Herbs: A -Z List: (…The Medicinal, Spiritual and Magical Uses of…)
The following information is for reference only. Herb-lore is an art which must be respected, and several herbs can be as equally dangerous as beneficial if not used correctly.
General: Aloes are indigenous to East and South Africa, but have been introduced into the West Indies (where they are extensively cultivated) and into tropical countries, and will even flourish in the countries bordering on the Mediterranean. The drug Aloes consists of the liquid exuded from the transversely-cut bases of the leaves.
Medicinal Use: The drug Aloes is one of the safest and best warm and stimulating purgatives to persons of sedentary habits and phlegmatic constitutions. An ordinary small dose takes from 15 to 18 hours to produce an effect. Its action is exerted mainly on the large intestine, for which reason, also it is useful as a vermifuge. Its use, however, is said to induce Piles. From the Chemist and Druggist (July 22, 1922):
‘Aloes, strychnine and belladonna in pill form was criticized by Dr. Bernard Fautus in a paper read before the Chicago branch of the American Pharmaceutical Society. He pointed out that when given at the same time they cannot possibly act together because of the different speed and duration of the three agents. Aloin is slow in action, requiring from 10 to 12 hours. Strychnine and Atropine, on the other hand, are rapidly absorbed, and have but a brief duration of action.’
Aloes was employed by the ancients and was known to the Greeks as a production of the island of Socotra as early as the fourth century B.C. The drug was used by Dioscorides, Celsus and Pliny, as well as by the later Greek and Arabian physicians, though it is not mentioned either by Hippocrates or Theophrastus.
Spiritual Use: The word Aloes, in Latin Lignum Aloes, is used in the Bible and in many ancient writings to designate a substance totally distinct from the modern Aloes, namely the resinous wood of Aquilaria agallocha, a large tree growing in the Malayan Peninsula. Its wood constituted a drug which was, down to the beginning of the present century, generally valued for use as incense, but now is esteemed only in the East. The Mahometans, especially those in Egypt, regard the Aloe as a religious symbol, and the Mussulman who has made a pilgrimage to the shrine of the Prophet is entitled to hang the Aloe over his doorway. The Mahometans also believe that this holy symbol protects a householder from any malign influence. In Cairo, the Jews also adopt the practice of hanging up the Aloe. In the neighbourhood of Mecca, at the extremity of every grave, on a spot facing the epitaph, Burckhardt found planted a low shrubby species of Aloe whose Arabic name, saber, signifies patience. This plant is evergreen and requires very little water. Its name refers to the waiting-time between the burial and the resurrection morning.
General: Other Names: Mountain Tobacco. Leopard’s Bane. Parts Used: Root, flowers. Habitat: A perennial herb, indigenous to Central Europe, in woods and mountain pastures. In countries where Arnica is indigenous, it has long been a popular remedy.
Medicinal Use: The tincture is used for external application to sprains, bruises, and wounds, and as a paint for chilblains when the skin is unbroken. Repeated applications may produce severe inflammation. It is seldom, (if ever) used internally, because of its irritant effect on the stomach.
A homoeopathic tincture, X6, has been used successfully in the treatment of epilepsy; also for seasickness, 3 X before sailing, and every hour on board till comfortable. For tender feet a foot-bath of hot water containing 1/2 oz. of the tincture has brought great relief. Applied to the scalp it will make the hair grow. Great care must be exercised though, as some people are particularly sensitive to the plant and many severe cases of poisoning have resulted from its use, especially if taken internally. British Pharmacopoeia Tincture, root, 10 to 30 drops. United States Pharmacopoeia Tincture, flowers, 10 to 30 drops.
Magical Use: Thought to be especially potent on the summer solstice. Bunches are gathered and set on the corners of fields to spread the power of the corn spirit and to ensure a good harvest.
Medicinal Use: As a tea for calming the nerves, settling the stomach, and easing cramps and good for the bladder. Use as a poultice on chest for bronchitis and chest colds. All basils are antibacterial and act as good insect repellents, and as Culpepper noted, “Being applied to the place bitten by venomous beasts, or stung by a wasp or hornet, it speedily draws the poison to it”. Basil, Ocimum sanctum, was originally a native plant of India and its use only spread outwards to Europe and the West in the sixteenth century. Ocimum sanctum, or Tulsi as it is known in Hindu, is used in traditional in religious ceremonies and in ayurvedic medicine for common colds, headaches, stomach disorders, inflammation, heart disease, various forms of poisoning, and malaria
Sacred Use: It is sacred to the Hindu god Vishnu and his avatar, Krishna. Magical herbals occasionally refer to it as St. Joseph’s Wort. Best known for its properties to aid and strengthen love. Although known to bring about prosperity, love spells are the general domain for basil. It is used to soothe communication and heal relationships between two people. Basil is originally native to India and other tropical regions of Asia, having been cultivated there for more than 5,000 years, reached Europe in the sixteenth century. Basil brings prosperity and happiness when planted in the garden. In Europe, they place basil in the hands of the dead to ensure a safe journey. In India, they place it in the mouth of the dying to ensure they reach God. The ancient Egyptians and ancient Greeks believed that it would open the gates of heaven for a person passing on.
