Navajo Herbal Remedies

iprimrose image by Vaida from

The Navajo Indian culture is encompassed with spirit and balance between mind, body and nature. Based on ceremonial rituals, healing has always been connected to a higher power. With abundant knowledge of plant medicinal values, Navajo people believe herbal therapies restore one’s health, using plants extensively for a holistic state of wellness. Prepared with teas, salves, oils and tinctures, herbal therapy should be used under the supervision of a shaman, herbalist or doctor.

Evening Primrose

Evening primrose is a wild flower grown throughout the North American Plains and used by the Navajo, healing sores and dry skin. Oil is enclosed within the seed of the plant holding 25 percent essential fatty acids which are crucial for healthy survival. The Navajo tribe have formulated primrose oil into lotion, according to the Northern Arizona University Anthropology Department at San Juan River website. Primrose oil is well tolerated on most skin and is available in natural food markets.


The Navajo collect flora throughout barren surroundings and sage is plentiful in the lower plateaus of northeastern Arizona and northwestern New Mexico. This is home to the Navajo tribe and the largest Indian reservation in the United States spreading over 10 million acres of arid desert. According to Kenneth Meadows, author of “The Medicine Way,” sage holds cleansing properties. Before ceremonies, the atmosphere is cleared of negative energy, and purified by “smudging,” a technique applied by burning sage along with other herbs to clear bad energy. Sage, known as an “ear opener” to the Navajo’s, helps with respiratory issues, clearing the inner ear as well as erasing negative inner thoughts.

Greenthread Tea

Greenthread tea is a favorite herbal concoction of the Navajo tribe and sometimes referred to as “Navajo tea.” Yearly, from March to June, new growth appears along canyon roads near Gallup, New Mexico with tiny yellow buds. At harvest, the Navajo pray to the Gods asking harmony and balance to the earth. The tea has many nutritional benefits, such as soothing sore throats or pampering stomach woes. Known to calm nerves, the sweet and aromatic herb holds flavonoids that prevent inflammation and purify the blood. According to the Slow Food web site, the tea is currently in danger of extinction.

Preparation and Dosage

The Navajo seldom worry about dosage unless the herb is extremely potent. Herbs are carefully dried then grounded by pounding over a flat rock. Usually, it is a “pinch” or a “handful” that makes up a dosage. Liquid potions are used generously. After drinking a potion, the remnants are rubbed over the body. If a patient cannot swallow, medicine is administered in a different style.