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WISDOM FROM THE WILD CHILD GARDEN: FEBRUARY 2024: NATIVE AMERICAN HERBALISM

Native American healers have been using native medicinal plants long before the first settlers arrived in America!

INDIGENOUS MEDICINAL HEALING PLANTS: Taken from: Native Voices: Native American, Alaska Native, and Native Hawaiian healers all have a long history of using indigenous, also known as native, plants for a wide variety of medicinal purposes. Medicinal plants and their applications are as diverse as the tribes who use them.

 

Beyond their medicinal benefits, indigenous plants were a staple of Native people’s diet before Western contact. Today, indigenous plants are central to efforts to improve dietary health for current generations. In Hawai‘i, the “Waianae Diet” and “Pre-Captain Cook Diet” aim to reduce empty calories, fat, and additives and promote a healthier, more balanced diet by restoring the role of indigenous foods. Alaska Natives and various Indian tribes have similar projects emphasizing traditional foods.

CIRCLE OF HEALING DANCE: Taken from: The Herbal Academy: “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. 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 drumbeat, 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.”

 

“In the second attention, when the circle begins moving to the left as we continue to step in time with the drumbeat, the coordination, balance, and rhythm must be more precise as each person on the circle begins moving in rhythm with the others. In the third attention, the dancers focus not only on how they are stepping not only on Mother Earth, but on the whole circle of dancers. Each person is both a leader and a follower yet neither because everyone has the same value on the circle. Each dancer is as slow as the slowest person, and as weak as the weakest link. This oneness or wholeness is what their tradition names holiness. This holiness is the essence of healing, which means to manifest wholeness in spirit and bring it into our bodies, our families, our communities, and our world.”

HERBAL HEALING PRACTICES OF NATIVE AMERICANS: Taken from the Herbal Academy: “Native Americans believe that illness is a sign of misalignment in spirit as well as in the physical body. Addressing the spiritual well-being of the sick is considered equally or even more important than addressing the actual physical ailments. This idea seemed preposterous to the profoundly Christian settlers, but it comes full circle to today’s modern scientific belief that our emotions as well as our spiritual health play a substantial role in our physical well-being."

 

"Long before the Europeans arrived on the North American continent indigenous people were practicing herbalism. Some of their knowledge of how plants could be used for wellness came from their keen observation of the wildlife around them. They observed that deer, elk, and bear sought out plants to eat when they were sick. They saw the animals recover and knew to experiment with these herbs and plants to heal themselves."

 

"The indigenous tribes also worked and communed with plants and herbs believing that there was an exchange of healing information from the plants themselves that guided them through the process of selecting the right herbs and plants for healing. All plants are our brothers and sisters. They talk to us, and if we listen, we can hear them. The vital energy that moves through the plant world is believed to be the same vital energy that moves through all of life on earth."

 

"Plants were carefully studied by the Native Americans over thousands of years and this contributed to the huge knowledge base of over 500 herbal plants. This plant and herbal knowledge learned and used by these early tribes was passed down orally for the most part as very little was written. Many herbs that were discovered and used by Native Americans are used today in the ways in which the Native American people used them.”

HERBS USED IN NATIVE AMERICAN HERBALISM:

·        Black Cohosh (Actaea racemosa)

·        California Poppy (Eschscholzia californica)

·        Devil’s Club (Oplopanax horridus)

·        Echinacea (Echinacea angustifolia)

·        American Ginseng (Panax quinquefolia)

·        Goldenrod (Solidago altissima)

·        Goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis)

·        Gravel Root/Joe Pye Weed (Eupatorium purpureum)

·        Hawthorn (Crataegus monogyna)

·        Horsetail (Equisetum arvense)

·        Lady’s Slipper (Cypripedium parviflorum)

·        Magnolia (Magnolia grandiflora)

·        Mesquite (Prosopis glandulosa)

·        Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca)

·        Mint (Mentha arvensis)

·        Nettle (Urtica dioica)

·        Oak (Quercus rubra)

·        Oregon Grape (Mohania aquifolium)

·        Pine (Pinus strobus)

·        Sassafras (Sassafras albidum)

·        Sweet Flag (Acorus calamus)

·        Willow (Salix alba)

·        Wormwood (Artemisia campestris)

·        Yarrow (Achillea millefolium)

·        Yucca (Yucca elata Englemann)

THE NATIVE AMERICAN MEDICINE WHEEL GARDEN: The Native American Medicine Wheel was an ancient way of creating a sacred space and calling forth the healing energies of nature. Based on the number four, which represents the cardinal directions, and situated at energy vortexes, sacred circles are used all over the world for ceremonies and places of worship. The medicine wheel garden, or sacred hoop, begins with the circle, the natural shape symbolic of the interconnections of all life. The round design features a central focus and four paths that carve the garden into pie-shaped beds. The four areas of the medicine wheel have attributes assigned to them, and include the four directions, seasons, elements, spirit animals, sacred plants, heavenly bodies, and stages of life.

