Summer Grace ~ The Wonder Dog! 

Our world was turned on its collective head in March of 2020, and the upheaval and turmoil we’ve all experienced have taken its toll on millions of people, and I’m no exception. After months of lockdown, I was literally stir crazy, stuck at home with all the Covid-19 insanity, and this fall hit critical mass (psychologically) – my solution? I hit the road and escaped to “God’s Country” – the Great Smoky Mountains of eastern Tennessee. I grabbed Summer Grace, and both of our backpacks, mine with my  Sunshine Botanical Travel Kit, and her’s with her favorite toy and snacks and we hit the road…besides, this is a beautiful time of year to wildcraft many herbs and plants, so it made total sense. 

Actually – if the truth be told, that weekend I ran away. I had to clear my head, reconnect with nature, and get grounded. When you are confined to your house by yourself and live in your head, it’s enough to make anybody bonkers… To say I was gone in a flash is an understatement – little did I know what waited for me on the road ahead!

As we made our way through North Georgia, I saw an amazing vision in the distance…did my eyes deceive me? NO!! It was real! That beautiful apple orchard ahead was not only open but was bustling with people (fellow escapees!) also in search of peace and the perfect Arkansas Black Apple! (a rare find at this time of year!) As I filled my car with these incredible apples and fresh pumpkins, it became evident that a need for a Jeep is in my immediate future☺ you can’t do mountains and wildcraft herbs in a car! 

 As we drove away, I could feel relaxation and joy replacing tension and stress on this crystal clear fall afternoon and a fantastic beginning for my weekend escape! Immersing myself in nature and getting grounded to cancel out the noise and craziness (at least temporarily) of an upside-down world so I could connect to God and myself was my mission. 

Stinging Nettle

Stinging Nettle

As the warmth of the sun and clean mountain air continued to surround me, I was so excited to see all the plants and medicinal herbs that were literally lining the winding mountain roads. I have always said that people trip over more medicine every single day that exists right under their feet, and they don’t even realize it!!  

Bald Falls In Tellico

Blad Falls

When Summer and I arrived at Bald Falls (probably one of the most beautiful waterfalls in the eastern United States), we got out of the car and began to explore things and immediately found loads of stinging nettles. This interesting plant has been used in herbal medicine for many things and is commonly used for enlarged prostate symptoms, inflammation, reduced blood pressure, and balance blood sugar. Just don’t pick it without gloves on!! There is a reason they call it “stinging nettles”… 

As we continued up the mountain, Jewelweed (one of my favorite herbs) abundantly lined the edges of the winding mountain roads. This potent plant has been a staple ingredient in many of my products because of its unique ability to stop itching and heal all kinds of irritating skin conditions. It is especially important now since the whole world is wearing a mask every day. Redness, irritation, and breakouts are all part of what is now called “maskne” yes – we have a whole new skin condition that all too often creates fungal and yeast issues on the skin, making it even more challenging to treat. Jewelweed is an anti-inflammatory, antihistamine, and anti-fungal herb that has been used for centuries to treat poison ivy and is highly effective

Jewel Weed

dry skin in the treatment of eczema, dermatitis, itchy dry skin, and fungal infections. 

Up ahead in the distance, we saw beautiful white birch bark and the extract of the bark of this amazing tree (known as Betulinic Acid). White birch bark has been studied extensively in university research at both the University of Minnesota at Duluth and the University of Chicago in Illinois. The findings of these and there its effects on pre-cancerous lesions and melanoma are extremely impressive. It is a powerful antioxidant and vital in the treatment of sun damage and excellent for dermatitis. Betulinic acid is a POWERFUL ingredient in corrective skincare products for sun-damaged skin conditions. The healing power of nature is endlessly fascinating!

The next day, our journey took us to our secluded cabin, high in the mountains – perfect for more foraging, exploration, and just listening to God. Summer Grace is an excellent partner to hike and forage with, and sometimes she sniffs out some great little plants that I might have missed! 

We Were Super Excited to Find Burdock Along the Trail!  

Burdock Root


Burdock root is known to fight many common skin problems such as eczema, acne, and psoriasis – thanks to its natural antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties. Burdock root also has tons of antioxidant benefits, making this such an excellent ingredient for any problem skin condition. One of the neat things about traditional herbal medicine is that different parts of a plant have different therapeutic benefits. Yes, Burdock’s leaves and seeds have health benefits all of their own—but the root is what’s worth writing home about! 

I felt my husbands’ presence with me very strongly on this trip… we traveled mountain roads together hundreds of times, wildcrafting plants, roots, and herbs. He had an innate sense of plants’ energetics. It was with him I learned to identify and wildcraft medicinal plants almost 30 years ago… The gift and understanding he had for making herbal medicine was the root of the foundation that created Sunshine Botanicals. He always made everything look so easy… 

With this being said, I was absolutely sure this was the case when we rounded the bend in the road that was so covered in a dense canopy of trees that it totally blocked the sun, and what did I see? A gorgeous spire of gravel root (a.k.a. Joe Pye Weed). This felt supernatural for me, because that was the only place on that stretch of road that the sun broke through and shone only on that one incredible plant. You see, it was one of his favorite plants and one he always would point it out to me again and again when we were traveling to educational events and wildcrafting. I can hear him saying now, “look – more Joe Pye Weed!”

I immediately stopped the car, got out, and just stood there – speechless. I felt Gods arms around me as I just absorbed the whole experience. Amazingly, no cars came in either direction the entire time. To say this was a powerful escape from the insanity of a crazy world is an understatement… I am divinely guided. 

So – What is Gravel Root?

Gravel Root

Gravel Root

The plant was widely used in folk medicine by Native American tribes when treating kidney problems. It is known to balance the urinary system, cleanse the kidneys, clear heat, calm inflammation, and help the body eliminate uric acid. It is used to treat arthritis, asthma, bedwetting, bladder irritation, bladder stones, cough, cystitis, difficult labor, dropsy, enlarged prostate, erectile dysfunction, fever, flu, gallstones, gout, hematuria, incontinence, kidney stones, lumbago, polyuria, prostatitis, rheumatism, threatened miscarriage, typhus, urethritis, and uterine prolapse. Wow is right!!

Gravel Root is very often referred to as Joe Pye Weed. As legend has it, Joe Pye was a Native American who used gravel root to help cure an outbreak of typhoid. It has often been considered a good luck charm among many American folks. Many gamblers carry parts of the plant on them for good luck. It is also one of the integral ingredients in a mojo bag. Gravel root is a member of the Asteraceae plant family.

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