General: Parts Used: Leaves, Fruit, Oil.
Medicinal Use: Use as a poultice on chest for bronchitis and chest colds. Oil of bay, the fixed oil expressed from the berries, is used to treat arthritic aches and pains, lower back pain, earaches, and sore muscles and sprains. Bay leaves are the source of an essential oil with the same analgesic and warming properties. Bay laurel contains parthenolides, the same chemical in feverfew (Tanacetum parthenium) that is thought to prevent migraine headaches. Do not use Internally.
Spiritual Use: Bay leaves come from the laurel, and have a strong tradition as a Greek sacred plant. When the nymph Daphne wanted to avoid the passions of Apollo, she turned into the first laurel tree, which Apollo then adopted as his sacred tree. Wreaths were made from the leaves, which were also chewed and burned by Apollo’s prophetic priestesses at Delphi.
Magical Use: is used for purification, dreams, healing, protection, psychic dreams (place bay leaf under pillow at night), psychic powers, clairvoyance, good wishes, fame or glory and change. Bay leaves were worn as amulets to ward off negativity. Wishes can be written on bay leaves and then burned to make them come true.
Household Use: Known as the “plant’s physician”; grow near ailing plants to perk them up. Make into an antifungal spray for tree diseases. Spray infusion on seedlings to prevent “damping off disease” and on compost to activate decomposition. Boil the flower for a yellow-brown dye. Wash blond hair with infusion for lightening. Use in potpourri and herb pillows.
Medicinal Use: Sedative, antifungal, antimicrobial, antispasmodic, anti-inflammatory. Relieves gas, heartburn and colic. Applied externally in teabags to heal burns and rest eyes. Ointment is used for eczema, and genital and anal irritation. Mouthwash heals mouth inflammation. Inhalation of steam is good for phlegm and hay fever. May get an allergic reaction from some people. The Sun is also associated with the innocence of children, and Chamomile is the safest possible herb for them, easing the pain of colic when a mild tea is mixed with mother’s milk and giving them rest without the aid of allopathic drugs.
Spiritual Use: Brings energy, wisdom, drives away nightmares, helps with past life knowledge, is relaxing and promotes peacefulness. Did you know that the more that chamomile is trodden upon in your garden, the more it spreads? It is good for meditation and is a symbol of the sun. Chamomile is thought to be a garden tonic to the plants growing around it.
Traditional Magical Use: A solar plant, associated with the sun and the god Baldur. It is used to attract money, and a handwash is used by gamblers. Use in sleep incenses (and tea!); makes the best sleep potion. Removes curses and hexes when sprinkled around the property. Used magically, it can be a powerful antidepressant.
Shamanic Magical Use: This is the plant of Asgard, the land of the Aesir. Its English name Maythen was originally pronounced Maegthen, as can be seen from the Lacnunga poem, and maeg is cognate to mage, meaning powerful. Chamomile is a solar plant, and it harnesses the power of the Sun. As the plant of golden Asgard, it can be burned in recels or scattered as a way to send your words straight to the Aesir and have them hear you. It burns away the darkness and the creeping negativity, as its medicinal nature as an antifungal demonstrates.
General: In Ancient Greece, fennel was the symbol of success. In medieval England, fennel was thought to make the fat thin and the blind to see.
Medicinal Use: Soothes digestion, especially flatulence, constipation, and indigestion. Promotes milk production in lactating woman and animals. The herbalist Nicholas Culpeper relates a common use of it, its seed or leaves boiled in barley water and then drunk by nursing mothers to increase their milk and its quality for the infant. Used in China for food poisoning. Infusion is used for gum disease, loose teeth, laryngitis, and sore throats. Chew to relieve hunger pangs. Fennel has a mild stimulant effect. Recently found to reduce the toxic effects of alcohol on the system. Fennel seed, bruised and boiled in water, and then added to syrup and soda water will relieve flatulence in infants.
Magical Use: Romans believed that serpents sucked the juice of the plant to improve their eyesight after shedding their skins. Greeks used it to magically lose weight and grow thin. Grown around the house or hung in doors and windows, it is protective. Carried, it wards off ticks and biting bugs. Burn for purification and healing mixtures. In Lacnunga, Fennel is used in charms against all manner of ill-meaning entities, from elves to sorcerers, and even against insanity. Take a fresh sprig of fennel and dip it into water and sprinkle that water around your home for protection.
Shamanic Use: This is the herb of Svartalfheim and Nidavellir. Together with Sweet Cicely, it is used to protect against elf-shot, and to treat cases of that remedy. Also like Sweet Cicely, Fennel aids in the Gift of Sight, but it gives the ability to see the darknesses in life – the hidden anger and pain, the inner rot, the creeping deaths. This makes it useful in shamanic client-work when one must discern hard truths about someone’s behaviour, or find hidden disease or poisoning. Drink in tea or smoke it or eat the seeds (preferably seven of them). Fennel helps you to spiritually understand, to open your heart, promotes stability.
