Medicine Wheel Project
Eastern Cherokee, Southern Iroquois and United Tribes of SC

Writers Project

ECSIUT- Cherokee Indian Tribe of SC helpes Heathwood Hall School in Columbia with creating a Native American Indian Medicine Wheel Garden full of plants native to SC…

See Links of Dedication Ceremony

This Environmental Science Educational Project by the 5th Grade students of Heathwood Hall Episcopal School is a collaboration/coordination between 5th grade students and the Eastern Cherokee, Southern Iroquois & United Tribes of South Carolina, Inc. aka Cherokee Indian Tribe of SC-State Recognized.

Heathwood Teacher, Todd M. Beasley (5th Grade Environmental Science) received a small grant from PalmettoPride to help with funding the development of this garden and project. Dr. Will Goins, CEO of the Cherokees of SC, assisted with the design, selection of plants, interpretation and curriculum components of this project. He will be presiding at the dedication ceremonies.

The Project was established to create and “out-of doors” educational learning environment and meditative space to explore botany, the first people of South Carolina (Cherokee among other tribes), the indigenous plants of SC, medicinal plants, the history of this state, agricultural significance of plants, seasons of the year, season of life and Native Americans perspective on spirituality and their relationship to nature.

Here are some Cherokee Medicinal Plants


One of the herbs known the longest for soothing stomach problems is the blackberry. Using a strong tea from the roots is helpful in reducing and soothing swollen tissues and joints. An infusion from the leaves is also used as a tonic for stimulating the entire system. A decoction from the roots, sweetened with sugar or honey, makes a syrup used as an expectorant. It is also healing for sore throats and gums. The leaves can also be chewed fresh to soothe bleeding gums. The Cherokee historically use the tea for curing diarrhea.

Gum (Black Gum)

Cherokee healers use a mild tea made from small pieces of the bark and twigs to relieve chest pains.

Hummingbird Blossoms (Buck Brush)

This herb is used by Cherokee healers to make a weak decoction of the roots for a diuretic that stimulates kidney function.

Cat Tail (Cattail Reed)

This plant is not a healing agent, but is used as preventative medicine. It is an easily digestible food helpful for recovering from illness, as it is bland. Most all parts of the plant, except for the mature leaves and the seed head, are edible. Due to wide-spread growing areas, it is a reliable food source all across America. The root has a very high starch content, and can be gathered at any time. Preparation is very similar to potatoes, and can be mashed, boiled, or even mixed with other foods. The male plant provides a pollen that is a wonderful source of protein. It can be added as a supplement to other kinds of flour when making breads.

Pull Out a Sticker (Greenbriar)

A decoction of the small roots of this plant is useful as a blood purifier. It is also a mild diuretic. Some healers make a salve from the leaves and bark, mixed with hog lard, and apply to minor sores, scalds and burns. Some Cherokee healers also use the root tea for arthritis.


Mint teas are a stimulant for the stomach, as an aid in digestion. The crushed and bruised leaves can be used as a cold compress, made into a salve, or added to the bath water, which relieves itching skin. Cherokee healers also use an infusion of the leaves and stems to lower high blood pressure.

Tobacco-like Plant (Mullein)

This is one of the oldest herbs, and some healers recommend inhaling the smoke from smoldering mullein roots and leaves to soothe asthma attacks and chest congestion. The roots can be made into a warm decoction for soaking swollen feet or reducing swelling in joints. It reduces swelling from inflammation and soothes painful, irritated tissue. It is particularly useful to the mucous membranes. A tea can be made from the flowers as a mild sedative.

Qua lo ga (Sumac)

All parts of the common sumac have a medicinal use. Mild decoctions from the bark can be used as a gargle for sore throats, and may be taken as a remedy for diarrhea. A tea from the leaves and berries reduces fevers. Fresh bruised leaves and ripe berries are made into a poultice which soothes poison ivy. A drink from the ripened or dried berries makes a pleasant beverage which is a good source of vitamin C.

Squirrel Tail, or Saloli gatoga (Yarrow)

Yarrow has many uses. The best known use is to stop excessive bleeding. Freshly crushed leaves can be applied to open wounds or cuts, and the properties of the herb will cause the blood to clot. A fresh juice of yarrow, diluted with spring or distilled water, can heal internal bleeding such as stomach and intestinal disorders. The leaves, prepared as a tea, are believed to stimulate intestinal functions and aid in digestion. It also helps the flow of the kidneys, as well as the gallbladder. A decoction made of the leaves and stems acts as an astringent, and is a wonderful wash for all kinds of skin problems such as acne, chapped hands, and other irritations.

Looks Like Coffee, or Kawi Iyusdi (Yellow Dock)

This plant is not only a medicinal herb, but also a food. It is much like spinach, but believe it or not, contains more vitamins and minerals. Because of the long taproot, it gathers nutrients from deep underground. The leaves are a source of iron, and also have laxative properties. Juices from the stems, prepared in a decoction, can be made into an ointment with beeswax and olive oil, and used for itching, minor sores, diaper rash, and other irritations. Cherokee herbalists prescribe a warm wash made from the decoction of crushed roots for a disinfectant. Juice from the root, not prepared in any special way, is said to be a cure for ringworm.

Big Stretch, or Nuyigala dinadanesgi utana (Wild Ginger)

The Cherokee commonly recommend a mild tea of this herb, made from the rootstock, which is a mild stimulant for the digestive system. It can also help colic, intestinal gas, or the common upset stomach. A strong, hot infusion of the roots can act as an expectorant in eliminating mucus from the lungs. Fresh wild ginger may be substituted for the regular store-bought ginger root as a spice for cooking.

What Rabbits Eat, or Jisdu unigisdi (Wild Rose)

The ripe fruit of the Wild Rose is a rich source of Vitamin C, and is a reliable preventative and cure for the common cold. The tea from the hips is a mild diuretic, and stimulates the bladder and kidneys. When the infusion of the petals is used, it is an ancient remedy for sore throats. Cherokee healers recommend a decoction of the roots for diarrhea.

Willow Bark

The bark of the branches is stripped and dried. A tea is made from the bark that is useful for aches, pains and headaches. This is the original aspirin!