Top Native American Herbs You Should Know

The profound knowledge of Native American botanicals encompasses a vast, diverse array of plants, each with its distinct properties and uses. This rich tradition, meticulously preserved and passed down through countless generations, underscores the integral role of herbs in medicine, culinary arts, wellness, and spiritual practices. In the contemporary era, these timeless herbs are not merely relics of the past but vibrant testaments to sustainable living and holistic health philosophies that offer significant benefits to today's society. The burgeoning interest in these ancient botanicals mirrors a broader societal shift towards natural remedies and a deeper, more meaningful connection with the natural world.

The Healing Power of Native American Herbs

Native American Nations have long utilized the natural resources around them for healing. These herbs serve not only as remedies for physical ailments but also as spiritual aids, helping to restore balance and harmony within the individual and their environment. The integration of these herbs into modern wellness practices underscores the timeless relevance of Native American botanical knowledge.

Abalone Shells: More Than Just Beauty

Abalone shells, with their iridescent interiors, are often used in smudging ceremonies to catch falling ashes. But their significance goes beyond their beauty; some cultures believe they represent the water element and add an additional layer of healing to the smudging practice, carrying prayers and intentions skyward with the smoke.

Sweetgrass: The Sweet Scent of Healing

Sweetgrass, known for its delightful fragrance, is frequently used in prayer, smudging, and purification ceremonies. Its ability to attract positive energies, when braided, dried, and burned, promotes healing, peace, and a profound spiritual connection. This herb exemplifies the Native American belief in the power of nature to bring about emotional and spiritual healing, serving as a bridge between the earthly and the divine.

Sage: A Sacred Cleanser

Sage occupies a central place in cleansing and purification rituals, known as smudging, among many Native American cultures. This practice, which involves burning sage to clear a space or person of negative energies, is a testament to the herb's powerful protective and healing properties. It underscores a deep respect for the spiritual dimension of existence, aiming to foster an environment of peace, wisdom, and balance.

The Versatility of Leaves, Roots, and Barks

In Native American rituals and culture, botanicals such as leaves, roots, and barks hold profound significance, deeply intertwined with spiritual practices. These natural elements are pivotal in ceremonies, reflecting the close bond between Native American Nations and the environment. Key botanicals like Bearberry leaves, Osha Root, Cedar, and Sweet Leaf play essential roles in these traditions, underlining their cultural and ceremonial importance.

Bearberry Leaves

Valued for both health and spiritual purposes, Bearberry leaves are used in smoking mixtures to enhance spiritual connections and communication with the spirit world, demonstrating the deep respect for nature's role in connecting with the spiritual realm.

Osha Root

Revered for its protective and healing properties, Osha Root is often carried as a charm or used in purification rituals, symbolizing its significance in both physical wellness and spiritual protection.

Sweet Leaf (Monarda fistulosa)

Distinguished for its aromatic properties and used in cleansing and purification, Sweet Leaf aids in clearing negative energy and promoting well-being, illustrating the role of plants in fostering harmony and spiritual wellness.

These plants illustrate the rich spiritual heritage and reverence for the natural world intrinsic to Native American cultures, playing vital roles in rituals that nurture connections to the spiritual realm, offer protection, and promote healing. Through preserving and sharing these botanical traditions, initiatives like Prairie Edge contribute to sustaining the sacred practices and spiritual bonds that define the relationship between Native American communities and the earth.

Native American Foods: A Blend of Taste and Nutrition

The traditional foods of Native American Nations exemplify a profound understanding of the nutritional and medicinal properties of indigenous plants. Corn, beans, and squash, collectively known as the "Three Sisters," stand as staples that highlight the symbiotic relationships between plants, demonstrating their capacity to support one another's growth and thrive together. This principle of mutual support and harmony extends to the cultivation and consumption of wild rice, particularly the variety offered by us here at Prairie Edge & Sioux Trading Post, which is harvested by the Red Lake Band of Chippewa in Minnesota.

This wild rice is not just a nutritious food source but also a cultural symbol deeply rooted in the traditions of the Chippewa people. The method of cultivation and harvesting reflects a sustainable approach to agriculture that honors the earth and its resources, ensuring that this vital component of their diet is preserved for future generations. 

