OHLONE MEDICINE

 The land abounds in these natural remedies and to classify the plants, give their names and describe their properties, the presence of a botanist would be required. It is certain that many illnesses are cured by these people and they have their remedies for everything, many quite effective. For this reason not a few prefer their herbs and roots to our unguents and salves.

[Reply by a missionary at Mission San Antonio as to what knowledge the natives had of medicines (Geiger and Meighan 1976:71)]

TABLE OF CONTENTS

 Introduction  Respiratory System  Children's Medicines
 Medicine Persons  Ear Disorders  Neurological System
 Theories of Disease Causation  Eye Disorders  Musculoskeletal System
 Methods of Treatment  Snakebites  Gastrointestinal System
 Plants and Their Medical Uses  Genito-Urinary System  Purgatives - A Special Class
 Skin Disorders  Dental Disorders  Non-Herbal Therapies
 Burns, Wounds, Cuts, etc.  Women's Medicines  Conclusions
 Circulatory System  Population Control  Bibliography

INTRODUCTION
This paper provides a brief overview of semi-traditional Ohlone medical beliefs and practices, especially those using plants, as they existed in the nineteenth and early decades of the twentieth century. Since much of the data on which this overview is based was collected more than 100 years after the European colonization of Ohlone territory, this paper is not strictly about Ohlone medical beliefs and practices, but rather about " Californio-Rumsen/Mutsun Ohlone" medicine. By the time anthropologists began working with the Native Californians, the Ohlone had become well assimilated into California's Mexican-American and Euro-American communities. As a result, non-native medical beliefs and practices, including the use of plants for curing, had been acquired by the Ohlone. In addition, during the nineteenth century, hundreds of non-native plants were introduced into, and had become an integral part of, the California landscape. The Ohlone added many of these to their already extensive herbal pharmacopoeias. Consequently, Ohlone medical ethnobotanical data combines aboriginal and acquired beliefs about both native and non-native plants. Also, the bulk of the data collected by anthropologists came from members of the Rumsen and Mutsun language groups (whose territories included, respectively, the Carmel and Salinas River valleys, and the upper Santa Clara Valley and the upper Pajaro River and lower San Benito River drainages). Therefore, this paper reflects the cultural understandings of only two of the more than two dozen traditional Ohlone nations.

MEDICINE PERSONS
The Ohlone, like many other California Indian nations, had several types of medicine persons. Some were well versed in the use of herbs, others, such as the weather shamans, could make rain begin or end, and still others could transform themselves into grizzly bears and then back into human form. But the most prominent shamans were the curing shamans, individuals who, according to the priests at Mission San Juan Bautista, in Mutsun Ohlone territory, "cure by chanting and by gestures and shouts" (Geiger and Meighan 1976: ). Curing shamans gained knowledge and mystical power through direct contact with spiritual beings and they used their power for curing, though they also possessed the ability to foretell the future, find lost objects, call in game animals, remove ritual contamination, as well as using their supernaturally acquired powers to bring about disease, misfortune, or even death (Harrington 1942:2, 39).

Almost all of the specifics concerning traditional Ohlone shamanism are no longer known. It is known that both women and men could become shamans, and in some instances a novice shaman obtained supernatural power during visions induced by ingesting decoctions made from the hallucinogenic plant Jimsonweed [1]. And all novices were trained by an older shamans. But precisely how one entered into the profession, what other means of acquiring supernatural power (other than ingesting Jimsonweed) existed, and what the shaman's relationship to her/his spirit helpers was "are all matters on which the evidence is lost" (Kroeber 1925:472).

THEORIES OF DISEASE CAUSATION
What sorts of beliefs the Ohlone held prior to European colonization concerning the causes of illness and disease is unknown. Data from the mission period and later suggests, however, that they, like most other Native Californians, attributed all disease, misfortunes, traumas and death to either natural causes and/or supernatural agencies. Minor and/or transient illnesses (common cold, common headaches, common childhood ailments, rashes, sores, indigestion from obvious causes), traumas (fractures, sprains, wounds), and muscular and skeletal disorders such as rheumatism and arthritis were regarded as a normal condition of life. However, persistent, major, or unusual illnesses were most often attributed to supernatural causes, either "from the incantations of their enemies" (Forbes 1937:121-122) or from the activities of a malevolent shaman, or in rare instances, an offended or malevolent spirit. In the latter case, a shaman or malevolent spirit magically "shot" into a person's body an intrusive, sickening object (Kroeber 1925: ). The object might be anything-- a fingernail, the hair of a dead person, a ball of coyote fur, a small pebble or a grain of sand, pieces of jagged flint, a live lizard, or an insect. A shaman might initiate an intrusion for any number of reasons including: enmity toward the victim, or toward the victim's parents, or because the shaman had been hired to do so, or because the shaman hoped to collect a fee from the victim for removing the illness.

