Native American medicine refers to the healing practices of the native tribes of North America. This type of medicine differs from conventional treatment because Native American healers take a whole person approach, rather than simply treating diseases, according to the American Cancer Society website. Herbs feature prominently in Native American medicine, although rituals, religion and spirituality are sometimes used in treatment. Herbs and other natural substances are commonly used in Native American remedies for pain. Talk to your doctor before using Native American treatments for pain symptoms. These remedies are not intended as replacements for conventional medical therapy.
Although some medical professionals discourage the use of pennyroyal oil because doses as small as 2 tbsp. can be fatal, the dried leaves of the pennyroyal herb are not dangerous, according to Michael Castleman, author of The Healing Herbs." Pennyroyal was first used in Rome as a flea repellent, but it was adopted into folk remedies as a decongestant and digestive aid. According to the Cherokee Cultural Society of Houston, this herb also appears in Native American medicine of the Onondagas as a remedy for headaches. The Onondagas steeped the dried leaves in water and drank the decoction. Consult your doctor before using pennyroyal as a headache remedy.
Black cohosh is a plant that is thought to be native to the Ohio Valley of the United States. Native Americans boiled the roots of this plant in water and drank the resulting liquid as a treatment for arthritis pain, as well as rattlesnake bites, notes Castleman. Black cohosh also appears in Native American medicine as a remedy for menstrual cramps and the pain of childbirth. Overdoses of black cohosh may cause side effects such as dizziness, diarrhea, nausea and vomiting. Check with your doctor before taking black cohosh as a pain reliever.
Although some researchers believe that witch hazel owes its name to its use in witches' brooms, this herb actually gets its name from the Middle English word wyche which means pliant or flexible. According to Castleman, Native Americans used the branches of this herb to make archery bows. The Native Americans also had other uses for witch hazel they boiled the plant in water and rubbed the decoction on cuts, insect bites and bruises to ease pain and swelling. Witch hazel was also a favored treatment for back, joint and muscle pain. This herb is generally considered safe, although it may cause minor skin irritation. Call a medical practitioner before treating pain with witch hazel.