 1 Large Fennel Bulb (or 2 Medium Bulbs)
  • A Packet of Stevia (or enough to make it 1 ½ teaspoons)
  • 2 Tbsp of Lemon Juice
  • ¼ Cup of Olive Oil
  • ½ Teaspoon of Organic Mustard
  • 2 Teaspoons of Minced Shallot or Onion

Braggs Vinaigrette

  • Shave the fennel into thin slices, easiest with kitchen scissors.
  • Marinate Fennel in Vinaigrette for an hour.

Fennel Best Buys

  • Traditional Medicinals’ Organic Fennel Tea.
  • Simply Organic Fennel Seeds.
  • Delitaliana Fennel Pollen.
  • Pride of India’s Organic Fennel Ground.
  • Nature’s Way Fennel Seed Supplements.
  • Simply Earth Fennel Essential oil.

Note: If you are a female with a hormone-sensitive condition such as breast cancer, uterine cancer, ovarian cancer, endometriosis, or uterine fibroid; fennel might mimic estrogen thus making it worse by over-exposure to estrogen.

4. Feverfew

This plant is known as the Migraine Medicine; however, you can also use it to treat asthma, digestive issues, swollen feet, muscle pain and joint pain. You can also use this plant to cure a cold and a fever. Out of all the plants so far, this one is known to have a distinct, strong and bitter smell which consequently wards of bees.

Options and Recipes for Feverfew

The feverfew plant is a perennial which means you will get an abundant supply of blossoms year after year. The best time to plant feverfew is at the end of April; however, planting may be done at the end of Autumn. If you are not harvesting, feverfew is available in liquid and pill form. There are also some delicious tea options.

Feverfew Lemon Balm Herbal Tea

You will need:

  • 4 parts chamomile flowers
  • 3 parts lemon balm
  • 2 parts feverfew
  • 1 part skullcap
  • 1 part passion flower
  • ¼ part ginger root
  • Brew tea in a tea infuser or a tea pot.
  • Store tea in a tight-capped jar and be sure you leave it in a cool, dark place no longer than 6 months.
  • Drink 1-2 cups of this tea daily to prevent migraines and/or headaches.

Feverfew Tincture

You will need:

  • 80 Proof Bourbon or Whiskey (40% Alcohol)
  • 5 ounces of dried herbs: ½ ounce each of feverfew, lemonbalm, and peppermint leaves
  • Quart-sized mason jar
  • Mince herbs well to increase surface area.
  • Place herbs in a mason jar.
  • Pour bourbon or whiskey over the herbs completely covering the herbs and adding about 2 inches of liquor above the level of herbs. *Securely cover the jar with a lid so that you can give it a good shake.
  • Keep the jar in a dark place daily for a few weeks.
  • Strain herbs from the liquid.
  • Squeeze the herbs a bit to get all of your tincture out.
  • Strain the liquid thru cheesecloth.
  • Put in a dark glass bottle and store it in a cool dark place.

Feverfew Best Buys

  • Nature’s Way Feverfew Capsules.
  • Organic Feverfew Dried Leaves
  • Herb Pharm Certified Organic Feverfew Extract – Found on amazon here. (Liquid absorbs very well)

Note: It is advised that you contact your naturopathic physician for the right dosage before taking this to treat your migraines. If you plan to eat the leaves, please be prepared for that bitter after-taste, as you may want to have stevia around to sprinkle on top of it or organic raw honey on hand to chase it with. Another option is to add it to your salad! Do NOT take this for medicinal purposes if you are pregnant as it may cause early delivery or a miscarriage.

5. Passion Flower

I know you had to see this plant coming because this was an herb mentioned previously for an herbal tea using feverfew that will cure a migraine. Passion Flower, also known as Passion Vines is a calming, perennial, climbing vine used to treat people with anxiety, depression, hot flashes, seizures, stomach problems and sleep irregularities such as insomnia. This plant may also help manage ADD and ADHD; however, before using this for medicinal purposes on your child, please consult your primary physician first because there have not been extensive studies on this. The name of this plant alone is calming, but please don’t get this confused with “passion fruit” products in your local grocery store. Those products more than likely are the kind with passion fruit artificial flavoring, not an actual fruit that was produced from the passion flower.

Options and Recipes for Passion Flower

The best time to pick for passion flower is June or July and sometimes until August for those of you that decide to plant this beautiful purple flower. The fruit produced from the plant, which is commonly called Wild Apricot, is edible when ripe; however, it is advised to only eat the pulp around the seeds—not the seeds. You can use this herb in pretty much every form you can think of such as a tincture, tea, supplement, essential oil, topical poultice, healing salve, and juice.

Passion Flower Fruit Juice

You will need:

  • 2 cups of passion fruit pulp scooped out from the shells (about 40 fruits)
  • 6 cups of water
  • ½ cup of stevia
  • Cut passion fruits in half and scoop out the flesh.
  • Put fruit pulp and only 2 cups of water in your blender.
  • Set your blender on the slowest setting possible for 2-second intervals, for a total of about 10 seconds to get the pulp loose from the seeds.
  • Pour thru a strainer into a bowl.
  • Pour another cup of water thru the strainer to get the remaining juice out of the seeds.
  • Remove strainer.
  • Stir in stevia and the remaining 3 cups of water.
  • Chill juice or serve over ice.

Protein Passion Flower Fruit Smoothie

You will need:

  • 3 Passion Fruit
  • 1 cup of non-dairy milk (quinoa milk, coconut milk, almond milk or hemp milk)
  • 1 scoop of Sweet Vanilla Organic Plant Based Protein Powder (see below under passion fruit buys)
  • 1 tbsp of grounded flaxseed or chia seeds (chia seeds sometimes blends into a tapioca consistency)
  • 1 – 2 tsp of organic raw honey
  • 1 small banana
  • 1 tsp of coconut oil (optional)
  • Handful of ice cubes (depending on how icy you like it)
  • Cut passion fruits in half and scoop out the flesh.
  • Put your blender on the slowest setting possible for 2-second intervals, for a total of about 10 seconds to get the pulp loose from the seeds.
  • Pour thru a strainer into a bowl.
  • Pour another cup of water thru the strainer to get the remaining juice out of the seeds.
  • Remove strainer.
  • Put passion fruit pulp in a blender with all other ingredients.
  • Add ice to a blender to make it icy or smooth (however you prefer).

Passion Fruit Best Buys

  • Passion Flower Vegetarian Lozenges .
  • Nature’s Answer Passion Flower Capsules
  • Bulksupplements Pure Passion Flower Extract Powder
  • Alvita Organic Herbal Passion Flower Tea
  • Herb Parm Certified Passion Flower Liquid Extract
  • Melatonin Passion Flower Inhalations
  • Organic Passion Flower Dried Leaves
  • Organic Vanilla Bean Protein Powder (for passion fruit smoothie)

Consuming large amounts of this herb can be unsafe. Passion flower can cause some side effects such as dizziness, confusion, irregular muscle action and coordination, altered consciousness, and inflamed blood vessels. There has also been a report of nausea, vomiting, drowsiness, a rapid heart rate, and abnormal heart rhythm in one person who took it. This is case by case and different for certain people. For example, I cannot drink coffee because it gives me a rapid heart rate but it doesn’t with others around me. If I do drink it, I can only drink a small amount; therefore, that could be the same for this herb or ANY of the five herbs I have mentioned in this article, so please be careful. Food sensitivities and food allergies can cause mild or severe effects. Consult a dietitian who can help you with testing for such food allergies, if you have any concerns. If you are pregnant or nursing, it is recommended to consult with your GYN before using any of these herbs for medicinal or dietary purposes.

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