Aromatherapy and Native Americans

Aromatherapy has been around for centuries and used by many cultures all over the world. Like many of the ancient civilizations, the Native Americans found a number of spiritual and medicinal uses for essential oils. Perhaps one of the most common uses of aromatherapy in Native American culture is the smudging or scared smoke bowl blessing ritual.

Traditionally, Native Americans used this ritual to perform a cleansing of a space, object of person. The sacred ceremony is intended to remove negative energy and restore positive influences and regeneration. During the ritual, a smudging stick or dried bundle of herbs is lit and allowed to smolder so it produces aromatic smoke. As the smudge stick is gently wafted around the area to be cleansed, the smoke diffuses the air. It is believed that the smoke attaches itself to all the negative energy and as it dissipates, it takes all negative influences with it. Restoring peace and calm. Sage is most commonly used for this ritual. This is because the herb and its oil have a long history of cleansing, both emotionally, spiritually and physically. Many Native American would keep sage leaves close to their sacred pipe or wands to keep them safe from negative forces. Today many people still use the smudging ritual to help with native feelings illness or depression.

Native American shaman also used many other herbs and oils that we are still familiar with today. Among them were:

Juniper – this is a great essential oil to help with circulation, which means it is useful for muscle sprains, it may help relieve joint pain if you suffer from arthritis or rheumatism and it can help alleviate strains and sprains and poor circulation to the extremities. Juniper also has vulnerary properties; this means it helps speed up the healing of minor cuts and abrasions. This oil is also a stimulant and its aroma is believed to help concentration and focus and to alleviate mild depression.

Citronella – you may be familiar with citronella as a bug repellant, which is one of its most common uses. However, this essential oil does have other uses. It has expectorant properties, which means it can help to clear sinuses and to treat flu and colds. It is also helpful for healing scar tissue. Although citronella is very mild, it may cause skin irritation for some people, so you should try a small patch test before using extensively.

Cajeput – cajeput has a pleasant aroma like a fruity eucalyptus. Similar to eucalyptus it is used on rubs for arthritis and rheumatism, due to is warming and ant-inflammatory properties. It may also be used for sore throats, coughs and bronchial infections. You can use it in the bath, as a massage oil and in an oil diffuser to help clear your sinuses and relieve aches and pains.

Wintergreen – you may be familiar with wintergreen oil as it is sometimes used to flavor mouthwash; this is because of its antiseptic and anti-bacterial properties, which help to reduce bacteria and plaque in the mouth, as well as to freshen your breath. It also has analgesic properties, which means that when mixed with a carrier oil and rubbed on the skin, wintergreen can bring pain relief. This essential oil may also be used to treat insect or snake bites and to stimulate the gastric juices.

Cedar wood – cedar wood oil has many benefits including it can reduce inflammation and skin peeling during outbreaks of eczema, its antiseptic properties prevent wounds from becoming infectious and it is a good general tonic. It can also be used on the gums to prevent gum disease and loosening of the teeth. If you have a cold or sinus infection, cedar wood oil is also a good expectorant and will help you breathe more easily.