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Doctors should learn from Native American medicine


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Jan 20, 2019

Doctors should learn from Native American medicine

A few weeks ago, I wrote a profile for Ozy of Linda Black Elk, a Native American healer who is looking for new cures for disease by combining her indigenous knowledge of herbal remedies with Western medicine. (Link: Black Elk ran the medical camp during the Standing Rock protests, and has been lecturing for years in ethnobotany at Sitting Bull College, a tribal college in Fort Yates, North Dakota. She's now working to set up a clinic in Fort Yates where she can integrate the knowledge she has accumulated from her ancestors with medical science. Black Elk's work is part of a wider, global movement of indigenous people who are seeking to revive their traditions at a time when the Western world is in desperate need of new ways to treat an epidemic of mental health problems and soaring rates of diseases linked to poor diets and unhealthy lifestyles, such as diabetes, heart disease and some cancers.

I very much enjoyed my conversations with Black Elk, and I would have no hesitation about seeking her advice about a health problem. But some doctors advise caution. For example, I spoke to Dr Craig Hopp, an expert on plant-based remedies at the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health while reporting my Ozy story. He was very clear that you should always consult a physician if you have a serious health problem. "As beneficial as herbs might be, they're not going to treat your cancer," Hopp told me. "That's where I'd draw the line and say you need some serious medicine to get through this crisis and don't mess around with the other stuff." 

Would you place your faith in indigenous remedies? Or would you feel more confident with a conventional doctor? Or maybe there is a way to combine the two, as Black Elk wants to do at her new clinic?



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