by M. Kat Anderson USDA NRCS
In Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman, a television series that ran from 1993 to 1998, the Cheyenne taught a white lady doctor about various kinds of native medicinal herbs that could be used to treat human ailments in the frontier town of Colorado Springs, Colorado in the 1860s. The generosity and compassion shown by the Cheyenne made an impression on many viewers. Although the series was fictional, key elements were based on historical fact, and notable among these was the transfer of medicinal plant knowledge from Native Americans to white settlers. Not only were American Indians the first to discover the healing properties of many of the medicinal herbs native to North America that we’ve come to know so well–goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis), echinacea (Echinacea spp.), blue cohosh (Caulophyllum thalictroides), yerba santa (Eriodictyon californicum), and cascara sagrada (Frangula purshiana), to name just a few–they also passed along this knowledge to European missionaries, pioneers, and settlers, who integrated it into traditional American medical care.