|Arkansas Cherokee Nation|
In a very practical sense, early human use of tree barks and plants were a Medicine Way for the tribe to take care of its members. Using plants as medicine has always been an exact natural science based on experience of many generations. As an example, earlier Cherokee used willow bark (Salix alba), or white willow, as a remedy for pain. Willow bark is a natural source of salicylic acid, the active ingredient in aspirin.
Medicine of the Four Directions
Structuring the plants, trees and natural substances in the Four Directions provides a guide for us to follow. Unlike in some cultures, for the Cherokee the shape of the leaves or the color of the plant does not indicate how the plant is used. We need to understand the "life values" in each of the Four Directions in order to better understand the use of certain plants. The "life values" in each of the Four Directions are as follows.
The direction of the East, or East Medicine, values the importance of family life; the importance of women as Mother Earth, those who gave life; and the importance of the heart in relationships and life. The color of the East Medicine is red or yellow to represent the Sun. The key is spiritual.
The direction of the South, or South Medicine, concerned with the innocence of life and the energy of youthfulness, and with values associated with nature. The color of the South Medicine is white or green. The key is nature.
The direction of the West, or West Medicine, is about internal conditions and diseases that can influence the physical body and its endurance to compete in games or in life. The color is black to represent the sacredness and the "darkening land" - the setting of the Sun and the protection of the moon. The key is physical.
The direction of the North, or North Medicine, refers to the four winds, cold weather and calm. It is about our connection with the starlit sky and freedom. The medicine way of the north focuses on the respiratory and nervous systems, the ear, nose, throat and mouth, and influences that interfere with our balance and breathing. The colors are blue and white of snow and sky, the key is calm.
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