Native American medicine in the treatment of chronic illness: developing an integrated program and evaluating its effectiveness

Altern Ther Health Med. 1999 Jan;5(1):36-44.


Traditional Native American healing practices are increasingly sought after by Native Americans as well as non-Natives. A series of meetings between traditional Native American healers and the author resulted in dialogues on the Native American worldview and biomedicine. Recommendations arose for how Native American treatment should proceed in the modern world and how to effectively introduce interested non-Natives to Native American healing practices. An approach for bridging cultures to facilitate the interaction of non-Natives with traditional healers was developed. A total of 116 patients were treated by the author in conjunction with traditional Native American healers. More than 80% of patients showed significant, persistent benefits from a time-intensive treatment program. A comparison group consisting of patients from the author's emergency room practice had significantly lower rates of improvement. An intensive program inspired by Native American practices lasting 7 to 10 days can achieve both health benefits and improved cost-effectiveness in the treatment of chronic physical illness. The treatment philosophy underlying this approach is best described as a dynamic energy system. Within this theoretical framework, physical illness, which is viewed as simultaneously spiritual, mental, and physical, can be treated by counseling and ceremony. Due to the interaction and hierarchical nature of these levels, intervention at any one level affects the others.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Chronic Disease / therapy*
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Indians, North American*
  • Medicine, Traditional*
  • Mental Healing
  • Program Development*
  • Program Evaluation*
  • Treatment Outcome