Main Narrative » Plantways of the Lenape People

Lenape Plant Medicines

By Emily B. Sessa

Nov 8 2022

Lenape healers or herbalists use a large number of plants for treating a variety of medical conditions. Many of these treatments are made by infusing a plant part, often bark, leaves, or roots, in hot or cold water to make a tonic or tea. Some species were recognized as laxatives or used to induce vomiting, while others would be made into a poultice and applied externally to relieve pain or inflammation. Tobacco plays an important role in spiritual and medicinal practices, as it does in many indigenous American cultures. Many plants used medicinally by the Lenape are known from the anthropological works of Gladys Tantaquidgeon, a medicine woman of the Mohegan people in Connecticut who recorded hundreds of plants and their uses. The Mohegan are closely related to the Lenape (both belong to the larger Algonquian language group of peoples), and the plant communities present in the historic homelands of the two groups are very similar.

Tantaquidgeon, G. 1971. Folk Medicine of the Delaware and Related Algonkian Indians. Anthropological Series Number 3. The Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

Pagoulatos, P. 1997. Sacred Landscapes and Traditional Cultural Properties: Plant-Gathering Loci from New Jersey's Outer Coastal Plain. Bulletin of the Archaeological Society of Connecticut 60: 49-68.

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