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Spiritual Healing the Native American Way With Herbs and Other Spiritual Helpers

Phyllis has a strong affinity for Native American traditions, beliefs, and spirituality.

Dream Catchers are Spiritual Tools

Heal the Spirit

Spiritual healing the Native American way with herbs goes beyond the physical health to reache the core of the illness or disease. For one to be healed physically, the spirit of that person must be healed - and this is where the spiritual healer, medicine man, or medicine woman will begin.

This simply means that in order to be healed, one must obtain harmony and balance within body, mind and soul. One must also have the desire to be healed and the belief that the healing method will work . If the belief, the faith, is not there, then the healing may not work.

Before you can heal your body from illness and disease, you must arrive at the place where you can heal your spirit. You must be ready to be healed and believe that the method you have chosen will work for you.

Psychological Perspective

There are many different reasons why one needs healing and different ways to achieve that goal. Generally, when we think of 'healing' we are thinking of the physical body and its ailments. There is also the psychological perspective.

Healing of the mind or emotions is no less important than making sure your body is functioning and working properly. The most important need of healing is that of the spirit. If the spirit is broken or lost, there is no help for the mind and body until the spirit is restored.

Depression can Break the Spirit

"At Eternity's Gate" by van Gogh, 1890.

"At Eternity's Gate" by van Gogh, 1890.

Lost Soul Retrieval

There have been cases where a medicine man or woman or a spiritual leader have been called upon to retrieve a lost soul and bring it back to the body so the person can heal and function as they used to.

This has been done when there is suffering from depression or other soul damaging illnesses. A 'soul damaging' illness is any illness that has broken the spirit and has left one incapable of functioning mentally or emotionally.

It is important to realize that within the Native American cultures, there are many different tribes. Each tribe is very unique unto themselves. Their healing beliefs and rituals vary with each tribe and with each healer. So, this is general information on healing in the Native American way.


The use of herbs for healing is an ancient practice. Archaeologists have found that cultures from the earliest of times learned to appreciate nature's plants for not only a food source, but their healing qualities as well.

Understanding the secrets of nature is the first step in learning how to heal with herbs. This is the oldest form known to humankind of caring for one's health. Herbs are an essential part of traditional healing.

There is a plethora of herbal remedies that have been used by people since time immemorial. Herbs have been used by ancient peoples all over the world for healing. There are at least 35,000 plants and herbs that can be used for medicinal purposes - yet even the greatest of spiritual leaders and healers do not stretch their knowledge and powers too thin by trying to learn all of the herbs and their uses.

A great deal of the power of herbs depends on where they grow. It is wise to use herbs for healing that grow in your own local area because they have the properties to deal with specific diseases and illnesses pertaining to the area they grow in.

Sacred White Sage

Healing Tea

Southern California near the San Bernardino Mountains was the home of the Cahuilla people. They lived off the land and gathered plants, roots, seeds and tree parts. The women made a tea from roots of the sage.

This medicinal tea was given to women after they gave birth, to help them heal and gain their strength back. The healers also burned the sage leaves in rituals and general purification purposes. The smoke from the leaves warded off evil spirits and other negativity. Both white sage and purple sage are used for rituals or teas. White sage is highly prized and sacred to Native Americans.

Cahuilla Woman

Desert Cahuilla Woman by Edward S. Curtis, 1926

Desert Cahuilla Woman by Edward S. Curtis, 1926

Respect and Prayer

Native Americans treat the herbs with great respect and pray to the spirit of the plant to release their powers of healing. They then give a prayer of gratitude before gathering parts of the plant. They never take more than what is needed and do not take all they need from one plant, but choose several plants to take a little from each.

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They also do not take from the "Elder" plant, which is the largest and oldest of the group, for it is from the Elder that all the others receive life.

Pharmaceuticals treat the symptoms of a disease. They often do not treat the underlying cause of the illness. The Native American healer uses herbal remedies and soul searching in such a way that treats the person.

Prior to any healing ceremony, the healer will converse with the patient and his or her family to find out exactly what the person’s life is like and what their emotional or psychological problems are. They then treat the person by preparing an herbal remedy that will heal the underlying cause which in turn eliminates the symptoms.

Spiritual Helpers

In addition to the sacred herbs a Native American healer uses, there are many other spiritual tools (or helpers) used. From ancient times these spiritual tools are an integral part of healing in the Native American way.