It is impossible to draw a hard-and-fast line of demarcation between the natural and supernatural classes of disease, for even the simplest of afflictions may have explanations savoring of the mystical. For example, a bone lodged in one's throat was usually the result of carelessness in swallowing. But, if it could not be removed by coughing and swallowing, supernatural causation was feared and a shaman's services were sought. Nevertheless, a fundamental distinction remained with respect to disease causation and curing: whereas some illnesses could be self-treated others required the assistance of highly trained, supernaturally endowed shamans.

METHODS OF TREATMENT
Curing existed along a continuum, with certain variables determining the action of a sick individual, including the number and persistence of symptoms, the perceived seriousness of symptoms, the extent of social and physical disability resulting from the symptoms, and available information and medical knowledge. Some illnesses required the assistance of shamans or herbalists, while others could be self-treated, or tended by members of one's immediate family. If the symptoms were few or mild, or did not require drastic alterations in the individual's everyday routine, then that individual most likely entered into self-treatment. If, for example, a person was suffering from a mild headache, indigestion, or a mild sore throat, the sick individual may not consider disease object intrusion or witchcraft as the probable cause of discomfort, since such causes would be reserved for more serious symptoms. Self-treatment would suffice and the individual would use various home herbal remedies. The headache might be treated by rubbing onto the forehead a paste made from pulverized California Nutmeg nuts mixed with fat, while simple indigestion could be treated by chewing the Nutmeg's nuts, which acted as an antacid. And the mild sore throat could be treated with any number of gargles including a decoction made from Bull Nettle roots or one made from a mixture of California Wild Rose hips, little pieces of orange and pomegranate peel, a small piece of alum, and Rattlesnake Weed. However, should the headache, stomach upset, or sore throat increase in duration or in intensity of discomfort, the individual might then consider consulting an herbalist whose knowledge of appropriate plant- or animal-derived medicines was more detailed and specialized. If these measures failed, then a shaman might be consulted and asked to either apply her/his empirical medical knowledge or to contact the spirit world to discover the precise cause of the illness and how best to cure it.

In general, a shaman first prayed to her/his mystical power for assistance, smoked tobacco (a sacred or semi-sacred act) or placed sacred herbs on a fire, then sang special songs and danced into a transcendental state. While in this state the shaman conferred with her/his spirit helpers in order to locate the site of the illness, identify the cause, and determine the best curing method. Once found, the shaman extracted the disease object by applying her/his lips directly to the patient's body and forcefully sucking the object into her/his mouth. Or sometimes the doctor would place one end of a hollow tube (often a bone, or a branch from Elderberry, or a stone pipe) at the location of the object and suck on the opposite end of the tube. Sometimes the doctor made one or more shallow incisions on the patient's skin over the location of the disease object and then applied suction. Once the object was removed, it might be displayed to the patient and audience (almost all curing took place in the presence of the patient's family, friends, and sometimes all members of the patient's home community), then buried, burned or sent back to the agent (human or mystical) who had thrown/shot/placed it in the patient.

PLANTS and THEIR MEDICINAL USES
The following discussion of Ohlone herbal remedies is intended to acquaint the interested person with some of their methods and plants used and should not be taken as an encyclopedic compilation of the Ohlone's medical knowledge. To do so would require an entire book since more than 100 native plants, plus a host of introduced plants, were used in treating sickness and injury. What is offered, instead, is a glimpse into their herbal pharmacopoeia.

Plant medicines were prepared and administered in many ways. External treatments involved the use of salves, dry powders, pastes, bandages, bathing and/or washing the afflicted area, poultices, both hot and cold packs, soaks and infusions. Internal treatments ranged from drinking teas, to chewing various plant parts or inhaling the smoke or vapor from heated plants, to the use of purgatives and enemas. The method used depended on a host of factors including the type of illness and its severity.

Some plants were ailment specific; others were used to treat a number of disorders. For example, Yerba Santa was used to cure headaches (heated leaves were applied to the forehead); asthma (chewing or smoking the leaves); rheumatism, colds in their early stages, and tuberculosis (drinking a leaf tea). The leaf tea also was ingested to purify the blood, wash sore or infected eyes, or it was combined with other herbs and used to wash infected sores. Two other multipurpose, cure-almost-anything plants were Black Sage and California Wild Rose . Black Sage leaf decoctions were drunk to cure coughs, leaves were placed in a bath to cure limb paralysis, and heated leaves, held against the ear, reduced earache pain or if wrapped around the neck, they relieved sore throat pain. California Wild Rose was used for treating numerous ailments, including sunburns (applying a paste made by frying the blossoms in olive oil); a sore throat or swollen tonsils (a gargle, made by cooking in water Rose flowers, Rattlesnake Weed, several small pieces of orange and pomegranate peels, and a little piece of alum); scabs (treated with an ointment made by combining toasted, ground Rose flowers with "a little hog kidney fat or olive oil"); fevers (a tea prepared from a mixture of the plant's flowers, Rattlesnake weed, and Malva roots); as well as indigestion and kidney ailments (a petal tea).

