“My great-great grandma, my great-grandma, and my grandma were all herb women, called ‘yarb women'” says herbalist and Cherokee County native Eve Miranda. They “grew and gathered their own medicinal plants, roots, bark. They grew poppies and made cuts on the pods, gathered the juice/sappy stuff, and made dough pills for pain. They dried leaves of datura and mullein to help folks with asthma and coughs caused by tickly throats.
“My grandfather, when a young man, gathered ginseng. My grandmother on my father’s side took me into the woods when I was quite young, maybe five years old, to fish and pick berries. She would show me the flowers, plants, and trees that were beneficial in curing ailments, and we always picked plantain to carry along with us in case we got stung or mayhaps get hooked by a fish fin, etc. The plantain would stop the pain and any little bleeding.”
Miranda and her mother, now ninety-eight years old, have assembled and produced a book called The Power of Nature’s Medicine, which reprints old herbal texts with annotations based upon their family knowledge. After finding a collection of her great-great-grandmother’s 1860s recipes in an old trunk, Miranda printed them, along with more recipes from the same era, in Civil War Recipes and Remedies.
Miranda is active in the Smoky Mountain Native Plants Association, is a plant resource person for the Qualla Arts and Crafts Mutual, and holds classes year-round through the Appalachian Heritage Alliance. She teaches others the wildcrafting knowledge that has been passed down through at least five generations of her family. “I do education workshops on the ways of our ancestors in gathering edibles, medicinal and dye plants, and how they used them. Interwoven into the presentations are stories and true-life experiences and adventures of mountain folks. The kind of presentations I present are varied according to the audience. Mostly it is a show-and-tell type, if plants are available. If not, then I use watercolors, slides, PowerPoint. I don’t like to do PowerPoints, but would rather give out printed programs for guests to follow along.” Miranda also offers programs on planting by the signs.