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Posted on March 31st, 2013, by

The traditional Native American medicine is quite different from the western biomedicine, which dominates in the US. In such a situation, many Native Americans prefer their traditional methods of treatment to technologically advanced western medicine. At the same time, a considerable part of Native Americans is not covered with health insurance or any health care program, such as Medicaid (Broome & Broome, 2007). However, Native Americans are vulnerable to many chronic diseases and health problems. In such a situation, the traditional Native American medicine should match standards of western medicine to provide Native Americans with effective health care services.

At this point, it is important to distinguish western medicine from the traditional Native American medicine. In this respect, it is necessary to place emphasis on the fact that the difference between western medicine and Native American medicine exists not only at the technical or technological level but also and mainly at the cultural level. Specialists (Broome & Broome, 2007) point out that, in the Native American culture, there is a strong link between medicine and religion. While modern medicine has a view of human health relative to the physical laws of science (Broome & Broome, 2007). Therefore, the traditional Native American medicine grounds on the totally different philosophy compared to western medicine.

Furthermore, the contemporary western medicine is based on material concepts and scientific discoveries. The western medicine is biomedicine above all, which focuses on the treatment of the body but not the mind or spirit. In this regard, the traditional Native American medicine is totally different from western medicine because the Native American medicine stresses the importance of spirit in the treatment of individuals and their health problems. For instance, many AIs believe that a person with a physical disability possesses a weakness in the body that is offset by the blessing of having a strong mind and spirit, which optimizes this individual’s humanity (Broome & Broome, 2007). In such a way, the treatment in terms of the traditional Native American medicine starts with the treatment of the spirit. Moreover, physical problems individuals may have are not the subjects to the immediate action from the part of the traditional Native American medicine. Physical health problems are closely intertwined with spiritual problems of individuals and, if they have physical problems, they may have stronger spirits than individuals, who are physically healthy.

At the same time, the traditional Native American medicine relies heavily on natural remedies, such as various plants for instance. In contrast, the contemporary western medicine focuses on medication as the major way to the treatment of patients from different health problems, including not only physiological, but also psychological and mental health problems. The latter approach is not acceptable for the traditional Native American medicine, which pays a lot of attention to spiritual treatment, on the ground of which the treatment of the body becomes possible.
Obviously, the difference between the traditional Native American medicine and western medicine is substantial. Nevertheless, many Native Americans still prefer using traditional treatments developed by the Native American medicine, whereas the contemporary western medicine is just unaffordable for a considerable part of Native Americans. As a result, they prefer their own way of treatment, which they inherited from their ancestors and which they believe to be effective.


Broome, B., & Broome, R. (2007). Native Americans: Traditional healing. Urologic Nursing, 27(2), 161-173.
Cohen, K. (2003). Honoring the medicine: The essential guide to Native American healing. New York: One World Ballantine Books.

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