Remembering Our Ancestral Medicine, Part One

By Atava Garcia Swiecicki, MA, RH (AHG)

Remembering our Herbal Ancestors

One of the most important aspects of Cecemmana, our nine-month herbal training program, is the Ancestral Medicine Project.  For this assignment, each student researches and presents about one aspect of healing that comes from their ancestral lineage.  For example, their project may be about herbs, foods, music, mythology or cultural ceremonies.  For their presentations, my students have shared rituals, recipes, songs, folk tales and personal stories.

The class presentations reflect the diverse cultural backgrounds of my students.  They have shared ancestral medicine traditions from the African diaspora, from South Asia, Syria, El Salvador, Mexico, China, Poland, Italy, and the Philippines.  Students of Yaqui, Jewish and Celtic backgrounds have also shared their ancestral medicine projects.

Everyone has ancestral medicine.

In the history of humanity, modern allopathic medicine is fairly new.  Plants have been used as medicine for thousands of years, whereas the use of pharmaceutical drugs is a little over one hundred years old.  [1]

How do we connect with our ancestral medicine?  For people who come from intact cultural traditions, they may grow up knowing their indigenous ceremonies and rituals or they may learn from the elders and medicine people in their community.

For many others of us, the medicine of our ancestors has been colonized for hundreds of years.  Yet every single human being on earth comes from people who at some time used plants for healing.  All cultural systems of healing were at some time plant based.

Remember, plants are our Ancestors. 

We evolved from the plants.  The plant kingdom/queendom has inhabited Mother Earth for millions of years before our oldest hominid ancestors appeared on the scene.  From a scientific perspective, human beings originated from the DNA of plants.


Since we evolved from plants, we share a biological similarity to them.  The chemical make-up of our blood is remarkably similar to chlorophyll, or a plant’s own blood.  The bronchial tubes in our lungs look just like the branches of a tree.  These similarities exist because of our evolutionary inheritance from plants.




Intellectually we may grasp that we have evolved from plants.  However, it’s important to make space to feel this more deeply; to feel our connection to the plant world with our bodies and with our hearts.


Atava Garcia Swiecicki, MA, RH (AHG) is the founder of Ancestral Apothecary.  She is dedicated to remembering and honoring the healing traditions of her ancestors and has been practicing herbal medicine for almost twenty-five years.  She loves witnessing the healing and transformation in people when they connect to their ancestral medicine.  She sees clients in Oakland and works with individuals and groups to support the ancestral remembrance and healing process.  Her website is


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