Herbalism is a natural practice of using the gifts of Jord and turning them into medicine and charms. Herbalism has two faces, a mundane side, and a more spiritual/magical side. Many cultures from all times and places all over the globe have utilized both the spiritual and physical properties of herbs. It is my goal to give you everything you need to learn to consider yourself a moderately informed herbalist by the end of this article.
Herbalism is a practical study. Its uses vary greatly but all of them are generally helpful. It is important to study and practice both forms of herbalism to gain an understanding as to how each of them works, and how they can work together.
I will be supplying links and a book to help follow along with the medical aspects of herbalism. I will also supply links for the spiritual side as well. The YouTube links provided are not my own videos, but they are very useful and follow the same guidelines that I use.
The main purposes of spiritual herbalism
- Gain an understanding of plant/earthly spirits
- Create charms and other magical implements using herbal components.
- Reconnecting with nature
The main purposes of physical/medicinal herbalism
- To gain a biological understanding of herbs.
- To create medicine/cosmetics.
- To create tasty culinary creations
I'll start with physical herbalism as it is a more broad and common practice. It is easier to first learn the more mundane and earthly attributes of plants. The main use of physical herbalism is to extract medicinal components from the plants. This process is done in a number of different ways, and it varies based on the need of how the medicine will perform. Some basic applications of herbal preparations are as follows:
- Tinctures - a plant extract that is derived from alcohol or vinegar soaked herbs.
- Ointments - a plant oil-based solution with the consistency of grease. Used for external uses.
- Creams - a plant oil and extract based cream with the consistency of milk cream. External uses.
- Decoctions - a plant extract that is derived from cooking plants in water.
- Infusions - a plant extract that is derived from steeping herbs in water.
- Oils - a plant extract derived from steeping herbs in oil.
The most common application of herbs to the body is via infusions and decoctions. Infusions and decoctions are like tea, but you steep it at a lower heat for a longer amount of time. This process helps build the volatile oils needed for the body. Dosing and the potency of the preparation depend on how long it was steeped, how much raw herb you used, and how many times you've re-infused the mix with raw herbs. These methods are also used to create herbal teas.
More information on Infusions and Decoctions
Next down the ladder of common usage are creams and ointments. Creams and ointments are made as a result of fluid meeting beeswax. The wax gets the solution to reach a malleable semi-solid state. Then the final product is used to treat conditions on the surface. Ointments are used for burns and rashes and don't quite enter the skin, creams, however, are absorbed into the skin.
More information on the preparations of creams and ointments
Now we go on to tinctures. Tinctures are very useful in supplying ready and concentrated medicine to be taken orally. The taste of this form of preparation is often bitter as it is made from an extraction process involved alcohol or apple cider vinegar. The herbs are generally stored in a container of one of these fluids and left to sit for a few days. Then it is strained and stored in small bottles of eye dropper bottles.
More information on tinctures
Finally, we are left with infused oils. Infused oils are a common ingredient, but are often impractical to be applied topically or orally. Don't get me wrong, they are very useful, just not often used alone as a preparation to be used on the surface. NOTE, essential oils are not infused oils. Infused oils are made by soaking oils in warm or cold oil for about a week before use. After a proper infusing the herbs are strained out and the oil is stored in a dry cool place. Higher concentrations are made by re-infusing a number of times.
More information on infused oil
These are the practical applications of applying herbal preparations. Now it is up to you to take on the quest of an herbalist. Studying of countless herbs and their properties will expand your knowledge and usefulness as an herbalist. There are countless pictorial guides on the internet to study herbs; you can also harvest and study herbs locally. The book PDR for Herbal Medicines is a general go-to guide for all things medicinal in herbalism. A link to that book is supplied below.
Now well go on to discuss herbal magic. The spiritual side of herbalism is as equally important as medicinal herbalism. Magical herbalism is to serve as a subtle aid to achieve a goal. Like most spells, herbal charms require energy, will, and intent. You will have to have a basic grasp of how magic works as a prerequisite for this curriculum.
There are many practical applications for creating herbal charms. They vary on the manner of use and the intent of the caster. Mojo bags and similar charms are the most practical and common charm in herbal magic.
List of magical applications:
- Mojo bags Small satchels filled with herbs of various properties to achieve certain magical goals.
- Spell jars Jar filled with herbs and other trinkets made to achieve a certain end.
- Herbal amulets Amulets made using herbal components to instill the properties of the amulet.
- Incense Aromatic herbs with certain properties to be burnt on special occasions.
- Smudge sticks and wands Herbal components made into ritual tools for smudging or performing the tasks of a wand.
Mojo bags are fairly common charms. This is due to their simplicity and usefulness. A simple mojo bag can be made by placing herbs specific to your goal within a bag of cloth with a corresponding color to the herbs or goal in mind. Then your charge the charm with your will, intent, and energy.
Spell jars are equally useful. The only difference in this process is simply the container of the charm. In this case, a jar would contain the herbal charm. The processes of making them are virtually the same. One of the only differences really is that Mojo bags would be of the hoodoo tradition and Spell jars are of the English folk magic tradition.
Herbal amulets are highly individualized. These range from Mojo bags and Spell jars worn as an amulet, to actually herb pieces worn for protection. Many people use simple braided pieces of the herb as an amulet. When selecting the amulets function, remember to choose herbs that would fulfill that task.
Incense is used during rituals and other magical workings that required a burnt offering of a specific aromatic herb. Incenses are based on specific recipes but can be made in stick form, loose leaf, or cone. A useful tool for making incense is a mortar and pestle. A good binding agent for incense can be gum arabic or pine resin.
More information: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o6Eql9UV3EY (don't need their kit or specific ingredients.)
Herbal wands and smudge sticks are made by tightly binding herbs into an elongated wand or stick. A common smudge stick would be white sage. These sorts of herbal tools are used for cleansing and ritual work. A common sort of herbal wand would be fertility/lust was made from cinnamon and other herbs sometimes arranged in a phallic manner. Sage wands are also common.
As before with the medicinal herbalism, the learning of the herbs is up to you. You have the uses and the general idea of how to apply them. Now go forth and commit this new found knowledge in practice and study of the spiritual uses of herbs.
More information on the properties of herbs: http://www.earthwitchery.com/herbsa-g.html