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How is it that a plant that is so ancient with origins in Africa and Asia still persist in modernity? How can it be both a musical instrument and bowl...a water vessel and medicine? It persist because it is not just one thing and it has been cultivated to adapt to the needs of the user. The artist, the fisherman and the medicine woman all know that the calabash is more than a hollowed out shell. It is evidence of the beauty, power and healing in the mundane should you open your eyes wide enough to see what's in front of you. Dr. Sunyatta Amen, the owner and operator of Calabash Tea and Tonics knows that our plant world holds the same power and as a trained 5th generation herbalist, she is committed to cultivating healing through ancient African and Caribbean technologies. She is a quintessential market woman shapeshifter who has learned from the adaptability of the calabash gourd of Africa how to adapt, taking the shape necessary to heal her people and community with beauty, resilience and practicality---just like her ancestors.
Dr. Amen is the founder and Tea-EO of Calabash Tea & Tonic in Washington D.C. Amen is a Cuban/Jamaican 5th generation master herbalist, naturopathic doctor, and vegan chef. She grew up vegan, the daughter of activists (her mother was a Black Panther) that owned a health food shop, Pyramid Tea & Herbal, in New York City. This was the prototype for Calabash Tea & Tonic and where she learned the medicinal value of global teas, foods, and spices. Later, she would study biology and other sciences, combining her ancestral and western knowledge that she now uses to help heal city dwellers. Calabash’s extensive tea menu is the result of Amen’s schooling and the time-tested formulas belonging to her Jamaican grandmother. In this episode, she shares with us her journey as a healer, business owner and community activist.