Spiritual helpers are ancestral spirits, animal totems, the spirits of nature - spirits who give guidance and wisdom. Great Spirit, The Great Wisdom, Wakan Tanka, The Great Sacred, The Creator, is the One the healer prays to and asks for guidance and does so in each direction of The Four Winds, the Sky and Mother Earth - these are the six Sacred Directions.

Receiving Medicine Power ~

I cured with the power that came through me. Of course, it was not I who cured, it was the power from the Outer World, the visions and the ceremonies had only made me like a hole through which the power could come to the two-leggeds." "If I thought that I was doing it myself, the hole would close up and no power could come through. Then everything I could do would be foolish.

— Nicholas Black Elk - Oglala Sioux

Totems and Imaging

Totems (animal spirit, power animal) are personal animal symbols that provide courage, strength and wisdom to the spirit.

The totem is discovered on the person's vision quest, usually when still a child. It can also be a symbol of the entire clan, tribe or a family. Totems act as guides for the person's entire life.

A person may have more than one totem to be called upon for different situations (IE: bear for courage and strength; deer for nurturing; beaver for determination; buffalo for sacredness, abundance, great strength; badger for courage, aggressiveness, healing). Even though different totems may be used throughout life, there is always the one main totem that is for life - the one that a person will always communicate with for both physical and spiritual purposes.

Imaging is used by a medicine man or woman or spiritual leader when healing. They use imaging to do away with the disease - for instance, imagining Badger digging out the diseased part, then to imagine Eagle carrying away the diseased part or the evil forces that trapped the spirit.


Eagle is Sacred to Native Americans

Vision Quest

Another form of healing is the vision quest.

A young Native American who goes on a vision quest does so with the intention of gaining wisdom, courage and a higher level of status within himself or herself, the family and the tribe or clan. It is a spiritual quest.

To prepare for a vision quest, one must fast prior to leaving on their journey. They then seek a place in nature that feels right for their quest and sit down. Often, all they have is a blanket to wrap up in. They will not eat or drink anything and just focus on their spirituality and wait for an image to come to them.

Throughout their lives, a Native American may go on a vision quest in order to help understand an issue or problem they are facing. Their spiritual image (totem) will often give them the answers they are seeking.

Vision Quest is not to be Taken Lightly

Enter Into the Silence

Often, in silence is the only way to hear - to listen to the voice of your soul. One sometimes must quiet the mind and push away any outside noise in order to listen to the silence and eventually the inner voice, which is one's spiritual guide. To be in the silence, to be the silence may give one the answer needed.

© 2010 Phyllis Doyle Burns


Phyllis Doyle Burns (author) from High desert of Nevada. on July 25, 2019:

Hi Dennis. Thank you for contributing to this article with your comment which I enjoyed reading.

Dennis Thorgesen from Beatrice, Nebraska U.S. on July 16, 2019:

What I have found is there is no better healer than our own human mind. Every form of healing comes from a belief that it will work. To me this means whatever you choose to believe will work, will work for you.

I have spent time around "American Indian" healers. My grandmother was one, and through her I met others. The ones I met had a very high success rate in healing, not treating. I have talked to people my grandmother cured 40 years after she healed them (or more correctly they healed themselves with the use of their mind and belief system).

The majority of my grandmothers patients were not of Indian decent. They had no knowledge of what was even entailed in this kind of healing. In her case, it was the reputation she built as a healer that they believed in.

Should we be at peace in nature, and let it influence our lives and belief systems? I don't know about others, I do know it worked for me. My grandmother raised me in the way of the "people." Like those before me I did my vision quest as a child.

The lessons I learned as a child have served me well. I also learned that there is something to natural healing, as with my grandmothers help I healed animals.

One of my grandmothers favorite stories was about two of my great, great aunts. As the story goes, the two of them walked the trail of tears when they were between their 80th and 90th summers. They were both healers, and saved a few lives along the trail. Each lived on past 100 summers, still healing others until just before they died. In the end it is said each one chose to join the great spirit.

Phyllis Doyle Burns (author) from High desert of Nevada. on July 16, 2019:

Hi Audrey. You are most welcome, and thank you for sharing your vision quest. Take care.

Audrey Hunt from Pahrump NV on July 13, 2019:

My mother took me on my first vision quest when I turned 16. It was an unbelievable experience. I've continued this even through my golden years. How wonderful that you've included this information in this magnificent article.

Thank you, Phyllis!

Phyllis Doyle Burns (author) from High desert of Nevada. on July 09, 2019:

Hi Stephanie. You are welcome and thank you for the nice comment. I have a close affinity to Native American tribes and do a lot of research to learn more.

