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Medicinal Plants and Native American Herbal Medicine in Ohio

Patty uses advanced degrees in preventive medicine and health psychology in research and treatment for public and private health agencies.

"Indians On the Ohio River." Painting by Thomas Pollock Anschutz (1851 - 1917).

"Indians On the Ohio River." Painting by Thomas Pollock Anschutz (1851 - 1917).

Ohio's Natural Wonderland

The Ohio Territory before Statehood in 1803 was a land of natural wonders. According to Native storytellers in Western Ohio, members of the Shawnee Nation United Remnant Band, forests were taller and thicker and the fish in the clean rivers of Ohio were as large as a man's arm.

Native grasses, along with indigenous herbs and plants provided food to supplement the game captured in the Hunt. They provided the gifts of weaving materials, art media, and medicines. Trees provided the poles and benches for the Longhouses and the Sweat Lodges of the Native American Nations of the Ohio Valley and throughout the state from likely 10,000 B.C. forward.

No Reservations

The last reservation-type community in Ohio left long ago under the Andrew Jackson Indian Removal Laws. The Wyandotte Nation was the last to move. In the 20th century, the United Remnant Band of the Shawnee Nation has been attempting to purchase back lands in Western Ohio.

Some Current Native American Lands in Ohio

The Land and the People

Most notable, however, is not the length of tenure of these peoples, nor their ability to thrive from natural resources, but their concept and application of sustainability and thanksgiving that occurred during the full moon of every month. In addition to this celebration of thanks, Native Peoples performed rituals of thanks at every game kill, at each harvest (individual and community), seasonally, at each meal, and during each treatment and healing produced by herbal medicines. They considered themselves part of nature, stewards of it, and not rampant exploiters of its commodities.

The Village of Yellow Springs was founded in 1825, named for a natural spring rich in iron ore located in The Glen Helen. People visited from around the country to view and try the springs for medicinal purposes.

The Glen Helen Springs

The Glen Helen Springs

European-American settlers that created friendship with local Native Peoples in Ohio learned some of their traditional herbal cooking and medicinal techniques but discovered others on their own. As increasing numbers of settlers arrived in Ohio and allopathic medicine advanced, many herbal traditions were left behind. However, small numbers of Ohioans, both Indigenous and Newcomers, continued to seek out and use native plants for health and healing.

The Shawnee Nation United Remnant Band is recognized by Ohio since 1979. In 1989, these Shawnee purchased 110 acres of land near Urbana to become the first Native American landowners in Ohio since Indian Removal in 1830. Living history installations and herbal medicine workshops are becoming popular nearby. The Shawnee also own Zane Shawnee Caverns and Museum.

In earlier times, Native Americans and settlers often watched to see what plants sick animals ate and determined some herbal healing properties in that manner. By 2002, researchers at Ohio Wesleyan University in Delaware, just north of Columbus, found that some birds routinely use anti-microbial nesting materials found in the wild (Reference: Jann Ichida; Proceedings of the 104th General Meeting of the American Society for Microbiology; “Birds use herbs to protect their nests”; ScienceBlog.Com, May 26, 2004).

"Cornflowers" - A Miracle Medicine. Painting by Stefan Luchian (1868 - 1916).

"Cornflowers" - A Miracle Medicine. Painting by Stefan Luchian (1868 - 1916).

Natural Miracles

A wide range of herbal medicines and medicinal plants grow naturally in Ohio as well as nearby in the Midwest and the Near South. A testament to this was broadcast when Director Emeritus of the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium, Jack Hanna, and his wife Suzi were overjoyed by this fact in 1977.

A small blue flower growing in these regions was attributed as a successful treatment for leukemia that had struck their young daughter. Today, several flowers such as Bachelor Button or cornflowers and orchid varieties are reputed to produce anti-cancer compounds.

Native plants are present perhaps, in part, to aid humanity in finding and maintaining health as it stewards the equilibrium of Terran ecosystems and the balance of the Earth in the sky.

Important Herbs: Medicinal Plants of Ohio - 1910 [13 pages of herbs]

Birth Root Flower: White Trillium, the Official Ohio Wildflower.

Birth Root Flower: White Trillium, the Official Ohio Wildflower.

Native Ohio Plants and Healing

The Ohio State Fair in Columbus, Ohio each summer features a large natural habitat near its southern entrance on 17th Avenue. It includes dozens of native grasses, flowers, and other plants as well as several native animals. Visitors can walk though the serene exhibit and experience the land as it was prior to 1803 and in the early years of Ohio Statehood. By 1910, the professional journal known as The Ohio Naturalist listed a full six pages of native Ohio herbs and other plants used for medicine.

The White Trillium

One of the native Ohio medicine plants is the white trillium, Ohio’s State Wildflower. Young trillium leaves are delicious as food in salads, with a flavor like that of sunflower seeds. Local deer like them as well. The root of the plant has been applied by Native Americans as an antiseptic, antispasmodic, diuretic, and ophthalmic. It has also been used for female reproductive problems, specifically by Native Americans for childbirth, providing the root’s nickname Birth Root.