After European colonization, the Ohlone added to their already broad pharmacopoeia, numerous non-native plants, some of which also were put to multiple purposes. For example, a Lemon Balm tea was used to treat stomach aches, colic in infants, and when boiled with orange blossoms and peels, it was drunk three times a day for heart pains. And a tea made from the introduced Yarrow was taken for treating a stomach ache, as well as washing skin sores. And heated Yarrow leaves were applied to wounds to prevent swelling; the heated leaves also were held in the mouth to alleviate toothaches. Such multiple uses for a single plant was not unusual; in fact, nearly fifty per cent of all medicine plants used by the Ohlone had more than a single use.

SKIN DISORDERS
One of the most ubiquitous plants in Ohlone territory was (and still is) poison oak. Contact with any part of the plant, or inhaling the smoke from burning poison oak plants, causes a painful dermatitis for human beings. The Ohlone treated the rash with washes made from the leaves of either Coffeeberry or California Bay or the leaves and flowering tops of the Gumweed , which also was used in treating several other types of dermatitis.

Sores were treated in numerous ways. Infected, open sores were washed the water in which any one of a number of plants had been boiled, including:
Honeysuckle (also used for bathing swollen feet), Figwort (twigs), Bird's Foot Fern (leaves; the wash was used primarily for facial sores; or the heated leaves were applied as compresses), Monkey Flower (leaves), California Goldenrod (leaves), Vinegar Weed (leaves decocted with other herbs); the cooked hips of the California Wild Rose (a rose hip wash was also applied to scabbed over sores to hasten healing), or Yerba Mansa (roots). Sores (and wounds) were dusted with healing powders made from the finely powdered Yerba Mansa roots, or the entire Paint Brush plant, or Monkey Flower leaves or compresses of heated Figwort twigs, or heated Yerba Santa or Angelica leaves. Healing salves were made from the ground seeds of either Wild Cucumber or Pineapple Weed seeds. Toasted and finely grounded seeds of Mayweed , mixed with "yerba del pasmo, and oreja de liebre," were fried in melted beeswax and olive oil to make a healing salve, which was smeared on a cloth, then laid on the sore. This treatment was repeated until the sore healed. Left over salve was stored in a bottle or cup for future use. The juice from Violet was applied fresh to sores, and on the following day the plants were boiled and laid on the sores. Several European introduced plants also provided medicines for treating sores. Washes were made from Yarrow (entire plant) and Bittersweet (the leaves, fruit, or both were mixed with the leaves of the native Centaury ).

Boils were treated variously: sometimes they were lanced, followed by warm poultices made from the leaves of either
Baccharis (cooked in animal fat), Figwort , or Nightshade ; rubbed with a pain relieving salve made of ground Jimsonweed leaves, or washed with a Gumweed decoction.

Hair and scalp care products were made from several different plants. Dandruff was treated using a shampoo made by mixing the pounded stems and bulbs of
Soap Root in a little water. Although baldness was uncommon, it was not unknown and at least two herbal treatments were used to treat it. To encourage hair growth, as well as keep the scalp and hair healthy, the roots of either Wild Cucumber and/or Bracken were made into either a hair rinse or a paste to be rubbed into the scalp. Or the scalp was washed with a solution made from the leaves and twigs of Seep Willow . And to rid the scalp of lice a decoction prepared from California Poppy flowers was applied.

BURNS, WOUNDS, CUTS and SIMILAR INJURIES
A decoction of California Goldenrod leaves was used to wash burns. Or burns were sprinkled with a healing powder made from toasted and ground Sesaña , which permitted burns to heal without scarring. For treating sunburns, an ointment made from California Wild Rose flowers fried in olive oil was used.

A variety of herbs were used in treating wounds. To ease pain and aid the healing processes, leaf compresses made from either
California Mugwort or California Sagebrush were applied. Pain-killing teas also were made from the root of Yerba Mansa (this same tea also was used for disinfecting wounds). The roots were dried, reduced to a fine powder which was then sprinkled on the wound. Or the wound might be sprinkled with a powder made from the finely pulverized stems and leaves of Baccharis (wounds also were washed with a decoction made from the plant) or dried, powdered Sneezeweed . Other treatments included bathing wounds with a medicinal preparations made from any number of plants, including Stonecrop leaves (the leaves and stems were sometimes dried, reduced to powder and sprinkled on wounds), Buttercup , Golondrina (used for washing cuts), and Gumweed ; or applying compresses made from a species of native Yarrow or from Bedstraw . And to prevent wounds from swelling, heated leaves of either the native or Eurasian Yarrow were applied as poultices.

CIRCULATORY SYSTEM
The ethnographic literature contains references to plant-based medicines that were used as "blood" and/or "heart" medicines. Most of these were used to "purify," "tone," "clean," or "freshen the blood," important therapeutic values since many illnesses were believed caused by "bad" blood. In addition, there were some plant-based medicines that were administered for such symptoms as chest or heart pains, while a few were simply said to be "highly regarded as heart medicine."

