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Practical Pagan > Herbs

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message 1: by [deleted user] (new)

So, jumping off the discussion in the Summer Solstice thread, I am currently having to order herbs online. Due to rather high shipping costs, it makes more sense to buy a lot at once.

My question is, what are the main herbs you like to have on hand? And what do you like to use them for? If you had to make a list of the 10 most necessary herbs for working magic, what would they be?

This will also help me in considering what to grow, a project I want to get started on this next year.

Thanks!


message 2: by Nell (new)

Nell Grey (nellgrey) | 1682 comments I tend to use only wild plants that I gather myself and always collect and dry enough nettles for the year before they flower. I use handfuls in all sorts of things - risottos and even porridge - they're full of minerals and contain about 14% protein, which makes them useful for vegans.

Wild salad plants are wonderful at this time of year - dandelion, plaintain, very young cleavers, heavenly violet, chickweed, garlic mustard, ramsoms (wild garlic) and mallow. Mallow is lovely cooked gently like spinach too.

Hawthorn is a must - the very young leaves are good in salads, but it's best to wait until late summer before collecting leaves to dry for the tea, which is a great heart-strengthener.

I make garlic honey for winter colds and dandelion flower vinegar as a spring tonic too.

Those are my essentials - although I've tried many others - mostly it's about wild food for me, rather than medicine or magic.


message 3: by Pixelina (new)

Pixelina I love to cook and bake so will grow herbs that I can use for that. But like Nell I also pick wild herbs and dry. I like chamomille, just have to be careful where I pick it, not too close to a street. St Johns Worth i think is the english name for one too, great for a periodic insomniac like me. Nettles are great like Nell said in soups and now I need to try it in a risotto too :-D Alchemilla is Lady's mantle? That is a great one too especially for women. Borage is also a life-saver for women who like me suffer from PSM.

I grow my own kitchen herbs, all the usual ones like sage, lavender, basil, mints, lemon balm koriander lemon grass etc. (too many to list) just buy ecological potted ones from the supermarket and plant either in a large pot or in a raised bed. Hops I just ask my family and friends if I can pick. I think dandelions are the easiest ever for me to pick though cause my mom is at war with them and she digs them up all day and i just collect them clean and dry the roots.

For vegetables I got green cabbage, squash, radishes, salad, sugar snaps, just about every kind of onions and garlics you can find oh and this year we are going for black-roots too. We have a small communal plot just the neighbours here and my mom helps out too cause she can't resist it. I think we learn as we go, like you don't need more then 3 plants of squash, last year we had 16 and most of it went to the compost.

Autumns we pick tons of berries.
So many herbs we don't even have here though, like Hawthorne.


message 4: by Nell (last edited Jun 09, 2012 04:45AM) (new)

Nell Grey (nellgrey) | 1682 comments Jeanette, it sounds as though you're well into growing as well as gathering :)

I just got back from the Downs where I nibbled sorrel, lime leaves and thyme and was reminded of all the wild ones that I forgot and the some of the magical ones like Solomon's Seal too.

Wild herbs turn up in my garden and are allowed to stay - I've collected some unusual ones that way, and it's good to have them around.

Avery wrote: If you had to make a list of the 10 most necessary herbs for working magic, what would they be?

I think I'd start with some of the sacred Druid plants - maybe the ones below or others, as some of these are not for ingestion - but there are many more and each is credited with different magical properties, so you'd have to research and choose a selection to cover a range of possibilities.

Mistletoe
Mugwort
Woad
Vervain
Mandrake (pretty much impossible to find).
Lady's Mantle (Alchemilla vulgaris)
Meadowsweet
Valerian
Elder

Some might add one of the banes to their list - say the magical and very poisonous Henbane - but I'd probably go for Hawthorn instead :)


message 5: by Nell (new)

Nell Grey (nellgrey) | 1682 comments But of course, a list is only appropriate/useful if the plants or herbs on it have meaning for you - either from stories, a tradition that you're drawn to or from study; location would be important, instinct/intuition too.

The ones listed above are simply the first that came to mind as traditionally magical here in the UK.


message 6: by [deleted user] (new)

Nell wrote: "But of course, a list is only appropriate/useful if the plants or herbs on it have meaning for you - either from stories, a tradition that you're drawn to or from study; location would be important..."

That's an excellent list to start with, and I really appreciate all the feedback and suggestions! I am mostly looking for a starting point, and of course most of the books I'm reading are based in European lore and traditions. While it does speak to me, it's less accessible as far as location goes, which has been a problem for me on a number of things.

