In the beginning . . .

. . . our Ancient Ones say, the warriors from the Animal People gathered to complain about a new creature - Man. The Human People built noisy villages, cut the trees and disturbed the land. But worst of all, he killed the Animal People.

The Animal People cursed the Human People by creating disease. Each of the Animal tribes offered a different illness to plague Man. Some caused misery . . . some caused death.

The Deer People, who suffered the worst, decreed that the spirit of each slain deer would wait for Man to beg his pardon. If Man did not offer respect for the slain deer, the animal spirit would follow the hunter to his village, and strike him with crippling arthritis.

The Plant People heard about the horrible fate awaiting the Human People, and felt sorry for them. Each plant offered itself as a cure for the different diseases. Old Man Willow said: "Man may chew my bark and leaves to relieve his pain." The Coneflower People offered their blooms to cleanse the Human People's blood from disease.

Among the Human People wise men and women learned the ways of healing with the Plant People. They taught their children, and their children taught their grandchildren.

So the Ancient Ones say.

From the Smoky Mountains to Arkansas, from the Piney Woods and Comanche Country of Texas to Indian Territory, Ana Nez Heatherley's Tsalagi (Cherokee) mothers wandered, put down roots, and wandered again. From early childhood, Ana's mothers took her to the woods - nature's pharmacy - to gather herbs, leaves and roots for nutrition and healing.

Later, as a medical professional, Ana learned the scientific principles behind the traditional remedies. In her new book, "Healing Plants - A Medicinal Guide to Native North American Plants and Herbs," Ana shares these secrets with you.

"Healing Plants" is designed as a field guide for would-be herbalists. Its brilliant photographs, maps, and descriptions help the novice herbalist find and identify medicinal plants easily.

The book provides preparation instructions and describes the diseases or conditions treated by each plant. Interspersed throughout are Ana's colorful anectdotes and tales of long ago Native America, pioneer Texas and more.