A number of plants, prepared as teas, were used routinely, even daily, for purifying, cleansing, and/or "thinning" the blood. Included among these blood medicines were:
Yerba Santa (leaves, fresh or dried); Golondrina (foliage); Rattlesnake Weed (leaves), Leather Root (root), Spurge (various parts), Sea Lavender , California Maidenhair fern (used for purifying the blood), or California Walnut leaves (taken to thin the blood).

Heart pains were treated by drinking three times a day the water in which orange blossoms and peels and
Lemon Balm had boiled while other heart disorders were sometimes treated by drinking the water in which the fresh leaves of Black Sage had soaked.

RESPIRATORY SYSTEM
Respiratory ailments were a common health problem and were treated most often with herbal teas, some of which were prescribed for their analgesic, or decongestant, or expectorant effects. For example, the leaves of Yerba Santa , a proven expectorant, were either chewed, smoked, or taken in a tea form, to cure colds, coughs, and most pulmonary ailments, including asthma and tuberculosis. Respiratory ailments also were treated with herbal poultices and salves, sometimes in conjunction with teas, and sometimes as stand alone medicines. Chest pains were treated with compresses of heated Jimsonweed leaves, Virgin's Bower foliage, or Trillium . The roots of Narrow Leaf Mule Ears were pounded to produce a thick lather which was rubbed on the chest as cure for various lung problems. Asthma was treated by drinking teas made from California Mugwort (leaves), Yerba Santa (leaves), Thistle (roots), or California Sagebrush (leaves - the cooked leaves were applied warm to the back and chest). Or asthma sufferers might smoke or chew Yerba Santa leaves or inhale the smoke from burning dried Milkweed plants.

Tuberculosis and pneumonia had a devastating impact on the Ohlone. Various Spanish government documents from the mission period described "with monotonous regularity" the death of the Indians at the missions from consumption and pneumonia (Geiger and Meighan 1976: ). Treatments for both these diseases relied mainly on teas made from a number of plants including:
Yerba Santa (leaves), Nettles (roots), Manzanita (dried bark), or the introduced European native Hedge Mustard (seeds). Hedge Mustard seeds were wrapped in a white cloth, immersed in a hot water, brought to a boil, the sack removed, and the tea ingested. Or the cooked plant, in combination with olive oil, was put on a cloth which was then placed on the chest to treat aching lungs: "the mustard is hot and does not let the coldness go to the chest" (Bocek 1984: ). Sometimes a decoction made from Bird's Foot Fern was prescribed to help cough up "bad blood." Pneumonia was treated variously: drinking teas made from Peony roots; making shallow cuts on the patient's back, followed by hot compresses of Coyote Mint "to draw out `bad blood." Coyote Mint also was used to make decoctions, poultices and salves for treating other respiratory problems.

Cold and/or coughs were treated in various ways: teas made from
Manzanita (flowers), Elderberry (flowers), California Everlasting (leaves and/stems), Vinegar Weed (leaves; leaves also ground and then rubbed on the face and chest to relieve cold symptoms), Rattlesnake Weed (usually taken in the early stages of a cold), or Bluecurls (leaves ); salves for applying to the chest and/or back and made from Bluecurls (leaves), or Milkweed (whole plant); or washes made from California Sagebrush (leaves). Persistent coughs were sometimes treated with teas made from the leaves of White or Black Sage , or the leaves of the introduced Horehound (this tea was also prescribed for whooping cough), or with cough syrups made from the fruits of Honeysuckle , or the foliage from either Bird's Food Trefoil or Owl's Clover . Sometimes, cold sufferers rubbed their forehead and nose with a powder made from dried, ground Sneezeweed . The chills that accompany colds were sometimes treated by soaking one's feet in a hot bath made from a mixture of Manzanita (leaves), Elderberry (flowers), and Mallow (plant).

For relieving sore throat pain, poultices of heated leaves of either
Black Sage or Bull Nettle were applied to the throat. Or one might gargle with either a decoction made from Bull Nettle roots or one made from a mixture of California Wild Rose hips, little pieces of orange and pomegranate peel, a small piece of alum, and Rattlesnake Weed . Other gargles were made by boiling in water Curly Dock and pomegranate rinds, or the leaves and stems of Stonecrop . Swollen tonsils were treated by drinking a Durango Root tea or gargling with the water in which California Wild Rose flowers and Curly Dock had cooked.

The soothing and pain relieving properties of willow bark have been recognized by most peoples around the world, and the Ohlone were no exception. Teas made from the bark, young leaves, or flowers of
Arroyo Willow were frequently prescribed as cold remedy, while Red Willow bark teas were used as a fever remedy. Fever reducing teas also were made from the diaphoretic Pineapple Weed ; Dogwood (inner bark); Elderberry (flowers); California Wild Rose (blossoms and hips); Oregon Ash (twigs placed in cold water until it turned blue, signifying that the medicinal sap had leached out); Phacelia (roots); Common Plantain (roots); Leather Root ; Chia (seeds); Rattlesnake Weed ; or Bird's Foot Fern (fresh leaves gathered in early winter).