A sweat lodge contructed of natural materials in the early 1920s.

A sweat lodge contructed of natural materials in the early 1920s.

Certain native plants are used in the traditional sweat lodges of Native American groups throughout the US. Tragically, several deaths were reported in modernized sweat lodges operated by certain groups in America in the early 21st Century. These structures were not built or operated according to traditional methods. Abandoning many natural materials, builders of the problematic sweat lodges used large plastic tarpaulins that made the structures air-tight, caused overheating, and failed to allow for natural airflow and ventilation. The herbs and other elements used in these operations may not have been appropriate. Properly constructed sweat lodges operated with appropriate safety precautions can promote health.

In the darkness of rising healthcare costs and the difficulty of a large number of US residents to obtain health insurance, a movement back to the traditional use of native plants and herbs in health and healing became more evident in the early 1980s and has increased to present days. Much of this interest centers in Athens and Southeastern Ohio, an area renowned for its herbal and folk medicine history, Native American culture, and Stephen Hayes martial training camps. All of these groups— Native Americans, settlers and farmers, and martial artists—are linked with herbal medicine.

Sweat Lodge Traditions

Advancements of Natural Medicine

In the modern era, Companion Plants has operated in Athens since 1982, offering 600+ varieties of native plants, medicinal and culinary herbs, ceremonial plants and herbs, roots, mushrooms, seeds, and other items. A related clinic popular in Athens is the Appalachian Ohio Herb Clinic under the supervision of Caty Crabb. Gathering and growing her own materials, Ms. Crabb maintains offices in Rutland, Ohio and the Athens Wellness Cooperative.

Closer to Cincinnati, Ms. Rita Nader Heikenfeld, CCP (Certified Culinary Professional), CMH (Certified Modern Herbalist), works from Batavia. She is a journalist and Macy’s Regional Culinary Professional, listed in three divisions of Who’s Who. Her blog offers information and techniques for culinary and medicinal herb and plant uses.

Herbal medicine, or herbalism, has come into greater acceptance by the discipline of allopathic medicine and now falls under the federal government’s health initiatives at the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, a division of the National Institutes of Health.

Find Ohio herbalists at the Ohio Herb Education Center, 110 Mill Street, Gahanna, OH 43230. Phone (614) 342-4380.

Ohio's Indirect Herbal Medicine

Not all medicinal plants and herbs native to Ohio are used directly for healing. Some of these plants attract bees that make honey that is useful in health and healing and a nutritious food item.

One Ohio native plant that attracts the honeybee is the Dutchman's Breeches. The plant grows to a height range of 4 – 12” and blooms white as blossoms appear in the spring. These flowers exude a pleasing scent from something that resembles billowy pantaloons at the top of leafless stalks rising above feathery green-gray foliage.

The Wild Columbine also attracts bees with its red and yellow flowers that look like bells in the spring on plants up to two feet tall. Additional plants that attract the honeybee are the Turtle Head, named for flowers shaped like the reptile’s head; the Shooting Star; and the Wild Blue Phlox with blooms of white, blue, and purple.

Native habitats, including herbs, flowers, and insects, are a part of a greater landscape full of potential medicines that can be stewarded to better health and balance.

Albert Bierstadt: "Indian Canoe"

Albert Bierstadt: "Indian Canoe"

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.

© 2010 Patty Inglish MS

Comments and Additions

Patty Inglish MS (author) from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation on January 05, 2020:

Hi Michelle-- We're finding new uses for medicinal plants all the time in Ohio and lucky to have several herbalists. It's fascinating isn't it?

Michelle Thelen from Chapel Hill, NC on January 05, 2020:

Thank you for sharing your knowledge of native plants in Ohio, and of the Shawnee as well. I love the birth flower description and picture.

Patty Inglish MS (author) from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation on April 08, 2016:

@Pineapple Sage - I really like your screen name! Hope you can visit USA very soon and use some of these plants.

PineappleSage on April 08, 2016:

As a Herbalist in the UK, this was lovely to read! One day I hope to make it over to the USA to actually see the wonderful plants I've been learning about all these years. Nice to connect with a bit of the history of Native Indian Medicine too. Thanks!

SUE YARBROUGH on February 10, 2016:

INFORMATIVE AND INTERESTING THANK YOU

Karine Gordineer from Upstate New York on July 18, 2014:

Yes, actually very busy. I teach classes and create herbal teas and remedies - between that and gardening and harvesting this is a busy time of year!

Patty Inglish MS (author) from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation on July 18, 2014:

@Karine Gordineer - It's a pleasure to meet you on HubPages; you must be busy as a Native American Herbalist. In Southern Ohio, some small indigenous groups would hold a medicinal herb workshop in the summers, but I've not seen any publicity on this recently. We have no native reservations, but those in Mid-Michigan offer herb workshops and additional training to the public; a friend attends those. I'm going to check out the events held by the United Remnant Band organization in Ohio and see if they offer anything similar. Thanks for posting!