Native American Herbs for Wellness

The concept of wellness in Native American culture encompasses the physical, spiritual, and emotional health of an individual. Herbs play a crucial role in this holistic approach, used in various forms such as scents, teas, and topical applications to promote overall well-being.

Natural Scents and Their Therapeutic Effects

The aromatic properties of herbs such as cedar and lavender are not only captivating to the senses but also carry significant therapeutic benefits. These natural scents play a crucial role in ceremonies and everyday life, utilized to purify the spirit, alleviate stress, and promote mental clarity. Cedarwood oil, with its grounding and calming effects, is often used to create a serene environment conducive to meditation and relaxation. Sweetgrass oil, revered for its sweet, uplifting fragrance, is believed to attract positive energies and enhance emotional well-being. Similarly, Patchouli, with its rich, earthy aroma, is frequently employed for its soothing properties and ability to foster a sense of harmony and grounding, it is also very popular among powwow dancers who scent themselves as well as their regalia.. Together, these scents contribute to a holistic approach to wellness, blending the ancient wisdom of natural healing with contemporary lifestyle practices.

Herbal Teas for Relaxation and Health

Herbal teas crafted from a diverse array of plants, including chamomile, mint, yarrow, lavender, rose hips, raspberry leaf, and mullein, serve as a cornerstone in the promotion of relaxation and overall health. This wide variety of teas offers a natural and gentle way to address a multitude of health concerns, from aiding digestion and calming the nervous system to promoting restful sleep and enhancing immune function.

Lavender tea

Lavender tea is renowned for its soothing aroma and ability to relieve stress and anxiety, making it a perfect choice for unwinding after a long day. The calming properties of lavender help to relax the mind and body, encouraging a peaceful state that is conducive to sleep.

Rose Hips

Rose hips, the fruit of the rose plant, are packed with vitamin C and antioxidants, making rose hip tea an excellent immune booster. Its tangy flavor is not only refreshing but can also aid in reducing inflammation and soothing the digestive tract.

Raspberry leaf tea

Raspberry leaf tea is celebrated for its benefits to women's health, particularly during pregnancy. Known to tone and prepare the uterine muscles for childbirth, this tea also offers general benefits such as easing menstrual discomfort and improving digestive health.


Mullein tea, made from the leaves and flowers of the mullein plant, is a traditional remedy for respiratory issues. Its anti-inflammatory and expectorant properties make it beneficial for easing coughs, soothing sore throats, and reducing congestion.

Together, these herbal teas represent the gentle yet potent power of nature's remedies. Each tea not only brings its own set of health benefits but also offers a moment of tranquility and connection to the natural world, reinforcing the value of herbal practices in maintaining wellness and balance.

The Artistic Side of Herbs

Herbs and natural elements are integral to Native American artistic expression, embodying both the physical materials and the inspiration behind a wide array of creative works. This artistic practice, ranging from the creation of ceremonial regalia to the crafting of everyday tools, illustrates a deep reverence for Mother Earth and her abundant resources. Such practices underscore the cultural ethos of living in harmony with nature, respecting its cycles, and acknowledging its bounty.

Pipes & Pipestone: Ritualistic Significance

Among various Native American Nations, the sacred tradition of crafting pipes from pipestone carries profound spiritual and cultural importance. These pipes serve far beyond their aesthetic appeal; they are deeply symbolic, acting as vessels for communication between the earthly and spiritual realms. Used in prayer and ceremony, these pipes facilitate a sacred exchange, allowing for the transfer of thoughts and prayers to the spiritual world, thereby strengthening the bonds between the physical and the metaphysical.

Crafting with Natural Elements

The artistic endeavors of Native American Nations, utilizing herbs alongside feathers, stones, and woods, showcase a dynamic interplay between art, the natural world, and spirituality. These materials are not randomly chosen but are selected for their inherent beauty, vibrational energy, and the narratives they embody. Each piece crafted from these elements carries with it a piece of history, a story of the land, and a spiritual essence, contributing to the rich cultural and spiritual heritage that defines Native American artistry. This thoughtful integration of natural materials into art and craftwork reflects an understanding of the interconnectedness of all things and a commitment to preserving the knowledge and traditions passed down through generations.

