By Tracy Gavant

Many spas offer treatments inspired by various traditions and cultures from around the world but we don’t have to go that far to find ancient healing treatments passed down through generations.. There’s plenty right here in the good ol’ USA from our country’s original inhabitants… The Native Americans.


Turning Stone Resort Casino

Turning Stone Resort Casino

The healing power of Native American rituals have long inspired spa treatments, with a focus on the body, mind and spirit. Such influences include hot stones, herbs, essential oils, and native plants, reflecting their strong belief of living in harmony with the earth. For thousands of years, American Indian cultures have used herbal remedies incorporating echinacea, goldenseal, sage and others to purify and restore a state of balance to the body.  


While practices vary by tribe, there are some commonly shared rituals:

Sweat Lodges: This purification ritual cleanses and heals the mind, body and spirit.  The sacred ceremony involves intense heat from hot coals, combined with communal chanting.

Smudge Sticks: Many spas incorporate a smoking smudge wand for purification during treatments, incorporating herbs such as sage, sweet grass and cedar.

Dream Catchers: These sacred hoops were crafted for children to protect from nightmares; the  “dreamcatcher” is hung near the bedroom window to catch all dreams. The bad dreams are caught in the webbing until morning light burns them off, while the good dreams find their way to the center and are held in the feathers to be dreamed again another night.  Spas sometimes give these after treatments or hang over guest beds.


Hot Stones– Sometimes called “grandfathers”; stones are thought to be sacred due to their presence since earth began.

Drum– Rhythmic drum beating is ceremoniously used during treatments to open the four sacred directions

While most Native American-inspired spas are on the West Coast, I recently discovered The Skaná Spa, at the Oneida Indian Nation’s Turning Stone Resort in Verona, N.Y.

Skaná means peace in the Oneida language, and I definitely found it there…

Select spa treatments incorporate ingredients used by Oneida healers, such as:

Sage- Brings about clarity, healing and draws out bad spirits

White Pine- Considered the Great Tree of Peace, it is valued for healing fatigue and pain of sore muscles and joints

Sunflower– Prized for its soothing and hydrating qualities

Sweet grass- Thought to seal in positive energy- used at end of treatment

Mint- Known for its soothing properties

Strawberry- Oneida culture honors this first berry as the healing leader with its powerful antioxidant properties.

Traditional offerings include the Sage and White Pine Massage, From the Earth Mud Wrap, Leaves and Flowers exfoliation, Sunflower and Mint Foot Cure,  and my favorite- The Balancing Waters Ritual.  This treatment pays tribute to the important life force of water, alternating heat, cold and steam to invigorate, relax and restore balance.

The Native American culture’s deep respect for the environment and healing practices prove they have much to teach and inspire us, right here at home!

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