 

The wheel can encompass a wide variety of native culinary, tea, heirloom, or healing herbs, grasses, shrubs and cacti. Allow at least 10-18 inches between plants. Most wheels are designed with 36 stones to reflect the sacred path that humans travel on earth. The entrance is always situated in the east to represent the beginning of our journey and the rising of the sun. The center of the Medicine Wheel is the Creator, from whom all life flows, and who represents the cycle of life from beginning to end.

THE WILD CHILD NATIVE AMERICAN MEDICINE WHEEL GARDEN:


The Wild Child Medicine Wheel Garden has a Peace Pole in the center.

Seven stones called the Elder & Ancestor stones, or the Seven Grandfathers, surround the Creator Peace Pole, and represent the guidance provided by those who have traveled the sacred path before us. They have gifts for us that have been translated from the Creator, and these gifts infuse the teachings of the medicine wheel. The seven stones represent Father Sky, Earth Mother, Grandmother Moon, Grandfather Sun, Star Nation, the planets, and the Milky Way.


The gifts are:

·        Truth: Debwewin: The Turtle: To commit to these seven teachings and see them as fundamental values that complement each other is to know them within oneself, authentically. The turtle methodically walks the Earth as one of our eldest animals and reminds us of our teachings that proceed and survive all of time. Walk with these teachings and share these teachings from a true place of regard for their capacity to enrich our own lives and those who we encounter.

·        Wisdom: Nbwaakaawin: The Beaver: To cultivate knowledge is to know wisdom, which helps us make decisions that honor our well-being. This is represented by the beaver, who patiently uses his impressive teeth and creative mind to build sustainable communities. Be humble in knowing where you excel and what your limits are and collaborate with others who have expertise you may lack.

·        Love: Zaagidiwin: The Eagle: Unconditional love cannot be given without loving oneself, much like the eagle who soars high and carries these teachings from the Creator to share with her young. Educate yourself before you speak, consult with your mentors and your communities, and love yourself enough to overcome difficulties.

·        Respect: Mnaadendimowin: The Buffalo: As long as we have walked the Earth, so have the buffalo, who have sacrificed themselves to give us warmth, food and shelter. To have respect is to honor all of creation. Balance what you need with what you want and recognize how your own greed may be at the expense of Mother Earth. Do what you can to make a difference and lead by example.

·        Bravery: Aakwa’ode’ewin: The Bear: Awaken the warrior within by facing adversaries with integrity. We see these traits embodied in mother bears, who guide and protect their young with strength and a playful heart. Remember, you can’t take care of others without taking time for yourself first. Conquer fears so you can help those you love. Don’t forget the power of play and humor.

·        Honesty: Gwekwaadziwin: The Raven: Facing a situation with truth, kindness and compassion is to walk with integrity. The raven, who uses his own cleverness to prosper, is a potent symbol of the power of honesty. Remain true to yourself, love and respect your own natural form.

·        Humility: Dbaadendiziwin: The Wolf: To know yourself and your gifts in a humble way is to set a good example for others in life, much like wolves who are devoted to their family. Uphold the power of love. Look for it everywhere and nurture it just as you would your children. To accept that we all need love to survive is to be truly humble.

Twelve stones fill in the remainder of the perimeter and represent the 12 moons of the year. Three stones are placed between each of the four cardinal directions. The moons mark the "stepping stones" around the wheel making it a "moon calendar". Each moon is also a passage in life, and we move from moon to moon as we grow and mature. Each brings a spirit and energies to a part of life. Do not stagnate in one moon, but progress around the Medicine Wheel gaining the strength, wisdom, power, and knowledge of each moon.


The 12 moons are:

·        January: Clear Quartz: Spirit Moon: Wolf Moon: the first moon of the year that begins as the sun once again journeys back from the south, at the beginning of the solar year, on the Winter Equinox. This moon brings the strength of the Turtle Clan and the earth element, and it teaches us to be adaptable, to always remember there is a time to begin again, and not to despair of that which has come and gone before. The clear quartz stone serves as a wonderful receiver and transmitter of the Universal Life Force.

·        February: Lapiz Lazuli: Bear Moon: Snow Moon: a moon with the energy of the North Wind and the spirit of the Butterfly Clan bringing the spirit and energy of the air element. This moon helps with recharging energy and cleansing away the past troubles and difficulties that are still nagging at happiness and wellbeing. The lapis lazuli stone is believed to possess the ability to enlighten the mind and lead to self-awareness. It is renowned for its power to stimulate the third eye chakra, fostering an environment conducive to inner peace, clarity, and the nurturing of a deeper mind-body-spirit connection.