In addition to treating fevers associated with the more common upper and lower respiratory ailments, the Ohlone also attempted to treat "fever" diseases such as scarlet fever and typhoid fever. For dealing with the former, teas made from the leaves, or the leaves and berries, of
Bittersweet were prescribed or a leaf decoction made from Nightshade , while teas made from either Storkbill (leaves) or Verbena tea were drunk for typhoid fever. The Verbena tea was also prescribed for an ailment labeled "fever of the stomach."

EAR DISORDERS
An earache was treated variously: blowing Tobacco smoke into the ear; placing heated Rue leaves inside the ear; applying against the ear heated poultices made from the leaves of either Black Sage , Bull Nettle , or California Mugwort ; or heated stalks of the introduced Alfalfa .

EYE DISORDERS
Eye problems were common maladies. Some eye problems, such as sore, irritated and inflamed eyes, may have been due to the Ohlone's almost daily practice of sweatbathing. During sweats, a fire was kept burning in the sweathouse. Since there were no openings through which the smoke could escape, the sweathouse filled with smoke. Undoubtedly, this contributed to various eye, throat, and lung ailments.

Washes were a common treatment for many eye disorders. Plants used to prepare washes included
Yerba Santa (leaves) and Golondrina (leaves). The dew that collected during the night on the inside of the trumpet-shaped Jimsonweed flowers also was used to wash sore and/or infected eyes. For treating poor vision, an eyewash made from the juice of Figwort was used. And Figwort compresses made from the leaves were applied as poultices as a treatment for sore eyes. And for removing foreign particles from the eyes, one or more of the tiny gelatinous Chia seeds might be placed under the eyelid, where they became soft and sticky, causing any foreign particles to adhere to them, thus making it easy to remove the irritating matter.

SNAKE BITES
For the Ohlone, as for most California Indians, rattlesnakes were a fearsome, ever-present threat, just as they are today among modern Californians. Unfortunately, there is little information on how they dealt with snakebites, other than having a person who was bitten by a rattlesnake drink a tea made from Rattlesnake Weed . However, it is likely that they also used the common California Indian procedure of making an incision or excision, followed by suction applied to the area of the bite. The Ohlone did, however, protect themselves from possible snake bites by placing fresh leaves of the Oregon Ash tree in their sandals.

GENITO-URINARY SYSTEM DISORDERS
A number of plant species were used in treating various urinary tract disorders. In general, treatments consisted of drinking teas made from one of any number of plants: Mexican Balsamea were prescribed for urinary problems, as were teas made from a species of California Sagebrush , Sea Lavender (also used in the treatment of venereal disease), and California Buckwheat . Bladder problems were treated with teas made from any one of several plants: Cocklebur (seeds); Horsetail (stalks); or Manzanita . The Ohlone also treated urinary ailments with hot poultices of cooked Wild Buckwheat , or decoction made from Curly Dock , although details on the specifics of application are not now known. And for treating kidney ailments, teas made from the dried stems of a species of Baccharis , or the berries of Fairy Bells , or California Wild Rose hips were prescribed.

DENTAL DISORDERS
Several remedies were used to relieve a toothache: warm Yerba Buena leaves were held against the outer jaw, or a strong tea was made from the leaves and held in the mouth; Yarrow leaves laid placed on hot stones, then transferred to the aching tooth; or Nightshade leaves were rolled into a cigarette and smoked; or Sagebrush leaves were held against the tooth; or a decoction made from Buckeye bark was held in the mouth. This same Buckeye decoction, or one prepared from Tan Oak bark or oak galls, also was used for treating loose teeth.

WOMEN'S MEDICINES
A tea made from Horsetail was used by women to treated delayed or difficult menstruation, for bladder ailments, and to prevent pregnancy, while menstrual cramps were alleviated by drinking a tea made from Yerba Mansa roots. This same root tea also was used by both women and men as a general pain reliever. The leaves of Toyon were steeped in water to make a tea which was drunk by a woman to suppress her menses. This same leaf-tea was considered good for young girls as it cleaned their blood and complexion, as well as promoted regular menses in them. A decoction made from California Maidenhair was used to help expel afterbirth, and as a general post-parturition tonic. Following childbirth, women drank a tea made from Groundsel to prevent "lockjaw." Pregnant or lactating women were said to avoid the California Poppy plant, as the smell was believed to be poisonous. And a decoction prepared from the leaves of False Solomon's Seal was used as a contraceptive.

POPULATION CONTROL and CONTRACEPTIVES
The Ohlone, like the majority of Native Californians, lived in a rich and varied environment and population densities were very high. However, high population densities can lead to problems. If there is environmental stress, such as a shortage of food, pregnancy may be strongly disapproved of. Having too many children too close together can result in problems, such as lack of food easily digested by nursing newborns. Furthermore, the rigors of supporting a large family in the gathering-hunting economy placed additional stresses if families were too large. In order to keep their population within the carrying capacity of the environment the Ohlone practiced various forms of birth control, including sexual restrictions, infanticide and abortion. They also used at least two plant-based contraceptive medicines: the leaves of False Solomon's Seal or the stems of Horsetail were decocted in water which was drunk by a woman to prevent conception.

