Maroons' Medicine Chest: An Exploration of African Herbalism

This course challenges us to think critically about the impact of colonialism on traditional healing practices, and the importance of preserving and revitalizing these practices in today's society.
Dr. sunyatta amen, INstructor
Fifth-generation healer, allopathic and naturopathic doctor, and master herbalist. Sunyatta is the founder and owner of Calabash Tea & Tonic, Washington D.C.

About this Course

Live Schedule 
Maroons' Medicine Chest is a course that explores the ancient African practices of healing through food, spices, and herbs, with a specific focus on the traditional herbalism practices of Jamaica. 

This course is designed to provide you with a comprehensive understanding of the ancient African healing traditions and how these practices can be applied in modern society to promote optimal health and well-being.

You will be part of a community of cultural custodians, preserving and passing on ancestral information and accumulated knowledge to the next generation. By the end of the course, you will have a deeper understanding of different medicinal plants, their properties and how they interact with the body.

This course is suitable for learners of Africana Studies, health and wellness, and herbal medicine. The course will be taught through a combination of lectures, discussions, readings and demonstrations. 
The course is organized into weekly modules, each focusing on a different aspect of traditional herbal practices. The course will also include guest lectures and virtual tours to relevant sites and organizations in order to provide you with an experiential learning experience.
Dr. Sunyatta Amen is a fifth-generation healer, allopathic and naturopathic doctor, and master herbalist. She is the founder and owner of Calabash Tea & Tonic, Washington D.C.'s first and only Black-owned teahouse and retailer.

Calabash, which takes its name from the hanging gooseneck gourd, is a symbol of good fortune and is thought to be "everything you need to live." The shop has been voted Washington City Paper's Best of DC from 2010-2021 as well as Yelp and Google's highest-rated business in the DMV for more than 10 years.

Dr. Amen was born to Cuban, Syrian-Jamaican and Native American parents, and grew up behind the counter of her parents' health food and herbal store in Harlem. After spending decades under the tutelage of her herbalist great-grandmothers and other shamans, she developed a passion for sharing Indigenous healing ways. She hosted the eponymous radio show "Maroon's Medicine Chest" on Pacifica Networks for 16 years and served as the wellness correspondent for The Baisden Show on ABC Radio Networks for 6 years.

Currently, she is a frequent contributor on FOX 5 Morning News and The ABC 7 Morning Show in D.C, host of Maroon's Medicine Chest on, and a weekly correspondent on the Karen Hunter Show on SiriusXM. Dr. Amen is a frequent guest on NPR, MSNBC, CNN, Pacifica, ABC, and The Smithsonian Channel. In the past two years, she has been spotlighted by The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, Discovery Channel, Thrillist, Eater, Marie Claire, and Essence.

Puerto Rican Yellow Rice with Pigeon Peas

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A True Caribbean Classic! This one pot rice also called 'Arroz con Gandules' is a traditional dish typically served on special occasions. 

Jamaican Jerk

Heirloom tomatoes are rich in lycopene, an antioxidant that belongs to the carotenoid group. Green zucchini and yellow squash - brimming with vitamin C, potassium and magnesium. 

Black-Eyed Pea Fritters

Known by many names throughout the diaspora, this delectable, high-protein treat is the grandfather to the hush puppy.

Juicy Spicy Sautéed Mushrooms

The sweet, earthy heat of ginger is a perfect complement to the tart, bright zing of the Buddha’s Hand. So lip-smackingly delicious! 

Three Sisters Soup

This recipe and legend was gifted to Sunyatta by her great-grandmother who was of Meherin, Tuscarora & Nottoway descent. 

Mushroom & Garlicky Greens Over Polenta

This is a simple and delicious spin on an Indigenous classic. Great for brunch, lunch or dinner.

Coconut Curry Chickpea Soup

Curry is a delicious powerhouse of anti-inflammatory and antioxidant richness that has been popular for millennia across Africa & Asia. 

Haitian Liberation Soup

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This spicy, smokey recipe is our love letter to Haiti—who taught the diaspora to decolonize our dishes— because freedom is delicious! 


Mofongo is a Puerto Rican dish with plantains as its main ingredient.

Acorn Gingerbread

Indigenous ingredients made with purpose and inspired by the integrated beliefs and traditions of Dr. Sunyatta Amen 
Sundays at 9:30 a.m. ET in Knubia.
The course offers an in-depth examination of the historical and cultural background of traditional healing practices in Africa, and how colonialism has influenced these practices. It will encourage critical thinking on the effects of colonialism and the significance of preserving and reviving ancestral practices in modern society.

The course will cover various topics including the utilization of botanical remedies, the role of traditional healers and practitioners, the traditional healing practices of different indigenous cultures, and the connection between traditional healing practices and overall health. You will also have the opportunity to learn about different types of teas and their specific properties that make them effective in aiding the body's natural healing and detoxification process.

Traditional herbalism practices of Africa are based on several key principles, including:

  • The use of natural, plant-based remedies: Traditional herbalism practices of Africa rely heavily on the use of natural plant-based remedies, such as herbs, roots and barks to treat a wide range of ailments. 

  • The importance of spiritual and cultural context: Traditional herbalism practices in Africa are deeply rooted in spiritual and cultural beliefs, and practitioners often use spiritual and cultural rituals as part of the healing process.

  • The holistic approach to healing: Traditional herbalism practices in Africa take a holistic approach to healing, focusing on the mind, body, and spirit. Practitioners believe that good health is the balance between the three and that all parts of the person must be treated in order to achieve optimal health.

  • The importance of community and relationship: Traditional herbalism practices in Africa rely on the knowledge and expertise of the community and practitioners rely on the relationships they have with their community. They often work closely with families and communities to diagnose and treat illnesses, and to promote overall health.

  • The use of traditional knowledge: Traditional herbalism practitioners rely on the accumulated knowledge, passed down from generations to generations, to identify and use the plants that are medicinal. They have a deep understanding of the plants, their properties, and how they interact with the body.

  • The recognition of the importance of the environment: Traditional herbalism practitioners believe that the environment plays a crucial role in health and well-being. They often use natural remedies to cleanse and purify the environment, to ward off evil spirits, and to protect the community from disease.
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed on Maroons’ Medicine Chest are shared for educational and informational purposes only, and are not intended as a diagnosis, treatment or as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis and treatment. Please consult a local physician or other health care professional for your specific health care and/or medical needs or concerns.
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