Appalachia Appalachian Medicine

Meet Crystal Wilson

Wilderness Wildlife Week pigeon forge TN

Today I’m sharing an interview with another fascinating person I met at the Wilderness Wildlife Week back in May.

Pigeon Forge has hosted Wilderness Wildlife Week for the last 25 years as a tribute to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and its heritage. There are tons of presentations and workshops offered during the week-all FREE to the public.

It’s a great event for people who are interested in anything related to the Smoky Mountain National Park as well as the general area of East TN and Western NC.  The Deer Hunter and I thoroughly enjoyed ourselves and hope to attend the event again. If you want to plan ahead-next year Wilderness Wildlife Week will be held May 9 – 13.

Tipper Pressley and Crystal Wilson aka Mama Lucy Mountain Ways

Crystal and Tipper May 2016

If you’ve been reading the Blind Pig and The Acorn for a while you’ll remember Chatter has become very interested in herbal medicine and natural beauty products over the last year.

As I flipped through the brochure for the week and read the description for Crystal Wilson’s presentation I told The Deer Hunter “We have to go to that one, Chatter would be mad if we didn’t check it out for her. And the lady’s a Wilson so hey I know she’ll be good.”

From the moment Crystal started talking I knew we’d picked the right session to attend. The Deer Hunter and I both immediately felt a connection to her. It was just like listening to someone sit on our front porch and talk to us about every day things.

I was so impressed and pleased that Crystal didn’t try to hide her use of our colorful Appalachian language. If someone didn’t understand what she meant, she explained it in a patient kind manner and then continued on with her teaching.

Mama Lucys Mountain Ways - Crystal Wilson

Check out the interview I did with Crystal.


Where are you from?

I grew up in Southwest Virginia. For the last 21 years, we have lived on our mountain homestead in the foothills of the Smokies.

Does your family have a long history in Appalachia?

I am a seventh generation Appalachian. Both my Mommy’s people and my Daddy’s came from the old country and pretty much stayed here.

How did you start using herbs to treat your family and others?

I have pretty much always used herbs. It is just what I do. Daddy taught me plants. We decided when we bought this place to grow mountain medicine and that is what we did.

I liked the explanation you gave about certain plants being white men’s footprints because they were brought from over the ocean by settlers who knew about their uses and wanted to make sure they had them here. Can you explain it to my readers like you did at the event and maybe mention an example or two?

We know women brought plants with them on the ships from England and Scotland. One example of that is Plantain. That’s that broad leaf “weed” in your yard. It can soothe about anything from bee stings to upset stomachs. The Cherokee called it “White Men’s Foot Prints.” Another plant they brought was good ole Catnip. I believe every mountain Granny has given Catnip to a colicky baby!

What other role does your farm play in your life?

Our farm/our land is everything. It is truly a labor of love. When we bought it, it was a mess to say the least. There were no song birds, native plants, or barely any topsoil. All that has changed. Those things have returned. Now it grows food for my family and medicine for the community.

I know you sell herbs do you also sell produce or is that primarily for your family’s consumption?

No we do not sell produce. We try to grow and put by as much as we can for our family.

Since you’ve been growing herbs for medicinal purposes have you noticed an increase in awareness or desire for a natural way to heal or aid in curing sickness?

When we started 20 years ago, there wasn’t a whole lot of interest in going back to the old ways of using herbs. The last little bit, folks have been more interested. You know everything old is new again? LOL!

Do you teach often? 

I have taught here at our place, in different places in the community, and conferences. I prefer to teach here. I like to get to know folks. I am teaching a series on vegetable gardening and one on makin your own apothecary here at our place in July.

How can folks find out about your classes?

Facebook is the best way to keep up with what we are doing:

How can folks find out more about your remedies that are available?

Most our remedies are listed on our website. My favorite thing to do is to make custom things for folks to make medicine just for them.

Can you name 5 things that come to mind when you think about the word Appalachia?

Hmm… five things when I hear the word Appalachia… home, home, home. Seriously, my home, my people, my language, my culture, my life.