CHILDREN'S MEDICINES
Just as parents today treat a sick child with medicines specifically formulated for children, so too did the Ohlone. This is not to say that a medicine used by an adult Ohlone was never used by a child, or vice versa. However, there were some plant medicines which were used especially for, or only in, treating medical conditions and illnesses in children. Tea for treating fevers in children were made from a native species of Mallow (roots) or Mexican Balsamea (stems and leaves). Sometimes when fevers reached dangerous heights in children, convulsions occurred. To treat the convulsions, the child's body was rubbed with a salve made from a mixture Pineapple Weed , urine and crushed brick. Colicky infants sometimes were given small amounts of a warm tea made from the roots of Sagebrush , or, in the post-contact period, a decoction made from the European Lemon Balm . Or they were simply picked up and held until the crying passed. When a child was restless or unable to sleep, one or two California Poppy flowers were placed beneath her/his bed to help relax her/him.

NEUROLOGICAL SYSTEM DISORDERS
Headaches were treated by inhaling the smoke from burning Angelica roots, or by placing on the head dampened California Bay leaves or poultices made from heated leaves of a species of native Mallow . A Mallow leaf tea also was prescribed for migraines. For pain in the limbs, the Ohlone living at Mission San Carlos at the beginning of the nineteenth century would "bind fast an aching leg, arm, etc., and say that by this means the pain is somewhat alleviated" (Geiger & Meighan 1976:76). To treat numbness or paralysis in the limbs, California Goosefoot compresses were applied, or quantities of Black Sage leaves were placed in the afflicted person's bath water. After European colonization, the introduced Rue was added to the Ohlone's pharmacy as a treatment for paralysis (as well as stomach pains, coughs, and earaches).

MUSCULOSKELETAL SYSTEM DISORDERS
Several consequences arise from living a gathering and hunting life: arthritis and rheumatism, which are a result of growing older and reflect the accumulation of wear and tear at the joints; and a suite of physical traumas (fractures, strains, sprains, bruises, and the pain and swelling associated with such traumas). All of these maladies were fairly common among the Ohlone and were treated using a variety of herbal and non-herbal therapeutics.

Rheumatism was treated in a number of ways. A person could first induce sweating by drinking a hot decoction prepared from
Mallow and Elderberry and when sweating stopped, rub the painful areas with a mixture of toasted California Wild Rose flower petals and the fat from a hog's kidneys. Or various pain relieving teas were used: California Wild Rose (hips), Yerba Santa (leaves), Monterey Cypress (needles). Or a rheumatism sufferer could chew Grayleaf Pine pitch or apply compresses of cooked California Mugwort plants or heated Western Ragweed leaves to the aching and painful joints. Rheumatic pains also were treated with washes made from California Sagebrush leaves, compresses of either warmed California Mugwort leaves or Bedstraw , or lightly whipped with either burned twigs of Angelica or bundles of fresh Nettle .

Fractures also are common consequences of living as a gatherer-hunter lifestyle and the Ohlone were adept at treating them. For example, at the beginning of the twentieth century Ascencion Solorzano de Cervantes, one of the last of the full-blooded Mutsun Ohlone and an herbalist, described for Harrington her method of casting, claiming the method was "an ancient Indian one." After setting the fracture she prepared the casting material by boiling the outer bark of
Cottonwood until a thick, syrupy gum formed. This syrup was then spread thickly on a piece of buckskin and wrapped around the fracture, then a splint tied on. The next day, after the gum had solidified, the splint and hide were removed "revealing a cast as hard as a modern plaster-of-paris one" (Martin 1977:17).

GASTROINTESTINAL DISORDERS
Stomach aches and/or indigestion were usually treated by drinking teas made from any one of several plants: a native species of Yarrow (entire plant); Vinegar Weed (leaves); Blue Eyed Grass (roots and narrow, grasslike leaves); California Everlasting ; various species of Bluecurls (leaves, sometimes combined with the flowers); Pineapple Weed ; and Peony (roots). Peony tea was sometimes enhanced with the addition of orange peels, Mayweed , and "well toasted, almost burnt, meat (or else the little skin of the gizzard of a chicken)" (Bocek 1984: ). After cooking for some time, the liquid was strained off, two or three teaspoons of olive oil were added, and the concoction drunk a cupful at a time " while simultaneously keeping warm and rubbing the stomach." This mixture also was drunk to cure constipation, as was a tea made from the roots of the introduced Common Plantain .

For treating diarrhea, the Ohlone sometimes prescribed drinking the water used in the acorn leaching process. Usually, however, diarrhea and associated stomach problems were treated with teas made from : White Alder (bark); or the rhizomes and roots of various species of the genus Rubus (Blackberry, Raspberry, Thimbleberry ). The tea made from Blackberry was regarded as the most effective treatment for diarrhea as well as dysentery. Dysentery also was treated with teas made from Sagebrush leaves, or Turkey Mullein roots, or the introduced Shepherd's Purse .

