Medicine Woman with medicinal plants.

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Acient people had many of the same needs and problems that we do. Their use of herbal medicine was very sophisticated and like us, there were work related injuries. Fishing and hunting accidents, war wounds, certainly required surgery.

Medicinal plants were studied by both men and women who would treat men or women respectively. For many years anthropologists doing research with primal people, would ask the “medicine men” about their practices, never taking into account, that unlike our modern doctors, there was also a corresponding ” medicine woman.” Find cures to illnesses took years of study to learn the plants available to their communities. Because the body and spirit are one, there were special prayers and rituals to learn s well.

The Surgery performed by a medicine man.

The young man was hurt in a border skirmish. The arrowhead, embedded in his back, is actually the tip from a dart. The dart, its shaft made from Giant cane, Arundinaria gigantean, about five feet in length, was launched at its intended target by a spear-thrower, an atlatl. Spent when it found its mark, penetration isn’t very deep. Wedged between the warriors ribs, just below the scapula, it has not pierced the wall of his lungs.

A fellow soldier broke the shaft off the dart. The wound is about a day old. With the swelling around the wound, the skin has slipped up over the point. Bleeding under the skin was caused by motion during the jog to a town where a surgeon could be found.

The surgeon, or medicine man, has already given the warrior a concoction made from the bark of coastal willow, Salix caroliniana and common nightshade, Solanum americanum to reduce pain and help his breathing.

The root of Adam’s needle, Yucca filamentosa, provides a topical antiseptic. Its leaves supply a fine thread for suturing. Once the point has been removed and the wound closed, it will be covered by a pad of prickly pear cactus, Opuntia humifusa. The cactus pad is split so that the wet fleshy side can be applied to the skin. 

he pulp of the prickly pear pads is used by many cultures as a dressing for burns, cuts, wounds, and fractures and is believed to deaden pain and promote healing.

It can also be eaten as a vegetable. We have seen fields of it grown in Oaxaca, Mexico and nopales salad is one of our favorite treats.

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