Karine Gordineer from Upstate New York on July 17, 2014:

Hi Patty - Being a Native American Herbalist I appreciate your article and sharing of many plants. Some of the plants used by my ancestors are a little different of course. It's so fascinating how many different plants there are and the different ways they have been used. Voted up!

Patty Inglish MS (author) from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation on May 10, 2012:

Rolly A Chabot - I appreciate your visit and your comments. Having heard much about the Cree, I feel that you are fortunate to be near them and their culture. Canada is a different world form Ohio, but our Native peoples are becoming more visible. Thanks for visiting!

Rolly A Chabot from Alberta Canada on May 10, 2012:

Hi Patty... what an awesome read this has been. One that has touched a special place in my heart. I have spent many years living in the wilderness of the North around the Cree Indians and the Native culture. They have so much to teach of natural remedies. It is amazing what is out there for those willing to listen to the wisdom.

You have done a great job here in teaching and the research you have put into this is amazing... Thank you as I have learned much.

Hugs from Canada

Tinnitus Help on June 21, 2011:

I am from Ohio and I think this is great you shared this with others.

Phyllis Doyle Burns from High desert of Nevada. on November 12, 2010:

This is a very interesting hub, Patty. I love the pictures you chose. The benefits of herbs is amazing.

TroyM on November 11, 2010:

Always have loved Ohio. Great info you are sharing!

Herbal Medicine Enthusiast on September 27, 2010:

I am now studying herbal medicine from green plants in the tropical rainforest of West Papua. When I did some research on the internet, I found this article. It's interesting to read the about the natural wonders of Ohio. I hope that the native Indians and the nature lovers there will be able to restore and promote them for the future generations of America.

Angelllite from United States on June 17, 2010:

We import from other countries, and some of the best stuff is right here

Patty Inglish MS (author) from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation on June 11, 2010:

I appreciate all of the comments everyone has posted!

@emeraldkell - It's been years since I went to the Popcorn Festival, but it was great. Does your husband have a private practice? Drop me an email some time; I'm not far form you.

@theirishobserver - I envy you your herb garden, but we put in some flavored mints this year and have a cilantro plant. It's a start. Enjoy your herbs!

@prasetio30 - Natural remedies can work quite well, imo. Some are allergic to them, but that's the case with most remedies in my experience. Thanks for mentioning it.

@internetwriter62 & Michael Shane - Thanks for your comments. Ohio organizations put much effort into uncovereing additional information such as this now. It is fascinating.

emeraldkell on June 10, 2010:

Patty, what a wonderful hub. I'm originally from Marion,Ohio and have an interest in herbal remedies. My husband is a nurse who perfers natural remedies over medication. You have some great information. Wonderfully written.

theirishobserver. from Ireland on March 05, 2010:

Excellent hub love the pictures, I grow some herbs in my garden just to add to stews and things, never tried herbal medicine, herbal tea once, great work...best regards Irish

prasetio30 from malang-indonesia on March 02, 2010:

I liked and concern something about herbal remedies. With the expensive medicine and also the expensive treatment for kind of disease make us to consider with herbal medicine. I hope this become solution for us. thanks

Michael Shane from Gadsden, Alabama on March 02, 2010:

Great & informative hub! Very factual...

Internetwriter62 from Marco Island, Florida on March 02, 2010:

Gee Patty, That was very informative. I never realized that Ohio had such a rich history of natural medicine going all the way back to the Indians. It's wonder to see that people are turning to natural medicine rather than pharmaceuticals for healing, and that Ohio has been so instrumental in this movement. A very well researched and excellent hub.

Patty Inglish MS (author) from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation on March 02, 2010:

Pamella99 and Hello, hello - I studied much of this during martial arts training and my additional education related to a preventive medicine degree. I myself was surpised by the 13 pages of herbs and plants listed in 1910.

Hello, hello, from London, UK on March 02, 2010:

Gosh, Patty, you have done your homework and reasearch there. Thank you for such an informative read.

Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on March 02, 2010:

Patty, Very interesting hub. I grew up in Ohio and sure didn't know all of that information.

Patty Inglish MS (author) from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation on March 02, 2010:

Dim - Thanks for commenting; the natural habitiat at the fair each year is one of my favorite parts.

aj- I think they/ve made a comeback in southern Ohio, at any rate. Thanks for commenting.

Faybe Bay - I can remember childhood school trips to the local forest parks and seeing some of these plants, too. Thanks for the thumbs up!

Faye Constantino from Florida on March 02, 2010:

What can I say, you always astound me. Luckily though, there is not yet a host of comments. I always rate you up, but sometimes your comments section is intimidating. This is beautiful Patty, I am from Ohio, and remember seeing these plants growing up. Thank you for giving me back a little piece of home.

ajbarnett on March 01, 2010:

A fascinating article, Patty. Most interesting. I think a lot of these traditional medines could make a comeback. Congratulations on writing it.

Dim Flaxenwick from Great Britain on March 01, 2010:

Thank you Patty, for an incredibly informative hub on one of my favourite subjects. i.e. anything concerning Native Americans.