Breakthroughs in Naturopathic Medicine

Looking to the wisdom of Cherokee healers, one research studies indigenous plants used to treat cancer and HIV.

In Keetoowah Cherokee traditional practice, native people are treated for diseases, including cancer and HIV, with plants, rituals and prayers. Treatments are handed down from one generation to the next and until now have never been documented. Jody E. Noé, M.S., N.D., College of Naturopathic Medicine professor, has dedicated her career to studying the ethnomedicine and ethnobotany of Cherokee Native Americans, and to the preservation of their oral tradition of medicine with an emphasis in treating cancer and HIV. 
healing_verticalNoé explains, “In medicine we are currently looking for new possibilities to battle cancer and HIV. We have looked to the South American rainforest and indigenous native practices, but we have neglected our own indigenous people and the practices that are still used today. It is time that we look in our own proverbial back yard, with the plant medicines and practices that have been used on our continent for thousands of years. The implications for the future of research and the possibilities of finding a treatment or cure for cancer or HIV, has the greater good for the entire human race as a recipient.”

Noé’s research focuses on the ethnomedical practices of Keetoowah Western Cherokee (Tahlequah, Southeastern part of Oklahoma). The Keetoowah Cherokee traditions and cures have been passed down through the bloodline of Redbird Smith, recognized as the founder and the Chief of the Keetoowah Night Hawk Society. The entire body of research conducted by Noé since the mid 1980s has been assisted, tutelaged and mentored by Crosslin F. Smith, Redbird Smith’s grandson. During her studies Noé witnessed the success of the treatments Elder Smith was using on his patients.

In 2011, Noé traveled to Oklahoma to collect the botanical specimens of plants used by the Keetoowah Cherokees for cancer and HIV treatment. Armed with documentation materials and plant presses she began the proper mounting and drying process on site. Noé then visited her alma mater, Old Dominion University where her original ethnobotany collection is housed. Dr. Rebecca Bray, curator of the ODU herbarium and Noé’s mentor, assisted with the proper botanical identification of the species collected, thus establishing a collaboration between OCU and UBCNM.

It is time that we look in our own proverbial backyard with the plant medicines and practices that have been used on our continent for thousands of years.” – Noé

Through the support of UB’s Seed Money Grant program and approval from the Dean, Noé was able to establish and equip an herbarium in the College of Naturopathic Medicine. According to Noé, UBCNM’s Medical Botany Herbarium is the first and only such herbarium that is part of a naturopathic teaching facility in the U.S. The specimens Noé collected and preserved are now housed in a museum quality collection at UB.

The second stage of Dr. Noé’s research, the analysis of the specimens, will require additional funding and will be done under the mentorship of Dr. Mark Mattie, director of research at University of Bridgeport’s College of Naturopathic Medicine. Mattie has extensive expertise in the bioanalysis of active constituents, with other phytopharmaceuticals. Noé plans to analyze each of the collected botanical species for active constituency and biomechanical composition that would help in the treatments for cancer and HIV.

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Noé, a licensed doctor of naturopathic medicine (N.D.) with a private practice in Westerly, Rhode Island, has been studying the teachings of Elder Smith for more than twenty five years and is, in her own right, a practicing Cherokee medicine woman. The biomedical implications of this research and the possibilities of new drug discovery have driven Noé to continue the research that she expects to pursue for the rest of her career.