Understanding Native American Healing

When discussing Native American healing, one must first get a basic understanding about the practitioners of its art and the understanding needed by patients.

Most tribal people have one or more types of healthcare specialists that frequently overlap. Some Native healers use herbs, some heal with songs, and some with spiritual rituals. A midwife or a medicine woman or man might focus on natural medicines such as herbs and hands-on techniques but also use prayer and ceremony. Shamans or holy people emphasize spiritual healing but are often also knowledgeable about natural medicines. Kahunas are people, usually of Hawaiian ancestry, who have developed a level of spirituality that joins them with many of the spirit powers allowing direct communication about the healing process.

To learn, people must be open to the ancient wisdom and understand it in the context of the entire Native American experience. It is not something to be trivialized by simply purchasing medicine objects and trying them out at home. As one Sioux leader said, “First they took our land, now they want our pipes … all the wannabees, these New Agers, come with their crystals and want to buy a medicine bag to carry them around in. If you want to learn our ways, come walk the red road with us, but be silent and listen.”

The Spiritual Foundation of Native American Medicine

Spirituality and medicine are inseparable in Native American tradition. Essentially no distinction is made between religious and medical practices. “Making medicine” is an important part of traditional life. It is how people give thanks to the Spirit who helps, guides, nourishes, and clothes them. Medicine is the constant pipeline to the Creator. In Native American tradition, making medicine is a process for achieving a variety of positive outcomes: a good hunt, plentiful crops, connecting with someone, healing someone, a successful birthing, and so on. Medicine is the way people keep their balance; it provides them with the opportunity to grow in new and healthier ways.

Native Americans believe in a singular living God, but also believe that same God may be contacted in many different ways. In Native languages, God is given such names as Great Spirit, Creator, Great Being, Great Mystery, Above Being, The One Who Oversees All Things, and He Who Gives Life. The missionaries mistakenly thought that Native American people worshiped trees, eagles, the Pipe, and many other things. What was misinterpreted was the use of these objects as gifts from the Creator, put here to help and to serve as conduits to greater understanding of the Creator’s ways. Using these gifts is one way to create an atmosphere conducive to addressing the Creator.

Gratitude is a central aspect of Native American culture. Every day is a spiritual, sacred day. One morning prayer, for example, is, “I thank You for another day. I ask that You give me the strength to walk worthily this day so that when I lie down at night I will not be ashamed.” Thanks are given to the Great Power who makes all things possible. People give thanks, not only for the good events but also for the bad things that happen throughout the day, because they believe that the more they show their appreciation, the more blessings they will receive.

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Hooray For Home Births

Two highly influential bodies of the Orthodox medical world seems to be at odds over this recommendation though, The Department of health is actually plans to actually encourage home births whereas the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) wants to issue the warnings the hazards involved in home births, they were later blamed for scaremongering. NICE says that the DoHs request that women should be given more choice as to where they give birth, means that they should also informed of the dangers involved with home births. What dangers? I hear you ask. Well, if during the birth your babies heart stops or there are serious breathing problems, or the mother cant stop bleeding and there are no qualified doctors around, then the mother and the baby are put at grave danger, so they say.

However, what they fail to mention is that once you tell your GP you want a home birth, they tell you that if you and your baby are in very good physical health at 37 of pregnancy, that is when they will allow you to have a home birth, (they cant really stop you, but would you really go ahead if there were a real risk, women arent silly you know). Once you are assigned a midwife to assist you in giving birth, you are normally informed of the nearest hospital should anything go wrong and you will normally be check every few weeks commencing your due date.

Now, with all these precautions in place, the risk of a problem at the birth are dramatically reduced to few percent of births.

The other major factor that isnt even considered by NICE and many other orthodox medical professionals is that the whole business of labour and child birth is a major psychological event for the mother, and what she goes through mentally, will physiologically effect the baby.

Basically, when a women goes into labour, either by contraction starting or her waters breaking, she will immediately be very weary and possibly anxious about the impending birth. Therefore it is of utmost importance that her whole environment, including the people in it are set up to relax and reassure the mother as much as possible. Now consider these 2 situations.

1.The mother goes into labour, call the hospital, is told to come in to hospital. They gather their hospital bag, get in the car, endure a possible bumpy ride while having contractions, possibly get stressed by traffic or their drivers driving, arrive at the hospital stressed and then introduced to possibly 4 different midwives and maybe a few doctors before being allow to relax and get into a hospital gown.

Then the internal examinations are carried out periodically, their maybe strangers (midwives and doctors) popping in and out to check on you. The mother is in the most pain she is even likely to be in, in a strange place with no real personal thing around her, unable to really roam freely about, with normally bright lights and artificially sound around her and people who she may have never met before telling her what to do. How relaxed would you be?