I hope you enjoyed meeting Crystal, her love for Appalachia shines through her lovely voice and her smiling face as she teaches others about medicinal plants. If you live close enough to attend one of her classes I highly encourage you to do so. And if you’d like to hear her lovely voice go listen to this.



You Might Also Like


  • Reply
    July 8, 2016 at 5:26 am

    I have to tell this story. We go to Church with a little Elderly Lady in her 90’s, of coarse over the years she has slowed down and the kids wanted her to go to the Doctor to be checked out , she was not in all for going, all these years she relied on herbs for what ever she needed, she finally gave in to go see the Doctor and he ask if she was on any meds and she said not store bought, and he looked puzzled, she went on and explained that she had taken herbs all these years, and he ( showing his intelligence) told her she needed to get off those herbs, and she said, Well it has kept me out of your office all these years.. She’s over 90 years old and he wanted her off the herbs, like it wasn’t working…

  • Reply
    Suzi Phillips
    July 8, 2016 at 12:27 am

    Thanks for the introduction, Tipper- I very much enjoyed “meeting” Crystal Wilson!

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    July 7, 2016 at 6:33 pm

    Food is medicine and medicine should be food. We has medical problems because we don’t eat and drink what we should or we eat and drink what we shouldn’t. The things we get at CVS are drugs not medicine. They treat the symptoms not the cause then they cause more problems that require more drugs. It’s a vicious cycle!
    A lady at work had been out for several days when her father came by to tell me about her condition. After he told me she had arrhythmia I asked him what kind of drugs she had been taking. He blowed up and got right up in my face and said “She don’t take drugs!” It took me a while to realize what had just transpired. Then I explained that I meant medicine. But I really meant drugs just not illegal drugs.
    We used to have a lot more drugstores than today. The word drug is associated with nasty characters hanging out on the corner. So they call them pharmacies and they dispense pharmaceuticals. What they are dealing is the same thing the dude on the corner has but he just don’t have a framed diploma to make his business legitimate.
    One of my most favoritist sayings is, “Headaches ain’t caused by an aspirin deficiency!”

  • Reply
    July 7, 2016 at 5:55 pm

    Thanks for introducing Crystal to your Blind Pig readers, Tipper! I use plants as much as I know how, and am always interested in hearing from folks who know a LOT more than I do. In fact, I now use jewelweed on bugbites, thanks to you 🙂
    I just listened to Crystal’s youtube piece and subscribed to the channel (is that what you call it? anyway, I clicked “subscribe”!) and I’ll read up on her blog, too. Thanks again.

  • Reply
    July 7, 2016 at 4:27 pm

    I enjoyed Crystal’s message and sounds like you and The Deer Hunter had a nice time over there. Hope Chatter got to meet Crystal and that she shared those Appalachian Remedies with her.
    My neighbor and friend brought me 7 yellow squash today. I just finished a plate full and 3 pieces of fried Pike, all with yellow onions. Time for a nap! Enjoyed this post today…Ken

  • Reply
    eva nell mull wike, PhD
    July 7, 2016 at 4:06 pm

    OK TIPPER! I am sorry I missed this wonderful event. NEXT YEAR I will do my best to make it! It would be great to meet Crystal Wilson – and get to tell her about my history book “Fiddler of the Mountains” Today I attend a meeting of about 35 TENNESSEE AUTHORS and one of the authors told me I should take “Fiddler” to the GIFT SHOPS in the Smoky Mountains. She was sure they would want to sell “Fiddler” to the visitors who come looking for a meaningful gift to take home.
    Maybe I will just take her advice!
    Eva Nell Mull Wike,PhD

  • Reply
    July 7, 2016 at 11:29 am

    I wonder how many of the remedies would work in other regions. Sometimes the same name is given to a similar plant either due to similarity or mistaken identity and the found plant doesn’t behave the way it is expected to. Although not used for medicine, dandelions as food is a good example of that. My daughter’s family visits her in-laws in the far NorthEast each summer and they will pick dandelion greens for salads and for cooking. Unfortunately, the dandelions in these parts just don’t work. No matter how young you pick them, they are too tough and too bitter to be appealing and some of them are quite spiney too!
    Nonetheless, herbal medicine and eating wild is fascinating – may try catnip on the newest granddaughter – almost 5 months old and still crying day and night like a little banshee! Doctor’s swear there’s nothing wrong so maybe it’s time to try a little mountain/country medicine!

