Cold season is upon us, and cruddy noses, puffy eyes and red noses dot our communities like hot swarms of radioactivity. Stay faaaar away from the puffy eyes and red noses.
When I become ill, there is almost always this inner battle: Do I grab the over-the-counter meds, which are convenient and pack a quick and potent punch, or do I take the time to sit down and chop up traditional root medicines and boil up a medicine tea like our elders always have?
If I’m in a rush, I do the obvious. I reach for the DayQuil, the TheraFlu or the ibuprofen and head out the door. It’s a busy world we live in, and when people depend on you, you need to come through, right?
But what if those symptoms keep on knocking, and for days on end? Seems as though we reach for the traditional medicines as a last resort at times, or at least I do. And there are reasons for this. Right or wrong, I have my reasons… Perhaps more like excuses.
Right or wrong, this is what I tell myself: first of all, I have a limited supply of our traditional root medicines, and my next visit back home to replenish my medicines could be months away. OK, not an excuse. I hang my head. If I have the medicines, I should use them. Second excuse: the pills, the capsules and the syrups are just so much more convenient.
That’s it. They are convenient. Convenience kills substance, time and again. And convenience even kills tradition.
But really, when your body is aching, you don’t exactly feel like exerting much physical energy at all to prepare the tea nor do you have the patience for your medicine to brew. We are so conditioned to have everything at our fingertips.
I digress, admittedly. Sometimes, I am not a very good Indian.
I was recently so ill, I couldn’t even think straight. I just wanted the pain and anguish to go away.
When my body is aching in pulsing discomfort and my knees are inflamed and my head is pounding, Grandmother Earth, I am so sorry, I forsake you. I go for the convenient Western medicines, and I take for granted the immense power in the medicines of our Earth.
Yolanda Manning and grandchildren gathering roots in Duck Valley, Idaho. Photo Courtesy Sarah Manning
I hoard my traditional medicines, or what little I have left of my dwindling supply. Those medicines are special and sacred and filled with the love of my parents who harvested those root medicines last spring, just as the Earth was supple and coming back to life.
Wait. What am I thinking? That is exactly why I need to use that medicine. There is more medicine inside the medicine – love medicine.
When I make medicine tea and drink from the healing elements, I am not only drinking from the love of our Grandmother Earth, but the love of my ancestors who passed down the knowledge of our medicines and of my parents, who love their children enough to bring us new medicines with each visit, who trust in our medicines enough to labor for hours and days just to harvest those deep rooted medicines, and then so proudly bring them to our aid.
There is medicine inside the medicine. Love medicine.
So, in body-aching pain, I reach for a piece of doza’a, harvested by mom and dad, chop it into pieces and drop it into a pot of water to boil and steep. I say a prayer for my family and my homelands and, of course, a prayer for myself, for my achy body, my congested sinuses and my pounding headache. I want to be well.
With each drink of bitter doza’a tea, I realize that am being loved back to life, by my mom and my dad, by ancestors and, of course, I am being loved back to health by our Grandmother Earth. Hair hanging in my face, watery eyes and stuffy nose, I drink up, in warming comfort and gratitude.
Soothed and appeased, I wonder, how could I ever forsake the power of root medicines steeped in sacred water? How could I ever forsake the love of ancestors infused in the medicines of Earth?
I take another drink. I slow down. I remind myself to have patience, to endure and forgive myself for my impatient ways.
I remind myself of grandmothers and ancestors who harvested medicines, prayed over them, and whose essence lie forever scattered across medicine prairies, and their love, infused deep into the Earth, penetrating each plant, each root, and budding with each new leaf and spring flower.
As I pray over sacred water turned medicine tea, I reflect and give thanks for the connection that we still have to all things that heal us, body and spirit. I am thankful, and I am well.
Sarah Sunshine Manning
Sarah Sunshine Manning (Shoshone-Paiute, Chippewa-Cree) is a mother, educator, activist, and an advocate for youth. Follow her at @SarahSunshineM.