Native American Healing
This treatment modality is thought to manage symptoms of cancer, side effects from conventional therapies and/or control pain. Native American healing should be used with, not in place of, standard cancer therapy.
What does Native American healing involve?
Native American healing combines religion, community ritual, spirituality and herbal medicine to treat illness. Because of their Eurasian ancestry, many of the beliefs of Native Americans have their roots in ancient Indian (Ayurvedic) and Chinese medicine. Native American tribes share a common belief in the interconnectedness of people, the community, the environment and the spiritual world. Harmony must exist amongst them for good health to dominant a community. Native American healers believe that illness results from spiritual imbalances within the individual and the community. The community relies upon medicine men and women, or shamanic healers, who are thought to be able to contact the spiritual world to heal illness and fight disease. Native American tradition focuses on four elements of healing:
- Symbolic ritual – to communicate with the spiritual world and enlist its aid in healing
- Shamanic healers – offer prayers to appease spirits so that they will treat illness and restore health
- Purification of the body – to rid the body of impurities and restore a spiritually pure state
- Use of herbs as medicine
How is Native American healing thought to manage specific symptoms of cancer, side effects of conventional therapies and/or control pain?
The heavy dependence on spiritual communication and meditation may reduce stress and anxiety, bring about peace of mind and produce a sense of wholeness among patients. Native American knowledge of herbs is extensive and many have value in treating a variety of ills, symptoms of disease, side effects of conventional treatment and reduction of pain.
What has been proven about the benefit of Native American healing?
Formal research of the healing ceremonies and traditions of Native Americans is almost nonexistent even though claims have been made regarding cures of a variety of ailments, including cancer. However, the community-based approach to health care may provide comfort to patients who enjoy the sense of sharing a common purpose and history with a large group of people. Other health benefits may be the result of the placebo response (see Appendix E). According to the American Cancer Society, “although Native American healing has not been shown to cure disease, anecdotal reports suggest that it can reduce pain and stress, and improve quality of life.” However, it should not be relied on to cure cancer, or used instead of modern, science-based treatment.
What is the potential risk or harm of Native American healing?
Many purification rituals have side effects. Sweat lodges may cause patients to become dehydrated. A herbal tea called “Black Drink” causes patients to vomit.
How much does native American healing cost?
Information on cost is unavailable.
For additional information:
Association of American Indian Physicians
1225 Sovereign Row, Suite 103
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma 73108
Telephone: (405) 946-7072
Web site: www.aaip.org/
Institute for Traditional Medicine
2017 SE Hawthorne Boulevard
Portland, OR 97214
Telephone: (503) 233-4907
Web site: www.itmonline.org
Note: Information about therapies is intended to help you make informed choices, not to endorse any particular therapy. The information is courtesy of "Integrating Complementary and Alternative Therapies for Cancer Patients," a handbook written as an independent study project by Heather Morein. For more information, see the full text of the handbook (PDF), including all references and appendices.