26 February 2009

The Conifer Trees In Native Medicine Traditions

This is the first of two articles on the medicinal and
wellness potential of conifer trees. In this first article,
I'll discuss some of the history of conifer trees in eastern
and northeastern North American Native medicine

The conifers were widely used by medicine makers
in those traditional cultures. In fact, it's fair to say that
conifer trees were used as often as many of the
herbs and woody plants and bushes. So, it's not
surprising that the earliest reference to indigenous
medicines, in the journals of European visitors to
North America, refers to a conifer tree.

n 1536, Jacques Cartier and his crew were wintering
over at Stadacona (Now known as Quebec City). Their
ships were frozen in the thick ice of the St. Lawrence
river. His crew were dying of scurvy.

Nearby, an Iroquois Chief learned of the illness and
death amongst Cartier's crew. He sent branches of an
evergreen tree to Cartier, with instructions on how
to prepare it. The branches were from the "annedda"
tree (This is probably from the Iroquois word, "haneda,"
which I've read translates something like, "greens on a

Within days the crew had recovered. Cartier wrote
in his journal (translated): "... had all the doctors of
Louvain and Montpellier been there, with all the drugs
of Alexandria, they could not have done so much in a
year as did this tree in eight days."

Two centuries would pass before the British medical
community discovered the cause and cure for scurvy.
And, to this day, the Annedda tree has not been
identified with any measure of certainty.

Other accounts of explorers and missionaries, make
mention of conifers, including Balsam Fir, Spruce, and
Pine. The Balsam Fir is legendary, and is the tree that
I personally feel is likely the fabled Annedda. Scholars
have suggested that it is White Pine, White Cedar, or
White Spruce. It has also been suggested that there is
etymological evidence to support Eastern Hemlock, in
this regard.

Whatever the case may be, the story of the Annedda
tree points out the long history of the Native medicine
maker tradition. It also illustrates the beauty and holistic
nature of that tradition -- the medicine maker's eyes
are not only pointed to the ground, to the herbs, but they
are in the trees, as well.

Good medicine always,

Note: This article appeared in the 15 February 2009
edition of my Natural Healing Talk Newsletter.


Shy-Anne said...

It would be very interesting to find out which tree the "Anneda" was. I know some Ojibwe, no Iroquois. I know that Balsam bark when boiled comes nerves and headaches.
Do you know of any other medicinal properties in trees? i love this type of stuff.