How Native Americans Cured Snake Bites Without Modern Medicine

Artist: Martin Grelle

Once as a child, I was running through a field grown over with tall grass, with a beautiful blue sky above me, when I stopped dead in my tracks upon seeing a rattlesnake. It was coiled and, yes, was threatening me with its tail.

My entire body tensed and in one quick moment I sprinted in the other direction. I don’t think I’ve ever run faster! My grandfather, who is from the Rosebud Sioux tribe, calmed me down quickly. He had grown up in the Black Hills area in South Dakota where there are an abundance of rattlesnakes and where treating snake bites is a weekly occurrence. Snakes aren’t the only thing to be wary of in the Black Hills. Dog bites, buffalo attacks, and mountain lion ambushes all were things to take into consideration. Let’s take a look at some things the Native Americans used to help recover from some incidents.

If Bitten By A Snake Or Animal …

So, what happened if you were bitten by a snake or an animal? First, don’t panic! There are several things that you can do to prevent swelling and pain. Native Americans have been using the plantain leaves for centuries to help reduce swelling and as an anti-toxin. According to Dr. Christopher’s Herbal Legacy website, the plantain was used for a variety of illnesses and was a key remedy to cure the rattlesnake bite. Native Americans also used them for battle bruises and for drawing out any type of snake venom. The Gwen’s Nest health website says “Plantain has been used since ancient times for snake bites, mad dog bites, and a variety of internal diseases. … Plantain herb can be used internally and externally for many different conditions. Basically, anything dealing with a toxin or venom … I have personally used it to remedy poison ivy/rashes, mosquito bites in children who have allergies to them, and bee stings.”

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How Native Americans Cured Snake Bites Without Modern Medicine

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The plantain leaves can be chewed up and applied to a wound to help swelling. Another option would be black cohosh, which has several different applications. The Southeast Wise Women website explains that “Black cohosh has been in Native American medicine for centuries and was also used by European settlers. Native Americans worked with black cohosh to treat snake bite and as a ceremonial herb to bring visions.”

While there are several other remedies that work OK on their own, a combination of a few of them make a serious fighting power against snake bites and animal wounds. Caroline Thompson at Livestrong found that “The Menominees Indians used witch hazel to reduce swelling and inflammation. They boiled the leaves and rubbed the liquid on the area that needed treatment. In a 1994 study at the department of physiology and pharmacology at the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow, researchers concluded that witch hazel does indeed contain anti-inflammatory substances.” While all of these can help you in the case of a snake or an animal wound, if you are ever bitten in the neck or near a major artery, find professional help. Still, if you’re planning a trip where there may be a higher chance of an animal or snake bite, bring some of the previously mentioned herbs with you and enjoy the trip!

While I would still run away if I came across a snake in a field, I at least now know of some ways to help myself in the event of a snake or animal wound.

*This article is for informational purposes only and is not intended to diagnose or cure any particular health condition. Please first consult with a qualified health professional.

References:

Brown, Gwen. “Plantain Herb: The Anti-toxin | Gwen’s Nest.” Gwens Nest. 21 May 2010. Web. 22 May 2016. <http://gwens-nest.com/plantain-herb-the-anti-toxin/>

Thompson, Caroline. “Native American Herbal Remedies.” Livestrong.com. 20 Oct. 2013. Web. 22 May 2016

Shraddhananda. “Black Cohosh.” Black Cohosh. Southeast Wise Women: Honoring Women and the Earth, 14 Nov. 2011. Web. 22 May 2016

“Snakebite.” Snakebite. Dr. Christophers Herbal Legacy. Web. 22 May 2016. <http://www.herballegacy.com/Snakebite.html>

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