Stephanie Fredricksen from Utah on July 02, 2019:

Super interesting article! I think learning about the Native American methods is so fascinating. I never knew how totems were discovered, and learning about vision quests kind of makes me want to go on one of my own! Thank you for sharing!

Phyllis Doyle Burns (author) from High desert of Nevada. on March 30, 2019:

Hi Cindy. I am glad you enjoyed this article. Thank you for following.

Cindy Fahnestock-Schafer from Hedgesville, WV on March 19, 2019:

I am going to link this hub into my hub, it's wonderful and I hope to try to some of this myself. I am following you now and Thank you for this!

Phyllis Doyle Burns (author) from High desert of Nevada. on July 21, 2017:

Hi Jane. Thank you very much.

jane on July 20, 2017:

Very interesting and informative

Phyllis Doyle Burns (author) from High desert of Nevada. on August 07, 2014:

Hi Don and thank you for reading and commenting. Yes, there is a place for various methods with many people. One finds their truths and healing in their own way. I have a strong affinity to the ways of the Lakhota, Blackfoot, Cherokee and a few other tribes, yet still trust my doctor for diagnosis and advice on some things. I appreciate your visit, dahoglund, thanks again.

Phyllis Doyle Burns (author) from High desert of Nevada. on August 07, 2014:

Audrey, you are most welcome -- I feel good knowing that this hub has helped you open some doors to your heritage. I know that living in the mountains can be very healing, it was for me and I long to return to a mountain community. I am so glad you found what you needed in my hub and hope doors that lead to healing continue to open for you. All the best to you on your spiritual path. Your son is all around you in Nature and always within you, even as he continues his spiritual journey.Thank you for sharing your thoughts with me, Audrey.


A poem from a departed loved one:

I Give You This One Thought

I give you this one thought to keep I am with you still - I do not sleep. I am a thousand winds that blow, I am the diamond glints on snow, I am the sunlight on ripened grain, I am the gentle autumn rain.

When you awaken in the morning's hush, I am the swift, uplifting rush of quiet birds in circled flight. I am the soft stars that shine at night.

Do not think of me as gone - I am with you still - in each new dawn.


Don A. Hoglund from Wisconsin Rapids on August 07, 2014:

I think there is a place for various healing methods, or even a combination at times. Some people I know find relief for allergies in medicines from stores that sell herbal remedies. We have added techniques such as acupunture to our cures in the United States. I used to go to an Osteopathic doctor. There is much about the human body and illness that we don't know for sure. I tend to believe there is some truth in various approaches.

Audrey Hunt from Pahrump NV on August 06, 2014:

Phyllis, I thank you so very much for this 'Healing Hub.' I am part "Blackfoot", my mother was half and my grandmother 75%.

You have opened another door for me to learn the ways of my ancestors. I have been drawn back into some of their customs and paths by a recent move from Tennessee back to California.

I live high in the mountains in a small community called Idyllwild which is rich in natures beauty. Here in the forest, Mother Earth displays her beautiful children and animals. It is here, during my walks among the trees, plants, streams and small critters that I am able to feel my heart beginning to heal. It is here that I feel my son's arms around me again as I place my own arms around the bark of a tree and embrace it gratefully.

I am in touch with every word you have written. The videos are inspiring. I will search for more like these. The photos call me home and bring me peace. Thank you. Voted up, UABI and will pin on my board and share with others.- Audrey

Phyllis Doyle Burns (author) from High desert of Nevada. on July 27, 2014:

Hi thelesleyshow, thank you very much for reading and commenting. Each tribe has their own medicine man or woman who will have their own individual way of healing and method of using spiritual tools. Some of their healing rituals are kept as secret ceremonials. Thanks again for stopping by.

TheLesleyShow from US on July 27, 2014:

This is a very interesting read, I was not aware of so many of the ways Native Americans did spiritual healing. Thank you for sharing.

Phyllis Doyle Burns (author) from High desert of Nevada. on July 27, 2014:

Thank you, Lady G, for stopping by and commenting. I appreciate the votes and sharing, thank you for that, too.

Debra Allen from West Virginia on July 27, 2014:

If we would have listened to them before we drove them off the land. All this is great and I do believe that older cultures knew lots more about self and the spirit and the earth and the soul or energy. Today's world is more about how much money someone can make by making something synthetic to gain even more money when they know it will make that person even sicker. This was a great article and I voted up and others and will share it too.

