My granddad Elmer learned a lot from the Five Civilized Tribes…medicine, ceremonial dancing and how to survive.
After his mother died giving birth to him and his twin sister, his sister was sent to live with relatives in the Pacific Northwest. Elmer headed to Indian Territory, Oklahoma, in a covered wagon with his mother’s brother and his wife. He was two weeks old, and the year was 1884.
Native American Ways
Elmer got along well with his Native American neighbors. They trusted him enough to let him dance with them whenever he wanted. They taught him their secrets of survival, like how to use roots, leaves, bark and plants to make medicines.
He used that knowledge for his family, and for others, his whole life. The longevity his eleven children enjoyed speaks for the wisdom of those natural preventives.
Case in point – my mother. She’s 86 years young and still bakes the best pies you ever tasted, does her own grocery shopping, drives thousands of miles by herself and can still cut a rug when she really wants to.
She’s Elmer’s eighth child, and one of the tonics she grew up on was sassafras tea.
Thinning (purifying) the blood
Elmer insisted that his family members drink sassafras tea liberally every spring to thin their blood after the long, harsh Oklahoma and Missouri winters.
Sassafras trees, with their irregular lobed leaves and aromatic bark, grew wild and plentiful in the woods. Elmer gathered roots every spring. After thoroughly cleaning a root, or hunks of root, he placed it in a pot of water to boil. Soon, the water turned a beautiful clear pink. When the family was fortunate enough to buy sugar, they added it to the spicy tea, along with fresh cow cream.
It didn’t take much persuasion for eleven little country kids to want to start thinning their blood and ridding themselves of their sluggish winter bodies!
As a very young child, I remember seeing a pan on my grandma’s stove with a big tree root poking out of the top. That was fascinating! The tea tasted wonderful, and I wanted lots and lots.
Later on, when I was a teenager and more snooty sophisticated, I doubted my granddad’s theory about sassafras tea thinning the blood.
How ridiculous, I thought.
Then I grew enough brain cells to check it out for myself.
I found out that sassafras tea is recognized as a natural anticoagulant.
Anticoagulant = blood thinner. Fancy that.
Ever notice how much smarter grownups got after our teen years?
In early America, sassafras and tobacco were the main exports from the colonies to England. Sassafras was revered for its medicinal qualities, as well as for the beauty of its wood.
Alas, sassafras tree byproducts, including sassafras tea, are controversial these days, which is why it isn’t the main ingredient in root beer anymore.
The dried and ground sassafras leaves are still used to make filé powder for certain types of gumbo.
And lots of people just go right on using the mysterious tree’s bark, leaves and roots.
A good argument in favor of doing that might be my granddad. He lived into his eighties with no medicines other than the natural ones he learned from The Five Civilized Tribes. He hand-delivered all of his eleven children, survived total economic depression with nothing but his two hands to make a living and played a mean banjo and fiddle with no lessons.
Maybe there really is something to “thinning the blood” with sassafras tea every spring. You think?
Have you ever tasted sassafras tea? Did you know it was the main flavoring in root beer at one time, or that some people thought of the sassafras tree as the root beer tree? Did your family use any old-timey “medicines” that didn’t come from a pharmacy? Tell us about it. We’d love to hear about it!
Of course, a visit isn’t a visit without a two-way conversation. I really want to hear from you.
I truly hope you’ll pick up a copy of my novel Silki, the Girl of Many Scarves: SUMMER OF THE ANCIENT. The print version is on sale at Amazon for only $11.21!!! For your convenience, it’s also available for Kindle, the Nook and for most other eBook readers. If you love the Southwest and kooky little characters that make you laugh aloud as authentic danger and mystery swirl at every turn, you’ll love this novel! The second book in the series, CANYON OF DOOM, debuts in early 2013.
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Jodi Lea Stewart grew up smelling cedar berries and cow manure on a mega-acre Arizona cattle ranch wedged between the Navajo Nation and the White Mountain Apache Tribe Reservation. Her friends were Native American and Hispanic, with a few Anglos thrown in for good measure.
Her pastimes were singing to chickens, climbing giant petroglyph-etched boulders, hanging on for dear life in the back end of rattley old pickups driven over terracotta roads so washed out they qualified as mini-Grand Canyons, and riding one of the orneriest horses God ever put on the planet.
Traumatized beyond repair, she now writes novels in the hope of neutralizing all that craziness.
Before giving her heart to full-time fiction, Jodi cattle-prodded herself through journalism, western magazine writing, college humor writing, album-cover design/liner notes, electro-mechanical drafting, and into a position of managing editor/chief writer of a Fortune 500 corporate newsletter.
Oh, she went on to earn that dreaded BS in Business Management too, but she was pretty much an expert on one part of that degree already.
Jodi Lea Stewart now lives in Texas and New Mexico with her husband, two standard poodles and two rescue cats.
Silki, the Girl of Many Scarves: SUMMER OF THE ANCIENT is Jodi’s first novel.
Book Two in the series, CANYON OF DOOM, debuts Summer of 2013. Book Three in the series, VALLEY OF SHADOWS, hopes to come out of hiding sometime in 2014.