·        March: Crazy Lace Agate: Walk on Snow Moon: Worm Moon: the third moon under the spirit of Kabibonokka, the Spirit Keeper of the North.  It is also a time of the Frog Clan and the water element. This moon is one of natural medicine, developing sensitivity, seeking spirituality, and learning to express true feelings.  It is a time to again become grounded, and to recognize our place in the natural world, and our deep spirituality. The crazy lace agate stone is a protective and grounding stone that facilitates a strong connection to earth energies.

·        April: Yellow Jade: Making Maple Syrup Moon: Pink Moon: starts at the real beginning of the year, the Vernal Equinox, and teaches the lessons of new growth and the eternal cycle of life. It is a time for the Thunderbird Clan and the fire element. The yellow jade is a stone of wisdom that helps us to learn from life experiences and gain self-confidence. Yellow symbolizes warmth and joy, and this stone is also believed to affect the digestive system and increase the metabolism.

·        May: Blue Aventurine: Sucker Moon: Flower Moon: a time of the Turtle Clan, the Clan of Mother Earth, and the earth element. It is the second moon cared for by Wabun, the East Spirit Keeper, with help from the Golden Eagle and the East Wind. This is the time of mid-spring, as the earth is rapidly coming alive. It is a time when our lives and spirits should also be coming alive again. Native American teachings declare this moon to be the perfect time to detox the mind and body, and to renew the spirit. The blue aventurine stone is a gentle stone that resonates from the mind to the heart, working calmly, rationally, and steadily. It enhances the masculine energy and is a stone of self-discipline and inner strength. It assists us in making clear decisions and sticking by them.

·        June: Green Aventurine: Blooms Moon: Strawberry Moon: this moon is an important time of rejuvenation. The Spirit Keeper of the Corn Planting Moon is Wabun, the Spirit Keeper of the East Wind. It is a time of the Butterfly Clan that brings the spirit of the air element. The green aventurine stone provides strength, confidence, courage, and happiness. It renews one's optimism for life and pushes us to take action to acquire what we want in this world. This stone urges one to get out of their comfort zone and take on new opportunities.

·        July: Rose Quartz: Berry Moon: Buck Moon: Shawnodese, the Spirit Keeper of the South, and the Frog Clan which brings the water element together instill the knowledge of compassion and letting go of unrealistic expectations. Rose quartz is known as a healing crystal and the stone of unconditional love. It's believed by some to emit strong vibrations of love, which are thought to support emotional and relationship healing, inspire compassion, and boost feelings of peace and calm.

·        August: Rhodonite: Grains Moon: Sturgeon Moon: this moon is guided by Shawnodese, the South Wind Spirit Keeper, and the Thunderbird Clan who bring the fire element. It encourages natural motivation, and the need to create works that leave an impression through music, art, and poetry. The Rhodonite stone is one of compassion, emotional balance that clears away emotional wounds and scars from the past, and one that nurtures love. It stimulates, clears and activates the heart. Rhodonite grounds energy, balances yin-yang, aids in achieving one's highest potential, and heals emotional shock and panic.

·        September: Amethyst: Fading Leaves Moon: Corn Moon: this moon is guided by Shawnodese, the South Wind Spirit Keeper, and the Turtle Clan who brings the earth element. It lends the energies needed to repair even the most torn bonds. This moon is seen by the Native Americans as the voice of reason, understanding the quality of patience, and recognizing the value of hard work. It allows us to sift through life's obstacles to find sustenance to benefit well-being as a whole. The amethyst stone protects us from black magic and enhances spiritual energies. It allows us to feel at ease with our issues, alleviates the physical tensions that exist, channels energies into a form of understanding, helps us move on from any past occurrences, and allows room for present decisions that will mold the future. Amethyst has the ability to expand the higher mind, enhance one’s creativity and passion, strengthen the imagination and intuition, and refine the thinking processes.

·        October: Red Jasper: Leaves Falling Moon: Hunter Moon: this moon is protected by Mudjekeewis, the Spirit Keeper of the West, the West Wind, associated with the power of transformation, introspection, and grounding, and the Butterfly Clan who brings the air element. During this moon shed old perspectives and develop new ones, do not be afraid to embrace change, realize that the past cannot be changed, observe situations from all perspectives, and know when to expect disappointment. The red jasper stone provides strength when adjusting to new circumstances, increases mental clarity, aids in decision-making, provides a mental boost when motivation is lacking, and to revitalizes the mind and body.

