Influence of American Indigenous Medicine  

Subject: Health Care
Type: Synthesis Essay
Pages: 5
Word count: 1171
Topics: Universal Healthcare, Health, Medicine


The health and well-being of humankind has been a concern from time immemorial. The native communities used available resources from the environment to heal both chronic and acute conditions. The medical solutions were obtained from animals, plants, and insects. The work of identifying and extracting these medicinal solutions was undertaken by specialists such as healers (Orr, 2014). Basically, native communities in America had a system of traditional healing approaches that differed from one community to another. The native plants, native diet and harvest ceremonies were some of the complex activities involved in the healing process; for instance, the Native Americans in the state of Arizona greet the dawn every day by performing a running activity (Waldman 2014). The practices of these Native Americans maintained their bodys’ health and promoted psychological well-being (Barnes et al., 2004, June). However, there is an increase in diseases and emergence of diseases that were unheard of by the native people. The diseases such as diabetes among others cannot be handled effectively by traditional medicine. Consequently, the young generation of the native communities is abandoning native medicine. This paper examines American native medicine and their influence on modern medical practices.

Native medicine 

The purpose of the Native America Medicine can be summarized in four statements; making peace with the surrounding environment, healing of the sick and emotionally disturbed, obtaining spiritual health, and obtaining body health. The practices were done by people who were gifted spiritually. The specialists were the medicine men and women in the community. The healing process involved both rites and medicine as such, people performed different spiritual practices as remedies to diseases (Orr, T. 2014). The medicine was extracted from leaves, tree barks, roots, and fruits. In addition to herbs, some insects and animals were medicinal. Moreover, the medicine was obtained based on the spiritual knowledge obtained in the past from spiritual visions, elders, and natural occurrences. This means that intuition was the primary aspect of native medicine which guided the specialists to be the counselors and advisors of the community and the sick. The process was complex drawing from different causes hence explaining the need for specialists who would be able to break down the tale of causal agents of the diseases. Consequently, the remedy was slightly different for the same symptoms based on what has caused the disease. Aspects of consideration included the environment, social, physical, emotional, and, spiritual realities (Micozzi 2014). These practices were passed from one generation to another through oral traditions and other means.

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Influence on the modern medicinal cultures

The native medicinal practices have many influences on the modern practices in medicine. Allopathic practitioners have been combining healing practices from the traditional medicine with modern practices to provide health solutions. Both allopathic and traditional healing practices are being used side by side to promote health and well-being of people (Micozzi 2014). As much as advances have been made in modern medicine, the Native American Culture still upholds spiritual treatments to promote their health (Waldman 2014; Lobo et al., 2016). Additionally, Native medicine has inspired studies in the field such as Phytotherapy, photochemistry, and botanical sciences. The aims of such fields are to promote less harmful medicinal solutions in humans. It is not a coincidence that the theme of phytotherapy and botanical sciences is similar to that of traditional medicine but a clear indication of the influence of native solutions. The modern science has begun to give a closer attention to native solutions hence studying their efficiency evident in works of Lobo (2016). Most of these solutions have been found effective. As a result, many pharmaceuticals have had a botanical origin.  Research has shown that over 150 traditional American medicines have been listed in the National Pharmacopoeia (Laurence 2004).

Characteristics of Native American Medicinal Practices

Medicine among the American native people is a rich cultural practice defining the communities. The medicinal solutions are largely shaped by the spiritual, cosmological views that comprise the worldview of these people. Ideally, the focus of the Native Medicine is, majorly, on the healing the patient. The healing process is meant to empower the patient through increasing his/her awareness and fostering confidence (Lobo 2016). Consequently, the patient takes responsibility for their own health without dependence on other authorities. Secondly, the approach to healing is simple with simplified explanations. Thirdly, the Native American Medicine is teleological, the healing process an end in itself. Lastly, the environment is taken as an important aspect of American Native medicine. The process of the traditional healing involves ‘making peace with the environment’ hence conservation of the environment. Additionally, the diagnostic procedures are multifaceted since they involve spiritual, social, physical, and emotional realms (Vogel 2013). The aspects form a wholesome process where the specialist acts as a counselor and advisor of the affected patient. 

Comparison with modern medicine

The native medicine and the modern medicine have many things in common. They are both undertaken by specialists and both focus on the health and well-being of the person. However, they differ in many aspects. Modern medicine considers diseases as biological and requires that the results of the treatment are measurable, unlike the native medicine where explanations are simple and outcomes are not always measurable. To larger extents, the western medicine is adversarial compared to the teleological native medicine. As such, the modern medicine focus on destroying the disease while native medicines focus on the lesson the affected person would learn from the disease. Because of modernization and science, western medicine investigates the diseases for the microscopic cause while the native specialists use multifaceted causal spectrum that includes spiritual, social, physical, and emotional realms. Therefore, both have different approaches to treatment. The use of technology and science fosters dependency on the modern medication. To the contrary, native medicine fosters independence after the remedy. The patients are assisted to develop confidence and awareness of taking charge of their health.


Conclusively, the native medicine is largely dependent on the spiritual, social, physical, and emotional realms that can only be applied by specialists. The medications are designed to help the patient develop autonomy of seeking the herbs on his/her own rather than depend on the specialist, unlike western medicine where the patient depends on the Allopathic practitioners. Based on the efficiency of herbalism in both modern and traditional societies, scientists have tried to incorporate native medicine into modern solutions through phytotherapy and botanical sciences. Therefore, native medicine has a big influence on the western medicine.

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  1. Barnes, P. M., Powell-Griner, E., McFann, K., & Nahin, R. L. (2004, June). Complementary and alternative medicine use among adults: United States, 2002. In Seminars in integrative medicine (Vol. 2, No. 2, pp. 54-71). WB Saunders.
  2. Lobo, S., Talbot, S., & Carlston, T. M. (2016). Native American voices. Routledge.
  3. Micozzi, M. S. (2014). Fundamentals of Complementary and Alternative Medicine-E-Book. Elsevier Health Sciences.
  4. Orr, T. (2014). Native American Medicine. Simon and Schuster.
  5. Vogel, V. J. (2013). American Indian Medicine. University of Oklahoma Press.
  6. Waldman, C. (2014). Encyclopedia of Native American Tribes. Infobase Publishing.
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