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Published July 16, 2012, 10:24 AM

A natural approach

When Linda Different Cloud was a girl, she went on walks with her grandmother, a medicine woman, and learned how native plants could be used as medicine.

By: Jonathan Knutson, Agweek

When Linda Different Cloud was a girl, she went on walks with her grandmother, a medicine woman, and learned how native plants could be used as medicine.

Today, Different Cloud is an ethnobotanist (someone who studies the relationship between plants and culture) at Sitting Bull College in Fort Yates, N.D. Armed with both traditional Native American knowledge and a doctorate in ecology and environmental science from Montana State University, she promotes the use of native plants to help make people healthier.

“I’m a nerdy scientist. But I also love the history of my people,” she says.

Native Americans have a long history of making use of plants they find around them, she says.

“It wasn’t trial and error. We did experimenting,” she says.

Different Cloud says she uses native plants to improve the health of her family as well as herself. For instance, she uses licorice root and curlycup gumwood to treat seasonal allergies.

However, many false and even dangerous claims about the alleged medicinal properties of some plants can be found on the Internet, she says.

Different Cloud says she frequently works with people who have questions and concerns about medicinal plants. She can be contacted at lakota_ethnobotonist@hotmail.com.

Different Cloud says she’s had a “mixed” response from the medical establishment about the use of medicinal plants. Some mainstream medical professionals are supportive, while others have reservations.

She says she never recommends that people using medicinal plants quit taking prescription drugs. Nor does she want people to use medical plants with prescriptions that advise against it.

The Mayo Clinic’s website notes that “plants have been used for medicinal purposes for thousands of years.” The website also stresses “it’s important to do your homework and investigate potential benefits and side effects of herbal supplements.”

Speaking engagement

Different Cloud enjoys speaking about native plants to groups across the region.

She’ll speak on native plants’ medicinal uses at the Northern Great Plains Research Laboratory’s annual Friends & Neighbors Day July 19 in Mandan, N.D. The research lab, part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service, is celebrating its 100th anniversary this summer. More information on Friends & Neighbors Day or Different Cloud’s presentation: 701-667-3000 or 3001.

Interest is growing in the use of medicinal plants, she says.

For instance, more residents of the Standing Rock Reservation in North Dakota and South Dakota — Sitting Bull College is located on the reservation — have native landscaping containing medicinal plants, she says.

Different Cloud stresses that the medicinal plants she promotes have been studied and tested by Native Americans for many generations, she says.

“This is information we can trust.”

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