·        November: Unakite: Freezing Moon: Beaver Moon: this moon receives guidance from Mudjekeewis, the Spirit Keeper of the West, and the Frog Clan that brings the water element. It is a time of new discoveries and understanding things that have caused confusion. Most Shamans, medicine men that heal with spiritual energies, are born under this moon. The unakite stone is said to be a stone of vision that opens the third eye and is useful for scrying. It is also believed to be a stone of balance and grounding the self while bringing emotions and spirituality together. Among crystal healing practitioners, unakite is used to support convalescence from illness.

·        December: Black Obsidian: Little Spirit Moon: Cold Moon: receives protection from Mudjekeewis, the Spirit Keeper of the West, and the Thunderbird Clan, a clan of intense energy that can be used for your good or for the people around you. The clan helps sort out the uses of power and priorities and brings the fire element. This moon provides balance and symbolizes both majesty and cooperation. It teaches us mental strength and the wisdom to combine it with the energies of others to accomplish goals. The black obsidian stone contains energies that will help with focus, so there are little to no distractions. It is made from molten lava that cooled quickly, so its powers are fast acting.

NORTH: Represents the color white, spiritual growth, the elder years, the winter season, the wind element, the stars, & Father Sky. The white buffalo stone represents hibernation, suspension, and significant inner growth. The sacred plant for the north is Sweetgrass, sometimes called the hair of Mother Earth. After the grass is harvested, it is carefully braided into three sections representing mind, body, and spirit.

 

Plantings for the north sector of the wheel have white blossoms:

Bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis)                            

Borage: White (Borago officinalis)                                        

CA. Poppy: White Linen (Eschscholzia californica)    

Sweetgrass (Hierochloe odorata)

SOUTH: Represents the color red, emotional self-assurance, adolescence, the summer season, the earth element, the earth, & Earth Mother. The wolf stone represents adaptability, intelligence, and freedom as an essential way of life.

 

The sacred plant for the south is Cedar, nature’s purifier that boasts a distinctly resinous fragrance. Leaves are cleaned from the stems and separated into small pieces to be used for making tea, bathing, and ceremonies. It represents grounding, maturity, purification, and balance. Walking with cedar in the shoes is a good way to walk the sacred path. When a person has experienced trauma, a cedar bath can be given for comfort and healing to the body by adding cedar branches to the tub water. Cedar is also used to treat fevers, chest colds, and flu by making a tea from simmering the branches.

 

Plantings for the south sector of the wheel have red blossoms:

Amaranth: Spinach (Amaranthus cruentus)

Cedar: Dwarf Japanese (Cryptomeria japonica)

Ginger: Wild (Asarum canadense)

Indian Blanket (Gaillardia pulchella)

EAST: Represents the color yellow, mental strength, birth & childhood, the spring season, the fire element, the Sun, & Grandfather Sun. The eagle stone represents vision, power, and the ability to see the bigger picture of the world from above.

 

The sacred plant for the east is Tobacco, and the smoke is believed to be the pathway to the spirit world. It is also used as an offering of thanks or when requesting something from nature, an elder, or knowledge keeper. When used in a sacred way, tobacco can promote good health and assist with spiritual guidance, gratitude, and growth. Sacred tobacco is sometimes not the actual tobacco plant but a blend of plants such as kinnikinnick and the bark of the red osier dogwood. Commercial tobacco is very harmful and is laced with thousands of harmful chemicals. Many elders believe that any use of tobacco that occurs outside of ceremony with the plant in its natural form is an insult to Creator.

 

Plantings for the east sector of the wheel have yellow blossoms:

Indigo: Wild: Yellow (Baptisia tinctoria)

St. John’s Wort (Hypericum perforatum)

Dwarf Sunflower: Sungold (Helianthus annuus)

Tobacco: Indian (Nicotiana rustica)

WEST: Represents the color black or blue, physical growth, adulthood, the fall season, the water element, the moon, & Grandmother Moon. The bear stone represents strength, confidence, maturity, and experience.

 

The sacred plant for the west is Sage which is found abundantly in dry areas of North America and has an herbal and spicy scent. It is used in ceremony for smudging as a means to cleanse negativity from ourselves and our spaces. Our ancestors also used different varieties of sage for medicinal purposes. We can gargle with a strong tea made with fresh or dried sage to soothe throat infections, dental abscesses or infected gums. Sage also helps balance estrogen production, making it a good tea for women experiencing symptoms from menopause.

 

Plantings for the west sector of the wheel have blue and purple blossoms:

Geranium: Wild (Geranium maculatum)

Indigo: Wild: Blue (Baptisia australis)

Sage: Blue: Sky Dance (Salvia azurea)

Vervain: Blue (Verbena hastata)


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