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

Changing Under Pressure, IS ‘Potent’ as Ever

US intel officials describe Ramadi's fall as concerning, but say it isn't emblematic of larger effort to degrade IS capabilities More

Nigeria Fuel Shortage Shows Fragility of Africa’s Oil Giant

Although it is the largest oil producer in Africa, country has nearly ran out of fuel it needs to power its generators, cars and airplanes over the past week More

Arrested Football Officials Come Mainly From the Americas

US Justice Department alleges defendants participated in 24-year scheme to enrich themselves through corruption of international soccer More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
3D Printer Makes Replica of Iconic Sports Cari
|| 0:00:00
...    
🔇
X
George Putic
May 27, 2015 9:31 PM
Cars with parts made by 3D printers are already on the road, but engineers are still learning about this new technology. While testing the possibility of printing an entire car, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy recently created an electric-powered replica of an iconic sports roadster. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video 3D Printer Makes Replica of Iconic Sports Car

Cars with parts made by 3D printers are already on the road, but engineers are still learning about this new technology. While testing the possibility of printing an entire car, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy recently created an electric-powered replica of an iconic sports roadster. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video US Voters Seek Answers From Presidential Candidates on IS Gains

The growth of the Islamic State militant group in Iraq and Syria comes as the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign kicks off in the Midwest state of Iowa.   As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, voters want to know how the candidates would handle recent militant gains in the Middle East.
Video

Video A Small Oasis on Kabul's Outskirts Provides Relief From Security Tensions

When people in Kabul want to get away from the city and relax, many choose Qargha Lake, a small resort on the outskirts of Kabul. Ayesha Tanzeem visited and talked with people about the precious oasis.
Video

Video Film Festival Looks at Indigenous Peoples, Culture Conflict

A recent Los Angeles film festival highlighted the plight of people caught between two cultures. Mike O'Sullivan has more on the the Garifuna International Film Festival, a Los Angeles forum created by a woman from Central America who wants the world to know more about her culture.
Video

Video Kenyans Lament Losing Sons to al-Shabab

There is agony, fear and lost hope in the Kenyan town of Isiolo, a key target of a new al-Shabab recruitment drive. VOA's Mohammed Yusuf visits Isiolo to speak with families and at least one man who says he was a recruiter.
Video

Video Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thought

Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video US-led Coalition Gives Some Weapons to Iraqi Troops

In a video released Tuesday from the Iraqi Ministry of Defense, Iraqi forces and U.S.-led coalition troops survey a cache of weapons supplied to help Iraq liberate Mosul from Islamic State group. According to a statement provided with the video, the ministry and the U.S.-led coaltion troops have started ''supplying the 16th army division with medium and light weapons in preparation to liberate Mosul and nearby areas from Da'esh (Arabic acronym for Islamic State group).''
Video

Video Amnesty International: 'Overwhelming Evidence' of War Crimes in Ukraine

Human rights group Amnesty International says there is overwhelming evidence of ongoing war crimes in Ukraine, despite a tentative cease-fire with pro-Russian rebels. Researchers interviewed more than 30 prisoners from both sides of the conflict and all but one said they were tortured. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Washington Parade Honors Those Killed Serving in US Military

Every year, on the last Monday in the month of May, millions of Americans honor the memories of those killed while serving in the armed forces. Memorial Day is a tradition that dates back to the 19th Century. While many people celebrate the federal holiday with a barbecue and a day off from work, for those who’ve served in the military, it’s a special day to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice. Arash Arabasadi reports for VOA from Washington.
Video

Video Kenya’s Capital Sees Rise in Shisha Parlors

In Kenya, the smoking of shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, is the latest craze. Patrons are flocking to shisha parlors to smoke and socialize. But the practice can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya.
Video

Video Rolling Thunder Run Reveals Changed Attitudes Towards Vietnam War

For many US war veterans, the Memorial Day holiday is an opportunity to look back at a divisive conflict in the nation’s history and to remember those who did not make it home.
Video

Video Female American Soldiers: Healing Through Filmmaking

According to the United States Defense Department, there are more than 200-thousand women serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.  Like their male counterparts, females have experiences that can be very traumatic.  VOA's Bernard Shusman tells us about a program that is helping some American women in the military heal through filmmaking.

VOA Blogs