Pharm.D. (six years)




Lausier, Joan

Advisor Department

Pharmacy Practice (PHP)




Native American; Medicinal Garden; Medicinal Plants; Native Plants; Medicinal Herbs; Herbal Medication


Healthcare among Native American tribes was focused on all aspects of a patient’s life, such as physical, spiritual, and environmental elements. Healthy outcomes were obtained by maintaining a balance among all of these components. This “bio-psycho-socio-spiritual” approach to healthcare was thought to not only play a role in the health of a certain individual, but the health of the tribe as a whole. An illness was not only precipitated by a physical source, but by an imbalance of these components. Medicinal plants served as an integral role in direct physical healing, as well as an important element for the execution of traditional ceremonies. Since physical and spiritual health were inherently related, the body could not heal unless the spirit did as well.

The goal of the Heber W. Youngken Jr. Medicinal Garden is to emphasize the role nature can play in healing and overall wellness. The integration of Native American medicinal plants from tribes that inhabited the Rhode Island area will increase awareness of traditional and natural practices. It is felt that many of these medicinal plants could be incorporated into current healthcare initiatives as well.

The basis of this honor’s project is to highlight the importance of traditional Native American practices regarding herbal medication use. Native American tribes used a holistic treatment approach with a combination of herbs, therapies, ceremonies, and prayers to prevent or treat a range of both acute and chronic illnesses. Native plants played a fundamental role in this healing process. The Heber W. Youngken Jr. Medicinal Garden will serve as a centralized location of native medicinal herbals, so as to provide students of the University of Rhode Island and the general Rhode Island community an opportunity to view these plants and expand their understanding of how nature can play a role in healthcare.

As an example, the use of a medicinal plant like tobacco, also known as Lobelia inflata, was used for topical and systemic healing, as well as serving as a vital component for Native American ceremonies. Topically, tobacco was made into a poultice or cold infusion to heal body aches, bites and stings, abscesses, or sores. Systemically, the plant was chewed, made into an infusion, or a tincture for its emetic properties and to help with a sore throat, asthma, or the prevention of colic. Tobacco, along with sweet grass, sage, and cedar, were the four staple plants used in Native American ceremonies. The burning of tobacco during ceremonies honored and welcomed guests, blessed both food crops and an upcoming hunt, provided communication with the “Creator,” and bound agreements between tribes to ensure the general welfare of the community. Seven other plants are highlighted in detail in the accompanied report.