Atava Garcia Swiecicki has her feet in a few worlds. She is a Western clinical herbalist and also a folk healer, who reaches back through her lineages—particularly Mexico and Poland—to find answers from the ancestors. She teaches Indigenous Medicine at California Institute for Integral Studies in San Francisco and has helped revive curanderismo, a shamanic tradition native throughout the Americas. “A lot of women, and a few good men too, are remembering and reconnecting to our ancestral healing traditions,” she says.
Atava has a healthy practice on Grand Avenue in Oakland. But she is also an activist who brings holistic health care to poor communities in the East Bay. She says, “As herbalists we are an important piece of the grassroots health care network of our communities.”
Knowing our local medicinal plants is key knowledge today. “This is an important skill in terms of the medicine self-sufficiency of our communities, as we don’t need to rely upon pharmaceutical drugs or herbs imported from faraway countries. Furthermore, if we ever faced a big natural disaster, those of us who know how to use plants to heal would be in high demand!”
Atava’s Tea for Helping to Mend a Broken Heart
1 part hawthorne berry
1 part lemon balm
½ part rose petals
¼ part cinnamon
Mix the herbs together. Use 1 teaspoon of dried herbs to 1 cup of water. Sweeten with honey as desired. Drink 1–3 cups per day. Optional: add 4 drops of bleeding heart and/or borage flower essences to the tea.