In fact, I think the biggest challenge I've had is finding a more specific path due to the fact that my family line is a little Scottish here, a little American Indian there, and a whole brew of who-knows-what in between. I imagine a lot of American pagans feel similarly. While I like an eclectic approach, it's like the jack of all trades issue of knowing a little about everything but not fully connecting with anything. Of course, a lot of that is because I'm still very new to all of it, and I'm sure a lot of it will sort itself out in years to come.

I've thought about heritage vs. location a lot, actually, and I agree that location is exceptionally important, particularly when you do not have a specific background that you identify as "yours". It's leading me to want to study a lot more of the local lore, mostly Cherokee and Choctaw in this area. Among that is plenty of plant lore. Sage of course is an obvious necessity, of which I have bundles already. I love white sage and use a smudge stick often when something needs cleansing or simply a smoldering fire is called for.

In any case, aside from a number of broad theory and practice books, my main focus for study for awhile is going to be more locally based.

My initial studies in paganism have also led me to want to figure out how to start my own garden. I mean, it's hard to fully appreciate the meaning of a harvest when you aren't harvesting anything. Herbs seemed like the easiest for the space, money, and experience (none!) I have, so might as well start there. While I definitely will have some easier, more native plants in it, I would like to attempt growing some that are more difficult to find in this area, assuming our climate isn't too harsh.

Thanks again for the lists! It'll give me a few things to work with and try before I start digging any holes and buying tons of pots. :)


message 7: by [deleted user] (new)

By the way, thanks for all the edible herb tips too. Apparently I'm terrified of eating anything I will potentially grow, LOL. That's bad, isn't it. I will have to get over that one.


message 8: by Nell (new)

Nell Grey (nellgrey) | 1682 comments Avery wrote: I mean, it's hard to fully appreciate the meaning of a harvest when you aren't harvesting anything.

That's so true - it feels like an enlightening quote!

My own feeling is that plants you grow or find are more magically potent than anything bought dried - it's not only to do with the fact that they're alive, but with your relationship with them and their psychological effect - an important part of raising energy.

Avery wrote: "By the way, thanks for all the edible herb tips too. Apparently I'm terrified of
eating anything I will potentially grow, LOL. That's bad, isn't it. I will have to get over that one."


It's very liberating, both to grow your own and to gather wild herbs.

Start carefully with a good field guide and a simple and easily identifiable plant like the nettle.

And Susan Weed's Healing Wise is excellent - she takes you by the hand and introduces you to only seven plants, with good practical advice, magical weed talks/walks and simple recipes that banish all fears.

She makes the first steps easy - one taste and you'll be well away :)


message 9: by [deleted user] (new)

Nell wrote: "And Susan Weed's Healing Wise is excellent - she takes you by the hand and introduces you to only seven plants, with good practical advice, magical weed talks/walks and simple recipes that banish all fears."

Added that to the sooner-than-later reading list. Thanks!


message 10: by [deleted user] (new)

And The Complete Book of Herbs and Spices by Sarah Garland!

Nell's list of the Druid's sacred plants is great. I agree on growing them yourself where ever possible. Shame mandrake has become so hard to find. They banned comfrey here for many years! I have it growing everywhere. I would add poppies to the list too, they are a great medicinal plant, whether or not the authorities want to control their monopolies. Chamomile is essential, rosemary and lavender too. Also lemon balm for migraines and peppermint for sickness. I love wormwood too, not for ingesting. Comfrey is a must as well (again, personally I wouldn't eat knitbone).

I usually plant my poisonous herbs in a different section of the garden, and away from where children or animals play. I'll come back and add more as I think of them. :)


message 11: by [deleted user] (new)

Georgina wrote: "And The Complete Book of Herbs and Spices by Sarah Garland!

Nell's list of the Druid's sacred plants is great. I agree on growing them yourself where ever possible. Shame mandrake has become so h..."


Thanks, Georgina! Yes, it will be interesting to see what does well here. I will add that book as well.


message 12: by [deleted user] (new)

:D:D


message 13: by Nell (new)

Nell Grey (nellgrey) | 1682 comments I have comfrey in the garden too - I broke off a little bit of root that I found growing by a churchyard wall and popped it in the earth. It loves being moved and settled in right away.

I sometimes eat a fresh leaf from the top of the plant as I pass by - it was used in salads as well as medicinally before the medical profession tarnished its good name, but I read somewhere that the tests that caused its fall from grace were extreme and unnatural and involved injecting a strong solution beneath the skin of animals.

Apparently comfrey is now being tested as a treatment for cancers.


message 14: by [deleted user] (last edited Jun 10, 2012 02:18AM) (new)

I have friends that regularly frittered and ate the leaves. I think that's eating too much. A small fresh leaf from time to time, is different. I can see why it might be considered in cancer treatment though. Sarah Garland says: "Both roots and leaves are astringent and contain quantities of mucilage and a healing substance called allantoin."

