Updated: Jul 2
Throughout history, many cultures used energy medicine. Native Americans were no exception. They were familiar with and widely used Energy Medicine for centuries. Medicine Men and Medicine Women performed energy healing. Their healing involved not only herbal remedies but also spirit energy, which some people call Qi, Ki, or Prana. Several papers were published in the 18th, 19th, and early 20th centuries, describing these practices with little or no understanding. Reading these papers now, I am amazed at the wisdom of these practices. Like modern Energy Medicine, they attended physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health. These Men and Women were not just healers; they were counselors, musicians, and spiritual guides.
These Healers understood that every individual is a part of the Universe; that we all interconnected in the Universal Circle of Life or Web of Life. Native belief that universal energy flows through everything creating harmony and balance in the Universe, hereafter, everything in nature is of essential importance within the Circle. Medicine People focused on healing rather than curing. In their practice, they restored health by recreating the wholeness of the individual suffering, bringing back harmony and balance in the human body. Native American culture recognized that “we are all related”; all things live in a relationship with everything around us. Disharmony in one affects everyone. Native Americans believe that the health of the mind, body, spirit, and natural environment lies in the proper balance and harmony with the relationship of all things. They also believe that if one disturbs or disrupts the natural balance, illness in any of the four areas may be the result.
Native Healers prevented and treated diseases using local herbals remedies, manipulative therapies, ceremonies, and prayer. We could find almost everything that we now see as part of Energy Medicine in Native American healing practices. Native American healers used a wide variety of techniques. These are some of them:
For thousands of years Native Americans use hands-on therapy very similar to Reiki, Therapeutic Touch, or EFT. They call it Healing hands. “Massage, healing touch, and noncontact healing are practiced by Native healers throughout North and South America. ... Cherokees warm their hands over coals and circle their palms either on or above an affected area. ... Some healers hold their hands to the front and back of an affected area, creating what they now call ‘electrodes within the body.’ The healer imagines that electricity is moving from one hand to the other. To increase the healing effect, the medicine person massages specific therapeutic points,” wrote Ken Cohen (Cohen K. Honoring the medicine: An essential guide to Native American healing. New York, NY: Ballantine Books; 2006.)
All of us are familiar with Chinese acupuncture; some tribes, like Cherokee, used these techniques by using modified needles made from porcupines’ quills. Medicine men/women showed knowledge of meridians, energy centers, and energy flow in the body.
Smudging (aromatherapy) is a sacred practice among Native Americans, which involves the burning part of the plants for purification, healing, and prayer. Healing could be established between healers and their patients or could involve the entire family. We now have a better understanding of how aroma affects our wellbeing, from a calming effect to opening airways.
Another technique is Sound Therapy or Sound bath. Native Americans knew how sound, vibrational in nature, could clean or restore energy pathways in our body. A human voice was the main instrument. According to Dhani Ywahoo, “The voice is our greatest medicine. The power of voice, song, and prayer has the ability to draw life force into the body so that a person can become whole”. Native American healers deeply understood and used the power of the spoken word, music, or chants. This healing movement of energy was often enhanced by a Native Drum, rattle, or flute. “When done correctly, sound healing offers a sacred space for people to go on an inner journey to experience physical, emotional, and energetic healing and clearing,” stated Brooke Flying Bear. Many healing ceremonies included chanting, repeating mantras, or dancing, representing what we now call meditations, moving meditations, and breathwork. For the most significant healing effect, they often involved community members.
For the last 10-15 years, some colleges started offering courses, and hospitals have begun using what is now call integrative medicine that indigenous people used for thousands of years.
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With Love and Light,