The Wisdom of Indian Medicine
The definition of Indian “Medicine” reveals important things for our growth and healing as individuals and as a society.
Find out what the wisdom behind the concept of Indian Medicine offers us today.
The meaning of the term Medicine is much broader than “treatment,” “health,” “self-care,” or “prevention.” The traditional idea of Medicine is based on the earlier meanings of the four cardinal directions and the Universal Circle. When the sacred pipe was shared in the Four Directions in earlier years, each of the directions had its own prayer of thanks. I frame the meanings of the Four Directions as spiritual in the East, natural in the South, physical in the West, and mental in the North. These broad aspects help to describe the importance and the sacred influence of each of the directions in our lives. Everything exists within the Universal Circle of life, energy, influence, and relationship that makes up our Medicine. The phrases “Medicine bundle” or “Medicine bag” are ways of describing all that exists that influences or assists us in the circle of life.
In earlier Cherokee times the Medicine was based on formulas, and ceremony and rituals included the family, clan, and tribe. These Medicine formulas were traditional values that guided and helped the individual and family to find healing. A key in understanding Cherokee Indian Medicine is to accept that within our circle of life are influences and interferences that upset our balance and harmony as an individual and part of the family, clan, and tribe. Unlike the prevailing thought of today, the individual is not the center of the circle; he or she is an integral part of the circle. When a person fails, abuses drugs, or becomes diseased, it affects the entire circle of life. As an elder said, “Disease or illness affects all of us, not just the individual person.” The Medicine is to prevent such occurrences, or to bring that harmony and balance back to the circle. The formulas and remedies respect this harmony and balance for the benefit of all the circle.
Adapted from The Cherokee Herbal, by J.T. Garrett (Inner Traditions, 2003). Copyright (c) 2003 by J.T. Garrett. Reprinted by permission of Inner Traditions.
Adapted from The Cherokee Herbal, by J.T. Garrett (Inner Traditions, 2003).