North American Indians Uses of Medicinal Plants

This image of an Advanced Search in the eHRAF World Cultures database shows a combination of OCM subjects and keywords that can be used to find ethnographic texts on traditional healing methods in Native North American cultures.

Advanced Search in eHRAF World Cultures for culture names, OCM subjects, and specific keywords.

Advanced Search in eHRAF World Cultures for culture names, OCM subjects, and specific keywords.










Steps in Using culture names, OCM subjects and keywords in an eHRAF Advanced Search

Step 1. Log on to eHRAF World Cultures (if prompted for authentication, email for a temporary log-in). Click the Advanced Search tab.

Step 2. Find the Native American culture names
Click Add Cultures>by Region >North America
Method#1: Select all the culture names for Arctic and Subarctic, Eastern Woodland, Northwest Coast and California, Plains and Plateau, and Southwest and Basin by checking the  checking the box to the left and by clicking Add Cultures. Do not click the box for Regional and Ethnic Cultures as this would also add immigrant cultures in North America to the culture list.

Method#2: Click Select All In Cultures North America.  Deselect the immigrant cultures in North America by clicking the box for Regional and Ethnic Cultures.

Hint!  Regions and Subsistence Type on HRAF’s home page gives a quick overview of all the Native North American cultures that can be searched in HRAF’s online cross-cultural database—eHRAF World Cultures.

Step 3. Find 
OCM subject(s) for traditional medicinal remedies
Click Add Subjects –use the A-Z Index, Major Subjects or OCM Code tabs.  Click on the 3- or 4 digit number to read the subject description (this helps in deciding whether a subject is relevant to ones research topic). Click on the box to the left of a subject name and then Add Subject so that the selected subject appears on the list.

Hint! Topics Covered at the HRAF’s home page shows the entire list of OCM subject that are indexed and searchable in eHRAF. Write down the 3- and 4 digit numbers and then use the OCM Code tab to find the numbers associated with the subjects.

Step 4. Refine a search by using truncated keywords (e.g. sunflower* for singular-sunflower and plural–sunflowers) and different names including Latin names (e.g. Helianthus, the Latin name for sunflower). Consider using other keywords for body parts, like “tooth* teeth*” to find texts on medicinal remedies for toothaches, aching teeth, teeth that hurt, or a tooth that has an abscess.

Caution! An OCM subject with keywords can refine, and if several words are used, can even enhance a search.  However, there is a downside to searching with keywords as it also limits the power of a “stand alone” OCM subject search.  Why? Because an OCM subject search without keywords finds passages of texts that are about the topic (e.g. medical therapy) that use different words to describe or refer to it.

Step 5. Set Boolean operators!
AND to narrow the search
OR to expand the search
(see green and red circle in image above)

Step 6. Click Search to search across the cultures in the various regions of North America and even shows the subsistence types associated with the culture names.

Post written by Christiane Cunnar, HRAF Member Services.  Contact her at for a current log-in and briefly describe to her your research topic so she can give you helpful tips in searching HRAF’s cross-cultural databases effectively.

More Search Methods Posts:

Related eHRAF User Guide Links