Native American women gathered herbs and created various healing preparations from them in probably every tribe. Some women had a special ability to heal, and became medicine women. Their knowledge went beyond the ordinary, and they devoted a considerable amount of time to perfecting their skills in recognizing and using herbs for curing illness and treating injuries. Women who were successful healers would be rewarded for their efforts with presents, food, and the like, and could become wealthy and respected within their tribes. Europeans were often astonished at how effective Native American medicines were in healing the ills of the day.
Some women went beyond healing with herbs and developed a deeper alliance with the spirit world. These women were differentiated as shamans; they studied under a practicing shaman and eventually took over her position. Shamans used the information passed on to them from their mentors, but also developed their own rituals, songs, or formulas for healing and for practicing other spiritual skills like interpreting dreams, finding buffalo herds, or calling out the wind. Their powers were mystical and magical, and though they could heal, they had a different role than medicine women.