The Herbal Healing Practices of Native Americans

Healing Practices of Native Americans

“Man did not weave the web of life; he is merely a strand in it, such that whatever he does to the web, he does to himself.”

Native Americans believe strongly in the interconnection of all of creation. They practice their healing arts in a way which includes the natural world and the whole person – body, mind and spirit.

Dancing Secotan Indians in North Carolina. Watercolour painted by John White in 1585.
Dancing Secotan Indians in North Carolina. Watercolour painted by John White in 1585.

In the book titled Healers on Healing Brooke Medicine Eagle describes the circle of healing in this way:

“We gather in a circle, arms around each other’s waists, listening as a beating drum echoes the heartbeat of Mother Earth, until the sound resonates within us. Then we each echo the beat by stepping down on the left foot while picking up the right knee, keeping the left foot open and the step deep and gentle on the face of Mother Earth. In doing this we have focused what we call a first attention-the attention of our everyday, physical body reality. With it we determine right from left, feel physical weight on one side of the body or the other, step down in rhythm with the drum beat, feel the presence of others, move with them and find our balance. For a few moments our entire attention is focused in this basic and primary “Earth Dimension” of body consciousness-hence it is called a first attention.” Continue reading “The Herbal Healing Practices of Native Americans”

Spring Tonics

Despite the snowy view from our windows, it’s the official first day of spring, the Equinox, so called because the earth’s tilt is balanced in such a way that day and night are about equal lengths. Yes, there is snow, but the robins and snowdrops I spotted last week promise us: Take heart, friends. Warmer and longer days are ahead!

A deep connection with nature’s rhythms inspires many herbalists to mark the first day of winter or spring through celebrations and rituals, or even by simply drinking a cup of special tea. For many people, “spring” is synonymous with “clean,” but for us herbalists, this concept is not limited to organizing closets. Continue reading “Spring Tonics”

Hands in the Dirt

Hands in the Dirt

The glory of gardening: hands in the dirt, head in the sun, heart with nature. To nurture a garden is to feed not just the body, but the soul.
– Alfred Austin 

leek babies

As gardeners we shape and sculpt the earth, which in turn shapes us. Fresh air, sunlight, rain, and sweet and pungent scents nourish the full spectrum of our senses, which are often numbed or over stimulated by modern life.

Much of our region is still cold and snow covered, but seeds are stirring and the land is softening into our famous New England mud. If you’d like to sprout inside, now is the time! Seeds are available at natural food co-ops and gardening supply stores. Later in the spring, starters will be available at farmer’s markets or farm stands.

lettuce babieslettuce starters

If you are without access to private garden space, your neighborhood or town may offer space in local community garden plots. The Growing Center in the heart of urban Somerville is a small but vibrant gathering place for plant lovers with lots of programs for all ages.

Or, sign up as a farm or garden volunteer and enjoy your time outside while helping others. Gaining Ground, The Food Project, and Waltham Fields Community Farm are nonprofits that grow food for hunger relief programs, and all rely on a strong volunteer base. The Boston Area Gleaners takes volunteers to farms to rescue surplus food for meal programs.

There are lots of Community Supported Agricultural (CSA) programs offered by farms in Massachusetts, and many CSAs require members to contribute a little time down on the farm. Check out NOFA’s Organic Food Guide to find a CSA and sign up to support our local farmers.

Whether it’s a small indoor herb garden, volunteering on a farm, or a single pot of rosemary, get those hands in the dirt to nurture and be nurtured!


Stinging Nettle

What plant has the highest amount of protein, by weight, of any plant? Hint: it’s not a bean, lentil, or pea, and you can gather it yourself in wild and not-so-wild places. The answer is stinging nettle.

Stinging nettle is an amazing superfood vegetable, high  not only in protein, but also in calcium, magnesium, iron, selenium, zinc, potassium, boron, vitamins A, B, C, D, E, and K, bioflavonoids, antioxidants, essential fatty acids, and chlorophyll.

During the most of the year, I prepare dried stinging nettle into an infusion, which is a little like a tea but much, much stronger, containing many times the amount of nettles and steeping for hours. In the spring I like to harvest my own nettles and prepare them into soups and vinegars. I harvest it in parts of the summer as well, mainly early and late, when the leaves are young. Continue reading “Stinging Nettle”

Yarrow – The Plant That Made Achilles Invincible

By Nina Katz – Herbalist 

Yesterday, we harvested our first yarrow of the season. Yarrow is one of my favorite plants, and its uses are legion. It makes a nice cooking spice, effective bug spray, stops bleeding, brings down temperatures and activates the immune system, soothes sore throats, supports the digestive system, and promotes labor. Not only that, it’s a beautiful plant with lovely, usually white flowers, and feathery leaves.

Yarrow has a place of honor in Greek mythology as the plant in whose waters Thetis bathed Achilles. According to the Greek myth, Yarrow gave the hero its protective powers to make Achilles invincible wherever the herbal bath had penetrated his skin, and Achilles in turn healed his wounded soldiers with Yarrow. Yarrow’s official botanical name is Achillea millefolium, Achilles’ thousand-leaved plant.