  • Reply
    Pam Danner
    July 7, 2016 at 11:13 am

    Hello Tipper! I haven’t been able to visit your blog in about a week because my daughter, son-n-law and grand-baby are visiting. We are having such a good time! I am so happy I checked your blog today, I just love this post! I am very interested in Mountain Medicine and have visited Crystals web site and Facebook page. Thank you so much for sharing this with us!

  • Reply
    July 7, 2016 at 9:24 am

    Only a true Appalachian would say she ‘puts by’ as much produce as she can. I have heard that said many times, but Mom would have said she ‘put up’ as much canned stuff as she could. She never canned taters, they were ‘holed up’.

  • Reply
    Charles Fletcher
    July 7, 2016 at 8:58 am

    The below is from one of my books.
    Mountain Medicine
    The early settlers in the mountains of Western North Carolina
    did not go to the doctor as we do today for the treatment of
    sickness. They had their own methods of curing any kind of
    sickness or injury that they had.
    In every settlement in the mountains there was one special
    person who was considered to have the power to cure every
    sickness known to these mountain people. This person was
    usually an older woman, and some people had the idea that this
    person was a witch who could cast a spell on you and even
    cause you to die. Just the same, they always sent for her when
    there was sickness in the family.
    The diet of the mountain people was mostly food with a
    lot of fat. They ate lots of fatback and sow-belly along with any
    salad greens that were available. In the spring, poke sallet was a
    favorite along with other leafy greens that grew wild in the fields
    and along the edges of the woods. The way that they ate was the
    reason for their number one sickness: stomach problems.
    One of their treatments was to wear the root of rhubarb on
    a string, around the neck. This would prevent stomach cramps.
    Drinking a tea of hot water poured over the dried lining of the
    gizzard from a chicken with a little honey added would also
    cure the stomach ache.
    Wild cherry bark made into a tea was used for a cough.
    Also, sassafras, catnip, horehound, and pennyroyal were boiled
    and made into a tea for a cough and to treat colds. The leaves
    from the red cedar were boiled and inhaled for the treatment of
    bronchitis. Willow tree leaves and bark were made into a tea to
    break up a fever. Bloodroot, goldenseal, wild ginger, and jack-inthe-
    pulpit were used for the treatment of many diseases. Resin
    from the white pine was used for wounds and sores. Powdered
    bark from the hemlock tree was dried and made into a powder
    to stop bleeding from a cut. The bark of the hemlock was also
    good for burns. Cooked pine needles were used for toothache.
    Rhododendron oil was used for rheumatism. Snake root and
    dried Indian turnip were made into a tea, sweetened with
    honey, and used for a variety of aches and pains. These remedies
    seemed to work, but who would want to get sick and take these
    medicines? They all tasted awful.
    Blood letting was also a common practice used for someone
    with “too much blood” (high blood pressure). Poultices were
    used for different ailments. Mustard plasters were used to break
    up congestion. They would be left on only until the skin began
    to turn pink. If left on too long, they would blister the skin.
    Poultices were also made from yellow root and jimson weed,
    which were plentiful in the summer months.
    When someone had the chickenpox, they would be given a
    nasty tasting tea made from yellow root and Indian turnip. They
    would drink this awful tasting tea, and within fifteen minutes
    they would break out, and their fever would come down. If
    someone had the shingles, you could take the blood of a black
    chicken, rub it on the area, and they would be cured right away.
    For warts they notched a willow stick and buried it under the
    patient’s doorstep, or they would rub the wart with a grain of
    corn and lay in the forks of a road.
    Then there was the treatment of the throat disease called
    “thrash.” With thrash, the mouth and throat would be covered
    with blisters. The only known cure for this was to find someone
    who had never seen his or her father. This person would blow
    their breath in the mouth of the one that had the thrash, and he
    would begin to get better immediately.