The Modern Use of Ancient Herbs

As society gravitates towards sustainable and natural living, the ancient wisdom surrounding Native American herbs is increasingly relevant. These plants offer eco-friendly alternatives for medicine, food, and spiritual practices, aligning with modern desires for a healthier lifestyle and a deeper connection to nature.

Incorporating Native American Herbs in Modern Life

The ancient wisdom encapsulated in Native American herbs has seamlessly transitioned into various aspects of modern living, from enhancing dietary regimes with supplements to enriching skincare routines. This broad application underscores the adaptability and enduring relevance of Native American botanical knowledge, catering not only to physical health but also to spiritual wellbeing and aesthetic care. The integration of these herbs into daily life serves as a testament to the holistic approach of indigenous practices, emphasizing balance and harmony with nature.

Where to Find and How to Choose the Right Herbs

With increasing interest in Native American herbal traditions, it's essential to approach the selection and sourcing of these plants with mindfulness and respect. Ethical sourcing is paramount, ensuring that these herbs are gathered in ways that honor traditional practices and support the ecosystems from which they are harvested. Consumers are encouraged to seek out reputable suppliers who engage in sustainable practices and actively support Indigenous communities. This mindful approach to sourcing herbs not only respects the cultural origins of these practices but also contributes to the preservation of ecological balance.

DIY Native American Herbal Remedies

Engaging in the creation of personal herbal remedies offers a unique opportunity to connect with the healing power of nature. Through learning about the diverse properties and applications of various herbs, individuals can craft remedies tailored to their specific health needs and wellness goals. This hands-on approach deepens one's understanding and appreciation of herbal medicine, fostering a closer relationship with the natural world and the rich cultural heritage of Native American herbalism.

Preparing Your Own Herbal Mixtures

Employing simple techniques such as infusions, decoctions, and tinctures allows for the effective extraction of herbs' medicinal properties. These methods enable enthusiasts to concoct personalized remedies that address a wide array of health concerns, from digestive issues to stress relief. The process of creating these mixtures not only empowers individuals with self-reliance in their healthcare but also instills a sense of continuity with ancient healing traditions.

Storage and Preservation of Herbs

To ensure the efficacy of homemade herbal remedies, proper storage and preservation techniques are crucial. Methods like drying, freezing, and preparing concentrated extracts help maintain the potency of the herbs, allowing their healing properties to be preserved for extended periods. These practices are essential for keeping a ready supply of medicinal herbs throughout the year, ensuring that the benefits of these natural remedies are always within reach..

Precautions and Considerations

While Native American herbs offer many benefits, it's important to approach their use with knowledge and respect. Understanding the potency, interactions, and appropriate use of these plants ensures their safe and effective application.

Understanding the Potency and Use of Native Herbs

Certain herbs can be powerful, and some may interact with medications or be unsuitable for certain individuals. Educating oneself on the properties and potential risks of herbs is essential for safe use.

Sustainability and Ethical Harvesting

Sustainability and respect for the earth are at the heart of Native American traditions. Ethical harvesting practices ensure that these precious resources remain available for future generations, embodying the principles of respect, gratitude, and conservation.

Purchase Herbs and Botanicals on Prairie Edge

Prairie Edge offers a curated selection of high-quality Native American herbs and botanicals. By choosing Prairie Edge, you support ethical sourcing and contribute to the preservation of traditional botanical knowledge. Whether you're seeking herbs for health, culinary use, or spiritual practices, Prairie Edge provides an authentic connection to the rich heritage of Native American cultures.

For those looking to deepen their understanding and practice of Native American herbalism, Prairie Edge offers an extensive selection of books covering topics from basic herbology to advanced medicinal practices. These resources provide invaluable insights into the preparation, use, and significance of herbs, offering readers a comprehensive guide to incorporating these ancient wisdoms into modern life. Explore our Herbology Books section to discover more about these fascinating and healing practices.