I have used the root externally many times. It's brilliant for chooks too, makes the shells of the eggs strong. You can make an excellent compost tea from the crushed leaves steeped in water, and it's great for the compost too. Love comfrey. :)


message 15: by [deleted user] (new)

Well, got a $25 budget to get started on something this weekend, LOL. My friend at work said she grows herbs in a bin with some holes drilled in the bottom. I think I got a bin wandering around this house somewhere... Not pretty, but functional. ;)

Now to find the most difficult to kill herbs for my climate.... Here's hoping something you all listed will show up on it!

I really want to try growing some white sage, which should do really well with our summers. The main trick will be getting it to survive our winter, but if it's in its own container I can bring it inside and see how it does.

Wish me luck! And the little seeds as well...


message 16: by [deleted user] (new)

Good luck! Enjoy! :)


message 17: by Nell (new)

Nell Grey (nellgrey) | 1682 comments Sending love to the little seeds, wherever they are... :)


message 18: by [deleted user] (new)

And dogs and chooks! In fact I'd be careful with goats too. There are even some plants that taste bitter when growing (nature's warning--but not always), but they sweeten when cut and left to wilt. Animals will eat it then, the sweetness overrides their instinctive caution. I'm very careful with poisonous herbs or toadstools. I wasn't always so sensible.

I've added that book Jaq, thanks. Looks like something I'll want a physical copy of, so I'll look around.


message 19: by [deleted user] (new)

Yes, one reason it has to be outside and in containers is because we have dogs and cats, and our yard doesn't have the space to block off a whole portion for a plot of earth. I'm starting with some pretty basic cooking herbs and some for teas, I figured those would be safe, easy-ish to grow, and useful. :) I'll add that book and definitely check on potential toxicity to specific animals for the herbs I'm considering.


message 20: by Pixelina (new)

Pixelina Now in my little kitchen is where the magic(k) happens :-p for me cooking and baking with herbs is as good if not better as any spell cast in a circle. We infuse the food we cook with love and care and a purpose and use the herbs as spice to strengthen both spirit and body.


message 21: by [deleted user] (new)

Absolutely! We're having tomato, cream, chili, pasta tonight. The thyme, chili, garlic and veggies are ours. Fresh herbs are potent, oils too. I could not have survived morning sickness without lemon oil. I used it in a burner and also carried a little bottle with me, like smelling salts. Crushed lemon leaves helped a lot too.


message 22: by Pixelina (new)

Pixelina That sounds yummy Georgina :-D
I used to make calendula oils (think I used that Cunningham book for advice) It is not really hard to make oil infusions, not sure I could make them strong enough though. It would be a thing to read up on, would be nice to start brewing up stuff again!

I been browsing for some books on herbs and found one I think I will try to get hold of. Garden Witch's Herbal: Green Magick, Herbalism & Spirituality

A basic flora is a must have by the way, both fun and educating. I got an old swedish one myself (Linné the man who started cataloging plants was from Uppsala in Sweden and I actually been to see his gardens, very nice)
I also have a Swedish pocket handbook on medicinal plants that is really good. Too bad it is only in Swedish and not listed here at Goodreads.

Oh I just noticed there is a listopia list on best herbal books here: http://www.goodreads.com/list/show/13...


message 23: by Nell (new)

Nell Grey (nellgrey) | 1682 comments This is my favourite for quick reference: Herbs And Healing Plants Of Britain & Europe.

Maud Grieve's A Modern Herbal was written in 1931, but for me it's the bible of herbals :)


message 24: by Pixelina (new)

Pixelina Good point Jaq, but if one already got all the basics down it is fun to see in which other ways one can use the herbs, as in herbal magick.
I must confess to really loving to read folklore though, a lot of the folklore names of herbs, at least in Swedish, aptly tells you what the herb was used for centuries ago.
The only book I have right now on out-right herbal magick is the Cunningham one and I have to say I never really used it other then the recipe for calendula oil.
I would however not ever go out and pick herbs and use them based on the more 'witchy' authors. And even more weary then books I am about websites telling its readers to go out and pick hemlock or monk's hood for casting spells.
I once had my mother dig up a plant of deadly nightshade cause it was 6 feets from my herbal plot and it made me have nitemares of accidenly put some in my tea :-p


message 25: by [deleted user] (new)

Atropa bella-donna would live up to its name. We have it everywhere here. I make sure the kids are extra careful come blackberry picking time.


message 26: by Aaron, Moderator (new)

Aaron Carson | 1216 comments The main one I can't live without is oregano oil. I do miss golden seal and propolis though, which aren't available in India.

Eucalyptus grows wild here, and so do nettles so those are always available.

Asafoetida is useful in undoing a love spell, or generally reducing the effects of an infatuation.


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