Enemas were used by some Ohlone for treating indigestion and complications arising from overeating. At the beginning of the nineteenth century the priests at Mission San Juan Bautista noted that such ailments were treated by administering lukewarm water via a syringe or hollow cane "applying it to the area they all know ... and thus try to regain their health" (Geiger & Meighan 1976:78). Sometimes the enema solution was made from marine algae, or after the coming of the Europeans, the boiled leaves and roots of an introduced
Mallow .

PURGATIVES - A SPECIAL CLASS OF MEDICINES
The Ohlone used a number of plants as purgatives, medicines which stimulated either emesis (expelling from the mouth) or catharsis (expelling from the rectum), or sometimes both. The cathartics were used primarily to treat constipation and included teas made from several different plants including Coffeeberry (the dried, ground bark was either cooked or steeped in water), Vetch (roots), introduced Common Plantain (roots), or a mixture of Peony roots, Mayweed , orange peels, several teaspoons of olive oil.

The emetics were more broadly used. Some were used to relieve the uncomfortable feelings of nausea that accompany certain gastrointestinal illnesses. However, many others were used to treat ailments having little to do with the gastrointestinal tract. Why the Ohlone (as well as many other people) held a cultural expectation that one treatment for certain ailments was to induce vomiting is not clear. But that they held such an expectation is clear. For example, they prescribed smoking the dried leaves of
Jimsonweed , or drinking a tea made from brewed Elderberry leaves when one's health condition required a purgative. Unfortunately, there is no information about what health condition required such a treatment. Similarly, a decoction made from Clover was used as a purgative, while the roots of Wild Pea , or a drink made from cooked Mallow leaves were used to produce emesis, but it is not now known why a purgative was induced. It was quite common for men to use Tobacco as an emetic, either by chewing the fresh leaves or smoking dried leaves. This was done within both social and ritual contexts, but for what exact purposes is not now know. The missionaries at Mission San Carlos said that the Ohlone living there used the juice obtained from the Soaproot root as a purgative, drinking it "freely," along with sea water, to purge themselves (Geiger and Meighan 1976:77). But for what purposes, the missionaries did not say.

NON-HERBAL THERAPIES
In addition to shamanic cures involving the application of supernatural power, and the numerous herbal medicines used in treating various ailments, the Ohlone also employed a number of non-herbal treatments. Mention has already been made of their ability to set and cast broken limbs. They also treated aching limbs, including sprains and strains, by binding them "and say that by this means the pain is somewhat alleviated" (Geiger and Meighan 1976: 73). Missionaries at Missions San Carlos and Santa Cruz noted the use and beneficial effects of sweatbathing: "The men have the daily custom of entering an underground oven known as the temescal. It is our experience that this is very beneficial for them" (Geiger and Meighan 1976: 76). There are some indications that the Ohlone employed trepanation--drilling a hole in the uppermost part of the cranium--to relieve intra-cranial pressure (Margolin 1978:132). The Ohlone also knew how to induce abortions, both pharmacologically as well as mechanically, as well as control severe bleeding through the use of animal hair compresses. Massages, cauterization of wounds, suturing of wounds, dietary restrictions against fats and salt, massage, enemas, and bedrest, also were common medical procedures and practices.

CONCLUSIONS
Ohlone medicine proceeded from their assumptions about the nature of reality and they explained disease by reference to both the natural and supernatural worlds. And even where there seemed to be a "natural" explanation for a disease, there was always the chance that supernatural agents were at work. When a disease was supernatural in origin, the immediate cause was believed to be the presence of a disease-causing object in the sick person's body. This object was placed there by malevolent shamans, or less often by supernatural power beings. It could only be withdrawn by a shaman who employed sucking as her/his primary extractive method.

On the other hand, common illnesses and traumas were treated by both shamans and non-shamans with a suite of herbal medicines. The varied uses of plants by the Ohlone indicate the large extent to which they understood and utilized the natural resources of their environment. Today, the bio-medical model is becoming more cognizant of its shared ground with folk medicine and increasingly looks to indigenous health practices as sources of information. There is much we can learn from the Ohlone about curing. After all, they have had many thousands of years in which to learn and practice.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

BOCEK, Barbara R.
  1984  Ethnobotany of Costanoan Indians, California,Based on Collections by 
        John P. Harrington.In Economic Botany, 38(2):240-255.
        
FORBES, Alexander, Esq.
  1839  California: A History of Upper and Lower California From Their 
        First Discovery to the Present Time. Smith, Elder and Co. Cornhill,
        London.

GEIGER, Maynard, and Clement Woodward Meighan
  1976  As the Padres Saw Them: California Indian Life and Customs as
       Reported by The Franciscan Missionaries 1813-1815.Santa Barbara
        Mission Archive Library, Santa Barbara.

HARRINGTON, John P.
  1942  Cultural Element Distributions: XIX, Central California Coast.
        Anthropological Records 7:1. University of California Press. Berkeley.
        
KROEBER, Alfred L.
  1925   Handbook of the Indians of California. (Reprinted 1953 by
         California Book Company, Berkeley).

