Native American Herbal Remedies

Marye Audet
native american remedies

Native American herbal remedies have been used for centuries to cure common illnesses and treat various health conditions. Without access to doctors or hospitals, Native Americans relied on the many plants that grew around their homes. Much of this knowledge has been forgotten; however there are those who are trying to document the remaining recipes.

Common Native American Remedies

Although many Native American herbal remedies are still being used today, there are some that many health care providers warn could be dangerous. Always research the individual remedy and talk to your health care provider before using any herbal remedy.

Respiratory Problems

Native Americans were as prone to respiratory problems as anyone else. Asthma, coughs, and colds were treated promptly with teas made from natural ingredients or combinations of these ingredients.

  • Asthma was treated with skunk cabbage to loosen and remove phlegm.
  • Pleurisy root was used for bronchitis, pneumonia and other ailments of the lung. It is still an excellent remedy for these illnesses.
  • Wormwood was also used for the various symptoms of bronchitis.
  • Sage was used for the discomfort of colds and flu.
  • For coughs the various tribes used the following:
    • Boneset was used to treat coughs and colds by many different tribes.
    • Aspen tea was made from the inner bark of the Aspen tree.
    • Wild Cherry tea, made from the bark of the Wild Cherry Tree, was made into a tea.
    • White Pine, in which the inner bark was brewed into a strong tea.
    • Sarsaparilla was combined with sweet flag as a cough syrup.
    • Rabbit tobacco
    • Bloodroot

Back Pain

  • Arnica used as a rub or a poultice.
  • Horsemint tea was drunk to help with back pains.

Diarrhea and Other Stomach Ailments

Diarrhea could quickly cause dehydration in the harsh conditions that many tribes lived in. These Native American herbal remedies were used when stomach problems occurred. These remedies were used in tea form unless noted otherwise.

  • Diarrhea
    • Black cherry root
    • Black cherry fruit was often fermented naturally for up to a year, and then the juice was used to cure dysentery.
    • Dogwood bark tea used as enemas.
    • Black Raspberry root
  • Other Digestive Disorders
    • Dandelion roots were used for both urinary tract problems and heartburn.
    • Yellow Root was used for stomach aches.
    • Sage for upset stomach
    • Juniper for urinary tract infections as well as diarrhea.
    • Elder was used as a laxative.

Various Other Remedies

  • Wild Yam root
    • Menstrual cramps
    • Ease childbirth
    • Hormonal imbalances
    • Libido
  • Sage
    • Irregular menstruation
    • Childbirth
    • Bleeding
    Purple Coneflower, also known as Echinacea.
  • Passion Flower
  • Willow
    • Pain
    • Fever
    • Headache
  • Purple Coneflower
    • Snakebite
    • Insect bites
    • Toothaches
  • Black Cohosh
    • Female hormones
    • Arthritis
    • Cough
    • Headaches
    • Tinnitus
    • Sciatica
  • Skullcap
    • Restless leg
    • Insomnia
    • Nervous tension

Authentic Native American Herbal Remedies

Many Native Americans still grow, gather, and produce the herbal remedies that their ancestors used to treat a multitude of illnesses. If you wish to support the Native American community or are partial to the idea of these traditional herbal remedies, here is a partial list of websites.


Many of the common natural medicines that you find in your local health food store are, or once were, Native American remedies. Many of those herbs that the Native Americans used were given to early settlers for their own maladies. These herbs have been used for generations, and many were in common medical use before conventional medications were developed.

Native Americans did not have some of the options for capsules and tinctures that we have. More than likely most of their herbal remedies would have been made into teas. In many cases modern forms of these herbs serve the same purpose and work as well as the tea.

Native American Herbal Remedies