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For the Love of Herbs

Kelcey Graybeal Odell collecting wild herbs and flowers. Odell studies plant medicine and their use in everyday life.
Photo by Teresa P. Crowder

By Teresa P. Crowder
Freelance Writer

Appalachia traditions involve experiences utilizing the earth and its bounty to live and be well over time. In early times, these remote mountains did not support or have the availability of western medicine as we do now. Tapping into her roots and taking pride in preserving the traditions of the Appalachian people, local Kelcey Graybeal Odell has been studying plant medicine to gain a deeper understanding of how the medicinal plants in the area can be used in everyday life.
Her interest comes from stories of her great-grandmother. “My great grandmother, Ruth, was into herbs,” Odell said. “She was a wildcrafter and could tell you what every plant was and its uses. She had a vast knowledge of herbal remedies, not only how to cure the ailments her family was faced with but also to prevent them. Her knowledge was self-taught from books she read or word of mouth from the “grannies.” Wildcrafter and herbing-woman were just one of her titles. She was a mother of six, farmer, and homemaker and was praised for her buttermilk and cottage cheese.
Odell is on a journey to obtain more hours to be a registered herbalist as she will then be able to take actual clients for herbalism consultations and make treatment plans. Right now, she is more than happy to talk with folks about what herbs she thinks could be beneficial and make recommendations or give them resources.
“I also have my own products I make for my apothecary at my massage space, The Appalachian Bodyworker,” she said. “I create tea blends, pain-relieving salves and balms, tinctures, and other herbal goodies.”
She believes that knowing what can benefit you or others around you in times of pain, stress or sickness is priceless.”
“It is comforting to know that if I am outside and I get stung by a bee, I could pick some plantain weed, mash it up, stick it on the sting and immediately feel the effects of it helping,” she said. This is just one small example of everyday hiccups for which plant medicine can be useful. “As it pertains to massage therapy, I love that I can hand make organic body products and infuse them with beautiful herbs that I know will benefit my client’s body and mind,” she said.
These types of herbal body products are also a wonderful way to introduce people to herbalism and help them
become more familiar with the benefits of plant medicine.
Odell further recommends that anyone interested in herbal medicines or remedies please research any new
herb or remedy and always consult your health care providers for drug/herb contradictions and precautions before ingesting.