MARGOLIN, Malcolm
  1978   The Ohlone Way. Heyday Books. Berkeley.

VOGEL, Virgil
  1970   American Indian Medicine. University of Oklahoma Press.

1 For clarity I have not used scientific names for plants in the body of the text. All plants mentioned are listed below, alphabetically by their common name, followed by their scientific name.

COMMON and SCIENTIFIC NAMES of PLANTS MENTIONED

Alfalfa - Medicago sativa, an Eurasian native
Angelica - Angelica L.
Arroyo Willow - Salix lasiolepis
Baccharis - Baccharis Douglasii
Bedstraw - Galium L
Bird's Foot Fern - Pellaea mucronata
Bird's Foot Trefoil - Lotus scoparius
Bittersweet - Solanum Dulcamara, European native
Black Sage - Salvia mellifera
Blackberry - Rubus vitifolius
Blue Eyed Grass - Sisyrinchium bellum
Bluecurls - Trichostema L.
Bracken - Pteridium aquilinum var. pubescens
Buckeye - Aesculus californica
Bull Nettle - Stachys bullata
Buttercup - Ranunculus L.
California Bay - Umbellularia californica
California Buckwheat - Eriogonum fasciculatum
California Everlasting - Gnaphalium californicum
California Goldenrod - Solidago californica
California Goosefoot - Chenopodium californicum
California Maidenhair - Adiantum jordani
California Mugwort - Artemisia Douglasiana
California Nutmeg - Torreya californica
California Poppy - Eschscholzia californica
California Sagebrush - Artemisia californica
California Walnut - Juglans californica
California Wild Rose - Rosa californica
Centaury - Centaurium Hill.
Chia - Salvia Columbariae
Clover - Trifolium L.
Cocklebur - Xanthium L.
Coffeeberry - Rhamnus californica
Common Plantain - Plantago major, naturalized from Europe
Cottonwood - Populus L.
Coyote Mint - Monardella villosa
Curly Dock - Rumex crispus, Eurasian native
Dogwood - Cornus X californica
Durango Root - Datisca glomerata
Elderberry - Sambucus L.
Fairy Bells - Disporum Hookeri
False Solomon's Seal - Smilacina racemosa
Figwort - Scrophularia L.
Golondrina - Euphorbia maculata
Grayleaf Pine - Pinus Sabiniana
Groundsel - Senecio Douglasii
Gumweed - Grindelia camporum
Hedge Mustard - Sisymbrium officinale, European native
Honeysuckle - Lonicera interrupta
Horehound - Marrubium vulgare, naturalized from Europe
Horsetail - Equisetum laevigatum
Jimsonweed - Datura meteloides
Leather Root - Psoralea macrostachya
Lemon Balm - Melissa officinalis, European native
Mallow - Malva nicaeensis
Mallow - Malva parviflora, native of Eurasia
Manzanita - Arctostaphylos species
Mayweed - Anthemis Cotula
Mexican Balsamea - Zauschneria californica
Milkweed - Asclepias eriocarpa
Monkey Flower - Mimuuls L.
Monterey Cypress - Cupressus macrocarpa
Narrow Leaf Mule Ears - Wyethia angustifolia
Nettle - Urtica L.
Nightshade - Solanum nigrum, native of Europe
Oregon Ash - Fraxinus latifolia
Owl's Clover - Orthocarpus Nutt.
Paint Brush - Castilleja affinis
Peony - Paeonia Brownii, P. californica
Phacelia - Phacelia californica
Pineapple Weed - Matricaria matricarioides
Prickly Pear - Opuntia Mill.
Rattlesnake Weed - Daucus pusillus
Red Willow - Salix laevigata
Rue - Ruta chalepensis, European native
Sagebrush - Artemisia Dracunculus
Sagebrush - Artemisia L.
Sea Lavender - Limonium californicum
Seep Willow - Baccharis glutinosa
Sesaña - Navarretia atractyloides
Shepherd's Purse - Capsella Bursa-pastoris
naturalized from Europe
Sneezeweed - Helenium puberulum
Soaproot - Chlorogalum pomeridianum
Spurge - Euphorbia L.
Stonecrop - Sedum L.
Storkbill - Erodium cicutarium
Tan Oak - Lithocarpus densiflora
Thistle - Cirsium Mill.
Tobacco - Nicotiana L., N. Bigelovii
Toyon - Heteromeles arbutifolia
Trillium - Trillium chloropetalum
Turkey Mullein - Eremocarpus setigerus
Verbena - Verbena lasiostachus
Vetch - Vicia gigantea
Virgin's Bower - Clematis ligusticifolia
Vinegar Weed - Trichostema lanceolatum
Violet - Viola L.
Western Ragweed - Ambrosia psilostachya
White Alder - Alnus rhombifolia
White Sage - Salvia apiana
Wild Cucumber - Marah macrocarpus
Wild Pea - Lathyrus L.
Yarrow - Achillea L.
Yerba Buena - Satureja Douglasii
Yerba Mansa - Anemopsis californica

 

Copyright © Chuck Smith, Cabrillo College, 1999