Stones arranged into a Native American medicine wheel pattern.

A Glimpse into the Intuitive Medicine of the Native American Tradition

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Many centuries ago, in a land that is quite familiar to the modern American (in some forgotten, ethereal way)....

A native boy scurries through a thicket of bramble bushes. His mouth stained with deep purple and his leather pouch full of blackberries, he glances to the horizon at the fading patchwork of colors--the sun would be setting soon and he didn't need to endure another bedtime story about the importance of respecting elders. His mother was already expecting him to be back.


Blackberries (Biberl/ CC BY-SA 4.0 )

Just another cluster of berries right over there , he thought, and then I will be home in no time —when suddenly—a sharp, pricking pain shot through his leg. Looking down in shock, he spots the tail end of a rattlesnake, slithering away. His eyes dart back to his leg, now bleeding, and two perfect puncture wounds dripping with his bright, youthful blood. In terror, he hobbles back home to his mother.

As his mother sees him afar off, coming through the trees, her intentions of admonition quickly turn to urgency. She flits through forest, seeking the only help her son will need—the help of the medicine man.

Unbeknownst to the boy in distress, the medicine man begins to work his 'magic'. Powders, liquids, poultices, words. Asking for guidance from the Great Spirit, and inviting the plants to work with him as allies, he intuitively administers his acquired medicines, both spiritual and tangible. The weight of his calling as Healer he accepted long ago, with all sincerity.

By day break, the boy's heart has once again found its natural rhythms, and he drifts into sleep—traumatized, but thankful.

Understanding of Life and Nature

The tribes and peoples that once occupied the land we now call America imagined and developed amazingly effective modes of healing to offer their communities. Although Native American medicine and healing traditions are diverse, many of their foundational aspects are quite similar. All highlight the importance of a multidimensional understanding of life and nature, and the interconnection that exists through and between all aspects of what it means to be 'alive'. Much of Native American medicine is centered on animalistic symbolism, incorporating the animals that were most important to them, such as the turtle, rabbit, bear, deer, eagle, and wolf.

To the First Nations inhabitants of America, every plant, animal, and stone, no matter how unseen or small, possessed a type of spirit. Each spirit was unique and special, and all life forms were given their due honor and appreciation. The spiritual dimension and the physical dimension overlapped and shared time and space. They viewed their own spirit (soul) and body as a unique expression and extension of the natural world. Indeed, the very laws of nature were viewed as a force to be in cooperation with, not in opposition against.

Blood Returns To the Sea

“When the blood in your veins returns to the sea, and the earth in your bones returns to the ground, perhaps then you will remember that this land does not belong to you, it is you who belong to his land.”
–Native American proverb, source unknown

Native American Proverb

Native American Proverb ( Source)

Although the general healing and restorative properties of seawater have been recognized for many millennia, this proverb explicitly states that human blood 'returns' to the sea. It demonstrates their belief in the correlation and similarities of blood and sea. While some may consider this proverb to be a whimsical, poetic statement issued as a warning to the White Man, perhaps there is also an underlying scientific truth hidden within it.

Science Behind the Saying

In 1897, a French doctor named René Quinton made a remarkable discovery—human blood is 98 percent identical to seawater. Ocean water, which is completely saturated and 'buzzing' with so many life-nurturing minerals, is incredibly similar to human blood—blood plasma, or the 'watery' part of human blood—to be exact.

French biologist René Quinton (1866-1925)

French biologist René Quinton (1866-1925) ( Public Domain)

By the peak of his career, Dr Quinton had developed a method of utilizing very specific seawater injections to heal and cure many health conditions. Unfortunately, the legacy of his healing methods were eventually shut down by friends of those within the French government who were wary about losing sales in their burgeoning pharmaceutical industry.

To the modern Western thinker, irrevocably trained in a solely logic-based, linear way of thinking, these facts beg the question: How could the First Nations have known about the complex and stunning chemistry of their own blood? Of the ocean itself? With no microscopes or lab equipment, no (apparent) knowledge of minerals or molecules, how could they have causally understood something that took modern science centuries to 'discover'? Was it a lucky guess or has the Western world made an error in their assumption of the depth of knowledge that Native Americans possessed? To gain a better understanding of their method of knowledge and information gathering, an examination of the Medicine Wheel may yield more understanding.

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