Plains Indian Health
Traditional Healing and Western Medicine

University of Pennsylvania Museum exhibition
at the Jonathan Rhoads Pavilion of the
Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania
through November 1998

Traditional Herbal Medicine

The use of plants in the treatment of disease has long been a vital part of Plains medicine. Traditional herbal cures include:

Mentha longifolia

for backaches and to treat the early symptoms of cholera

Wild Bergamot
or Bee Balm
Monarda didyma

to relieve abdominal pain

Black Snakeroot
or Wild Ginger
Asarum canadense

used as a cure for rheumatism

Yellow Dock
Rumex crispus

to induce vomiting

Black Raspberries

to treat the early stages of consumption and to flavor bitter roots

Humulus lupulus

taken orally for intestinal problems and applied topically to wounds

or Sweet Flag
Acorus calamus

to relieve coughing, toothache and fever

Wild Onion

applied to bee and wasp stings

Purple Coneflower
Echinacea purpurea

used as a remedy for snakebite and tooth-ache

Many plants are also deliberately burned; the smoke is then inhaled to treat nausea, muscle aches and bronchial infections. Smoke is also thought to purify the mind, body, and air in preparation for religious and healing ceremonies. Sagebrush, red cedar, evergreen branches, and purple coneflowers are among those plants most commonly burned on the Great Plains.

Herb Links

American Indian Ethnobotany Database

Traditional Herbal and Plant Knowledge, Identifications

Plains Indian Health