VCEDA presents a check from the Seed Capital Matching Grant Fund to Essential Roots & Herbs in Dryden. From left, are, Larry Mosley, VCEDA board member; Lee Lipps, Essential Roots & Herbs; Jonathan Belcher, VCEDA executive director/general counsel; Latashia Carson, Essential Roots; and Tim Blankenbecler, executive director, Small Business Development Center, Mountain Empire Community College.

Lebanon, VA (July 28, 2017) — Essential Roots & Herbs, LLC in Lee County, Va., is one of the region’s newest businesses dealing with botanical products of nature with common names like star grub or black cohosh, some examples of the more than 400 medicinal plants that grow in the Appalachian region.

Established in April of this year as a wholesale botanicals company, Essential Roots & Herbs in Dryden, Va., is one of the five small businesses in the region that received a Seed Capital Matching Grant awarded by the Virginia Coalfield Economic Development Authority (VCEDA) in June. The dollar-for-dollar matching grants up to $15,000 are designed for businesses three years and under with less than 10 full-time employees, and applicants work with the Small Business Development Centers at Mountain Empire and Southwest Virginia community colleges to prepare the applications to VCEDA.  Owner Latashia Carson worked with Tim Blankenbecler, director of Mountain Empire’s Small Business Development Center, to complete the application to VCEDA.

Latashia and her fiancé Lee said they read about VCEDA’s seed capital program in the local newspaper and thought the grant would help strengthen their business and help them continue to “grow towards organic farming and buy roots and seeds.”

A Lee County native with more than three years of experience in botanicals, Latashia said Lee’s lifelong interest and expertise in digging for ginseng and other roots and plants is what sparked her interest and led to the creation of her business. Located in a building in Dryden that once housed a furniture store and a telecommunications office, they operate as certified Ginseng dealers and buy from 20 to 30 diggers from throughout the region who bring their finds to be weighed and inspected for quality mostly during peak months September through December.

They also buy from other dealers to supply their contracts with medicinal companies, bringing the total to around 150 diggers, according to Lee, who is also a Lee County native.

Among the kinds of fresh herbs Essential Roots & Herbs buys, in addition to ginseng, are spikenard used in incense, in the ginseng family and also known as spignet, Indian hemp used in body washes and lotions, cranesbill which is wild geranium, southern prickly ash known as the toothache tree, goldenseal, bloodroot, black cohosh, blue cohosh and star root, often called false unicorn or devil’s bit. The most recent addition to the list of what they buy is black walnuts. Essential Roots is now designated as an authorized huller for Hammons, noted supplier of black walnuts.

“It is amazing that over 400 medicinal plants grow in the Appalachian region, more than in the Amazon, and 90 percent of those roots and herbs grow here in Lee County and surrounding Virginia counties and four Kentucky counties,” said Latashia. Her hope, she said, is that local land owners will soon start growing these plants organically and the companies that turn those roots and herbs into lotions and medicinals, almost all located in the western U.S and Canada., will come to Lee County and develop operations here in the region.

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About Virginia Coalfield Economic Development Authority and Virginia’s e-Region: The Virginia Coalfield Economic Development Authority, created by the Virginia General Assembly in 1988 to enhance and diversify the region’s economy and help create jobs, markets Virginia’s e-Region and its focus on electronic information technology, energy, education and emerging technologies. VCEDA is a unique economic development organization that manages funds for economic development projects from a percentage of the coal and natural gas severance taxes paid by coal and natural gas companies that operate in the region. Located in southwestern Virginia, the region includes Buchanan, Dickenson, Lee, Russell, Scott, Tazewell, and Wise counties and the City of Norton. www.vaceda.org or www.e-Region.org.