2. The mother goes into labour at home. She calls the midwife to come to the house. At home with all her personal things around her, she is able to roam freely around her house, knowing where all her comforters are (bed, bath, food), able to play all her own music, or do what ever she wants to in her own environment. The mother is totally in control of her environment, surrounded with only those she wants there (bar the midwife). There are still periodic internal examinations, but apart from this, the mother has every opportunity to be as ease in her own surroundings, relaxed and in control. How relaxed would you be?

In situation 1 all the stress felt by the mother will be passed on to the baby, which frequently leads to longer harder labour.

Doulas or the more natural alternative to a midwife, are trained on how the mother body actually works and the best way to create an environment conducive to the health of the baby and the mother, before during and after birth. It has been found that things like the trip to the hospital, being taken out of the home environment, being bombarded with questions, lights and noises at hospitals can effect the condition of the mother very negatively. Contact one of our doulas for more information.

The article however ends with a quote form the chief executive Belinda Phipps from The National Childbirth Trust, which is a well accomplished pregnancy charity, say that NICE does not have any firm evidence that home pregnancies are riskier. If it were anymore dangerous there would be statistic the prove it. On the contrary, home births were up 7% last year (2005) from the year before (2004) with no increase in incidences.

She continues There is no anecdotal or otherwise screaming evidence that says that it is dangerous. There just isnt concrete evidence that it is safe It is safe to say that there are many procedures that orthodox medicine do which are admittedly unsafe.

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Using Your Fresh Herbs In Infusions, Herbal Teas, Or Decoctions As An Herbal Medicine

Recently it has been shown that high herbal tea and quality teas have many health benefits, especially Black and Green Tea. With all the news on Black and Green Tea lately, you may be considering adding it to your daily diet regime. If that is so, only use the best quality and freshest tea available for the maximum health benefits. Also consider the health benefits of herbal teas using fresh herbs. Think of these as herbal medicine.

Millions of people all of the world have been drinking tea and infusions for centuries specifically for herbal medicine. In America, it has been considered a cheap convenient drink for soothing the soul and stimulating the senses. Yet there is a far more important reason that people drink tea more than any other beverage: the tea leaf has potent health-enhancing powers. The Japanese have known this for thousands of years and the modern West is just catching up to the remarkable health benefits of drinking tea.

To make a tea or infusion you must steep the fresh herb in boiling water. Many think of teas and infusions as the same, but there is a slight difference.

When making teas or herbal teas you are brewing it and you don’t leave it steeping for very long. An easy way to brew it is to place the tea bag or fresh herbs into a measuring cup with 8 ounces of water. Microwave for two minutes and you have a cup of tea. Fresh herbs make a marvelous cup of tea and are considered essential in herbal medicine.

Infusions on the other hand stay in the boiling water longer, anywhere from 10 20 minutes. Obviously the longer the fresh herbs steep the stronger the brew will become and it will become a more potent herbal medicine. Infusions should be used immediately after brewing to reap the most out of this herbal medicine, especially when using fresh herbs. Rule of thumb is to use 1-2 teaspoons of dried, crushed, or powdered herbs. If you want to get the most out of this herbal medicine use fresh herbs and double the amount to steep. After the steeping time your infusion will be at room temperature. It is okay to warm it back up if you prefer it hot.

Infusions can be therapeutic as well as being considered herbal medicine. While your infusion is steeping bend over the container and breathe in the steam. This will act as a decongestion when you are suffering from colds or allergies. Close your eyes, try to envision this herbal medicine as attacking the germs in your system. Visualizing the fresh herb infusions attacking the malady will help to fight illnesses quite well, according to some published studies. It is like the grounding technique used in yoga. Here again, fresh herbs make the best infusions in herbal medicine.

There is a problem with infusions as they tend to be quite bitter. And of course, if you can’t drink the infusion then it will not be an advantageous herbal medicine. To make it taste better try adding honey or sugar. If you still can’t get it down, try a different infusion. There are many different fresh herbs to try when brewing your herbal medicine.

Decoctions are a different story as they don’t use strictly fresh herbs. Here you would use the dried roots, flowers seeds and barks for their medicinal purposes, not fresh herbs. To get the most from your mixture heat will be used since it is more difficult to extract their active chemicals. Start by boiling the roots and allow them a good head start. Next add the bark, the seeds, the flowers and any spices in that order. Allow a few minutes of simmering after each addition. Then simmer the herbal medicine slowly for 10 to 20 minutes.

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