Native American medicine was administered through ritual procedures and rational therapy. These two sources were able to cure many illnesses.
Out of respect, we will not go into detail about ritual procedures. If you would like to know more in this area, it is advised that you bring an offering of tobacco to a Native American elder and ask him or her in private.
Rational therapy was generally practiced first. Rational therapy uses actual substances such as parts of plants and herbs. This included healing broken bones, birth control, a cure for scurvy, the use of cocaine as an anesthetic, and the development of antibiotics.
Pain Relievers and Antibiotics
The Incas used coca leaves to relieve pain during rituals such as skull surgery. The Kwakiutl Indians discovered antibiotics. It was a common remedy to use Indian cornmeal, bruised herbs, warm fermenting poultices, and a soft and slimy fungus called "rotten on the ground" on boils and tumors. This application stopped inflammation and pain and drained the abscesses.
Penicillin comes from an actual mold used by Native Americans.
The Ojibwa used bitter tasting roots and plants to prevent disease.
Some Native Americans often used specific drugs to suppress ovulation and control the menstrual cycle. The success of these drugs started researchers on the road that led to the pill, a common form of birth control today.
Contribution to Modern Medicine
Native Americans contributed more than two hundred indigenous drugs that were used by one or more Indian tribes to "The Pharmacopoeia of the United States of America". The medicine that we practice today is a combination of Native healing practices and modern science.
For more information on Native Americans in Medicine, visit the Association of American Indian Physicians