    If someone had measles and they wouldn’t break out,
    someone would be sent to Mr. Robinson’s farm to collect some
    “sheep pills” (sheep dung). These pills would be wrapped in a
    thin cloth and then placed in a bowl. Next, they would pour
    some boiling water over the bag of pills. After they soaked
    for a few minutes they were removed. A spoon of honey was
    sometimes added to make the drinking a little easier, and the
    liquid would be given to the patient. Within an hour the measles
    would pop out all over the body. Then the patient was on the
    road to recovery.
    When someone got a bad skin rash it was usually referred
    to as the “itch.” The sure cure for this was a good coating of a
    salve made from sulfur powder and lard that was rendered from
    the fat of the hog that was killed for winter meat. It usually took
    several days for the sores to scab over and dry. Given time and
    patience, this always worked.
    Everyone came into contact with poison ivy during the
    summer months. It was always present on the trees that were
    in the corn fields and other garden spots. It caused a rash that
    would drive you crazy by its itching. If you rubbed or scratched
    the blisters caused by poison ivy, that would make the itching
    worse. The best treatment was application of a heavy layer of
    buttermilk mixed with salt. This would stop the itching and
    start the drying of the blisters.
    Head lice were always transferred to your head from someone
    who had them. For example, if you were sitting at a desk behind
    someone at school and they had lice, you were pretty sure to get
    them. How they moved from someone else’s head to your head
    was a mystery. But it happened. The best and sure treatment
    was to have all the hair removed from your head along with the
    lice. This was a problem for the girls, so something else had to
    be done. Sometimes a good combing with a fine toothed “lice
    comb” followed with a good washing with a strong stinking
    balm soap that was made with Lysol got rid of the lice. The girls
    had a much harder time getting rid of them.
    Every time someone began to complain with chest pains, the
    woman of the house would begin to make plans for a good-hot
    mustard plaster. When this plaster was applied to the chest area,
    it had to be watched real close so that it didn’t make blisters on
    the skin. It was left on until the skin began to turn pink, then
    removed. It was supposed to relieve the cramps and pain from
    the chest area. But it may have been so painful that the patient
    forgot about the real pain.
    Every settler kept several hives of honey bees. This was
    his main source for sweetening his food. He didn’t depend on
    “store-bought’ sugar. With all the bees around everyone was
    stung sometime or another. The best and sure treatment for a
    sting was some snuff or tobacco from the mouth rubbed on the
    sting spot. The treatment was simple because nearly everyone
    dipped snuff or chewed tobacco.
    There were many experts who could get rid of warts on the
    hands. How these warts were formed no one really knew. We
    children were told that they came from our handling a toad frog.
    We did play with frogs sometimes, but I don’t think this was the
    cause. Some wart doctors used a willow stick. They would make
    notches on the stick for as many warts as you had on your hands.
    Next they would have you bury it under the doorstep at your
    house. The number of notches on the stick indicated the number
    of days before the warts would disappear. Another method was
    to rub the warts with a greasy dish cloth and not wash your
    hands for as many days as there were warts. You could also rub
    a grain of corn on a wart, lay it in the fork of two roads, and the
    person who picked it up would get your wart.
    Believe it or not, many of these methods of doctoring did
    work, especially those medicines made from roots and berries.
    Charles Fletcher

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    July 7, 2016 at 7:32 am

    Tip, I just love Crystals answer to your five thing Appalachian, home, home, home. It sounds just like you!
    I am always glad to hear of people who are preserving the old ways. The old ways are so much safer that the current pharmaceutical mess that passes as medicine.
    She doesn’t live that far away, wonder if we could arrange for Chatter to spend a little time with her.

  • Leave a Reply