News / Health

Researcher Explores Native American Herbal Remedies

Native American Herbal Remedies Exploredi
X
May 29, 2013 11:46 PM
Many modern medicines have their origins in natural remedies. And some researchers say traditional herbal cures hold clues for more medical advances. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan in Los Angeles tells us about one pharmacy professor who studies Native American healing -- and shares what he has learned.
Medicinal_Plants_WEB-FCPImportProResP1-fixed-x264-Platform_YTHDFull
Mike O'Sullivan
Many modern medicines have their origin in natural remedies, and some researchers say traditional herbal cures hold clues for modern medicine. A pharmacology professor who studies Native American healing is sharing what he has learned.

Hikers often explore the foothills of the Angeles National Forest, but this group of hikers has a purpose.  They are learning how Native Americans used the local vegetation in their healing, including plants like Yerba Santa, adopted by early Spanish settlers for lung problems.

The hike is led by James Adams, who teaches pharmacology at the University of Southern California.

“The science of pharmacology originally was the science of going out, talking to traditional healers, finding out which plants they used in their healing, and then taking those plants back to the lab to figure out why they work,” Adams said.

Aspirin, for example, was derived in the 19th century from salicylic acid, a long-time remedy for pains and fever found in plants like willow and meadowsweet.  It was developed and marketed by the German company Bayer.

Adams says each society has developed a form of medicine based on plants.

“Of course, in India, they have Ayurvedic medicine.  In China they have traditional Chinese medicine.  In the Arab countries, they have traditional Arabic healing.  The Jews have traditional Judaic healing, on and on.  Everybody has their own traditional healing that depends on plant medicines,” Adams said.

In California, Adams says, the Chumash people learned from experience which plants helped with specific ailments.

“We have, of course, the sagebrush, which makes a very powerful pain-relieving liniment that I think we should all learn how to use, because it is much safer than the non-steroidal anti-inflammatory agents.  It is much safer than the opioid drugs,” Adams said.

Besides easing aches and pains, Adams says the pleasant aroma of the California sagebrush helps people relax.  He says a plant called Spanish Bayonet was used by American Indians for food.  Its leaves and roots produce a kind of soap, and the fiber from the stems can be used as a poultice for wounds, and for making clothing.

The plant called chamise can be used in a balm that helps with skin problems, and the anesthetic qualities of California bay help with toothaches.  

Adams warns that some plants are poisonous, and says knowledge of vegetation is essential.  He learned traditional native healing from a Chumash healer, and sometimes takes plant samples back to his laboratory to learn how they work.

He says modern pharmaceuticals remain important in medicine, but are often overused and can be harmful.

“Certainly if you need a drug that can help you, then you should use that drug.  But the thing that we keep forgetting is first and foremost to balance your health.  Get your body back into balance so that your body can heal itself,” Adams said.

Adams says a good diet and exercise are two keys to a healthy life, and that an educational hike looking for medicinal plants is another good way to keep the body in balance.

You May Like

Photogallery Americans Celebrate Thanksgiving With Feasts, Festivities

Holiday traditions include turkey dinners, 'turkey trots,' American-style football and New York parade with giant balloons More

Video For Obama, Ferguson Violence is a Personal Issue

With two years left in term, analysts say, president has less to lose by taking conversation on race further More

Video Italian Espresso Expands Into Space

When Italian astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti headed for the ISS, her countrymen worried how she would survive six months drinking only instant coffee More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
South Africa Sees Male Circumcision as Way to Reduce HIV Infectionsi
X
November 28, 2014 3:31 PM
South Africa remains plagued by AIDS despite massive government and NGO efforts on prevention and life-sustaining Anti-Retro-Viral programs. But the country has opened up another front to reduce new HIV infections: promoting circumcision. Emilie Iob reports for VOA News from a pioneering circumcision center in Orange Farm, Johannesburg.
Video

Video South Africa Sees Male Circumcision as Way to Reduce HIV Infections

South Africa remains plagued by AIDS despite massive government and NGO efforts on prevention and life-sustaining Anti-Retro-Viral programs. But the country has opened up another front to reduce new HIV infections: promoting circumcision. Emilie Iob reports for VOA News from a pioneering circumcision center in Orange Farm, Johannesburg.
Video

Video To Make A Living, Nairobi Street Vendors Face Legal Hurdles, Physical Violence

The Nairobi City Council has been accused of brutality in dealing with hawkers in the Central Business District - in order to stop them from illegally selling their wares on the streets. Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.
Video

Video For Obama, Ferguson Violence is a Personal Issue

Throughout the crisis in Ferguson, Missouri, President Barack Obama has urged calm, restraint and respect for the rule of law. But the events in Ferguson have prompted him to call — more openly than he has before — for profound changes to end the racism and distrust that he believes still exists between whites and blacks in the United States. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Online Magazine Gets Kids Discussing Big Questions

Teen culture in America is often criticized for being superficial. But an online magazine has been encouraging some teenagers to explore deeper issues, and rewarding their efforts. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky went to this year’s Kidspirit awards ceremony in New York.
Video

Video US Community Kicks Off Thanksgiving With Parade

Thursday is Thanksgiving in the United States, a holiday whose roots go back to the country's earliest days as a British colony. One way Americans celebrate the occasion is with parades. Anush Avetisyan takes us to one such event on the day before Thanksgiving near Washington, where a community's diversity is on display. Joy Wagner narrates
Video

Video Aung San Suu Kyi: Myanmar Opposition to Keep Pushing for Constitutional Change

Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi says she and her supporters will continue pushing to amend a constitutional clause that bars her from running for president next year. VOA's Than Lwin Htun reports from the capital Naypyitaw in this report narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video Mali Attempts to Shut Down Ebola Transmission Chain

Senegal and Nigeria were able to stop small Ebola outbreaks by closely monitoring those who had contact with the sick person and quickly isolating anyone with symptoms. Mali is now scrambling to do the same. VOA’s Anne Look reports from Mali on what the country is doing to shut down the chain of transmission.
Video

Video Ukraine Marks Anniversary of Deadly 1930s Famine

During a commemoration for millions who died of starvation in Ukraine in the early 1930s, President Petro Poroshenko lashed out at Soviet-era totalitarianism for causing the deaths and accused today’s Russian-backed rebels in the east of using similar tactics. VOA’s Daniel Shearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Hong Kong Protests at a Crossroads

New public opinion polls in Hong Kong indicate declining support for pro-democracy demonstrations after weeks of street protests. VOA’s Bill Ide in Guangzhou and Pros Laput in Hong Kong spoke with protesters and observers about whether demonstrators have been too aggressive in pushing for change.
Video

Video US Immigration Relief Imminent for Mixed-Status Families

Tens of thousands of undocumented immigrants in the Washington, D.C., area may benefit from a controversial presidential order announced this week. It's not a path to citizenship, as some activists hoped. But it will allow more immigrants who arrived as children or who have citizen children, to avoid deportation and work legally. VOA's Victoria Macchi talks with one young man who benefited from an earlier presidential order, and whose parents may now benefit after years of living in fear.
Video

Video New Skateboard Defies Gravity

A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Impact US Oil Extraction

With the price of oil now less than $80 a barrel, motorists throughout the United States are benefiting from gas prices below $3 a gallon. But as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the decreasing price of petroleum has a downside for the hydraulic fracturing industry in the United States.

All About America

AppleAndroid