Phyllis Doyle Burns (author) from High desert of Nevada. on July 17, 2014:

Hi Shyron. Thank you so much for your lovely comment and votes. To have a NA Medicine pray and do his healing would be a wonderful experience and very beneficial for one. Healing begins in the spirit. Thanks again. I so appreciate your reading and sharing. Bless you.

Shyron E Shenko from Texas on July 16, 2014:

Phyllis, this is so awesome, many people don't know that spiritual healing is important to all healing. I would dearly love to have a Native American Medicine man pray for me.

Thank you for writing this, it is one of my favorite hubs of yours.

Voted up, UABI and shared



Phyllis Doyle Burns (author) from High desert of Nevada. on July 02, 2014:

Hi Carolyn. Native American spirituality and healing ways have always been of great interest to me -- so glad to hear they are for you also. Thanks for the visit and comment.

Carolyn Emerick on July 02, 2014:

Phyllis, another one I can't believe I missed! Upvoted and shared, and will be back to read more in depth later, because I am so interested in this topic!

Phyllis Doyle Burns (author) from High desert of Nevada. on April 21, 2014:

Very well said, wheelinallover. Thank you very much for the visit. I appreciate your thoughts and time to comment.

Dennis Thorgesen from Beatrice, Nebraska U.S. on April 21, 2014:

It appears American Indians learned early that body, mind, and soul are all one. You can't heal one without healing all. Modern medicine masks symptoms without ever dealing with the real problem.

In my opinion you can't heal a human or animal which doesn't want to be healed. It has been my experience that animals are more receptive than humans to the ancient ways. I have actually seen animals who started treatment finish the treatment themselves.

Even so there are many people now choosing methods closer to pure American Indian ways than modern medicine. I have also seen many modern Americans self destruct even knowing they could be healed.

Phyllis Doyle Burns (author) from High desert of Nevada. on April 14, 2014:

Rebecca, thank you for your great comment. I believe that anyone who sees the truth in the way to heal deserves respect for knowing how to live in and of nature. That is a way of life lived in harmony and balance. Thanks again. Have a great day.

Phyllis Doyle Burns (author) from High desert of Nevada. on April 14, 2014:

Hi Peg. Thank you very much for your visit and comment. I so agree with you in using what Mother Earth has freely given us, it is the natural way of healing. I am happy to read your comment on the images, for I really looked a long time to find the ones that felt right for this hub. Thanks again, Peg.

Phyllis Doyle Burns (author) from High desert of Nevada. on April 14, 2014:

Hi Kimberly. I am happy to know you find this hub so interesting and informative. Yes, they are a people with great wisdom. Thank you so much for the vote and share.

Rebecca Mealey from Northeastern Georgia, USA on April 14, 2014:

Treating the underlying cause rather than the symptoms. Very profound thinking. I really have a lot of respect for Native Americans both then and now. Very interesting read!

Peg Cole from North Dallas, Texas on April 14, 2014:

Fascinating reading here Phyllis. I enjoyed learning a bit about the traditional medicines and natural remedies used by the Native Americans. I'm a firm believer in using what we are given by the earth rather than chemically produced. The images have really added a lot to your presentation.

Kimberly Lake from California on April 14, 2014:

This is a very interesting article. Well written and full of great information. The Native American traditions and and practices show how wise a people that they were/are. Voted up awesome and shared. Thank you Phyllis Doyle for another great hub.

Phyllis Doyle Burns (author) from High desert of Nevada. on April 14, 2014:

Hi Anna. Thank you very much for stopping by and reading. I am glad you enjoyed this hub. I have a lot of friends online who like Reiki a lot and find it very beneficial.

Anna Haven from Scotland on April 14, 2014:

Very interesting hub. The Native Anericans were definately far much in touch with their spiritual selves than our collective world is today.

Spiritual growth is a subject very close to my heart and I also do Reiki; so I really enjoyed your hub.

Phyllis Doyle Burns (author) from High desert of Nevada. on November 26, 2013:

I just revised and updated this hub by adding capsules, images and videos. I hope you enjoy it.

Phyllis Doyle Burns (author) from High desert of Nevada. on November 13, 2013:

Indian Chef, I believe there are more beneficial results of healing with herbs and plant parts that with modern medicines. I have heard much about Ayurveda. Thank you for your visit and comment -- I greatly appreciate it.

Indian Chef from New Delhi India on November 13, 2013:

I can fully understand about this. We in India do have a great medicine science which we developed and all of its medicines comes from plants. That is called Ayurveda. Unfortunately it is now neglected so not developing at a rate it should.

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