General: It was beloved in most ancient societies that had it, to the extent that the builders of the Pyramids were paid partially in garlic, and at one point went on strike to get more (according to graffiti inside the Pyramids, left by the workers).
Medicinal Use: Eases tension, eases colds, and improves circulation. Can be used to disinfect wounds and soothe rheumatic pain and any common pain. Shrinks warts, relieves pain from teeth and earaches. Good for high and low blood pressure and removing parasites and infections. To ease the pain of aching joints, a toothache or an earache., place a crushed raw bulb of garlic on a piece of gauze and place over the area of pain. For joints, try using garlic paste.
Magical Use: Garlic is one of the few “herbs” whose powers have survived into modern superstition, where it gives protection against vampires. The Greeks attributed it to Hecate, the primary goddess of magic. It is also sacred to the Great Mother, Cybele. Its use actually goes back even further to the Sumerians. Besides its strong psychic protection, it also protects health when eaten regularly.
General: Lavender is for ecstasy – that’s what you feel when you inhale the fragrance of lavender! Lavender connects with God awareness, for meditation, to help with fears of aging, for fears in general, acceptance, helps facilitate altered states of consciousness. Wear lavender to draw love. It is a symbol of truth and parity. Pure joy.
Medicinal Use: Has strong antiseptic qualities. Mild infusions make a good sedative, headache treatment, and digestive aid, a great antibiotic, antidepressant, sedative and detoxifier Used in oil or tincture form to heal cuts, burns or scalds, bites. an excellent aromatic, usually mixing well with other floral scents. An ingredient in the Purification bath sachet, also used in purification incenses. Lavender is well regarded for it’s skin healing properties as well. It’s effectiveness in treating burns was first discovered by French biochemist René Gattefossé when he cooled his hand in a handy vat of lavender after burning it in a lab accident.
Magical Use: To induce sleep, long life, peace, wishes, protection, love, purification, it is thrown onto the Midsummer fires by Witches as a sacrifice to the ancient gods. In Spain and Portugal it is used for strewing the floors of churches and houses on festive occasions, or to make bonfires on St. Johns Day, when evil spirits are supposed to be abroad. Growing lavender in your garden is said to bring good luck. Traditionally fragrant bundles of lavender were placed in the hands of women during childbirth to bring courage and strength.
Medicinal Use: Leaf tea diuretic, induces sweating. Regulates erratic menstruation, brings on delayed periods, expels afterbirth, helps with menopausal symptoms. Promotes appetite and bile production, tonic for digestion. Tonic for nerves; mild sedative. Used for bronchitis, colds, colic, kidney ailments, fevers. Bath additive for rheumatism and tired legs. Juice relieves itching of poison oak. Disinfectant and antiseptic. Used for moxibustion.
Traditional Magical Use: In the Middle Ages, mugwort was connected with St. John the Baptist, who was said to have worn a belt of the herb during his time in the wilderness. St. John’s Herb, as the plant became known, had the power to drive out demons, and sprays of the herbs were worn around the head on St. John’s Eve as a protection against possession by evil forces. In China, bunches of mugwort were hung in the home during the Dragon Festival to keep away evil spirits. The Ainus of Japan burn bunches to exorcise spirits of disease, who are thought to hatethe odor. Planted along roadsides by the Romans, who put sprigs in their shoes to prevent aching feet on long journeys. Carry to ward against wild beasts, poison, and stroke. Prevents elves and other evil things from entering houses. Said to cure madness and aid in astral projection.
A pillow stuffed with mugwort and slept upon will produce prophetic dreams. Mugwort is burned during scrying rituals, and a mugwort-and-honey infusion is drunk before divination. The infusion is also used to wash crystal balls and magic mirrors, and mugwort leaves are placed around the base of the ball, or beneath it, to aid in psychic workings. Pick just before sunrise on the waxing moon, preferably from a plant that leans north. A Roman invocation to be used when picking mugwort is: Tollam te artemisia, ne lassus sim in via.
Shamanic Magical Use: This is the plant of Midgard, burned at the start of a ritual. One starts and ends with Mugwort, as one starts and ends with Midgard. Its shamanic purpose is purification. We tend to think of purification, in these days of advanced medical antisepsis, as being sterile. To us, “pure” has come to mean “without life”. When we use something whose basic power is purification, we expect, on some level, for it to clean everything and leave it a blank slate. However, that’s not what magical purification actually does.
Mugwort is the herb that is most often burned as recels, the Old English word for incense; pronounced ray-kels. The act of burning it is referred to as recaning, which can be pronounced various ways, but the most graceful seems to be reek-en-ing; the verb recan is cognate to our work “reek”. Celtic-tradition people use the term saining. It’s an alternative to the Native American-derived term “smudging”, and it can be bound in lashed bundles and burned in the same way as white sagebrush. It also has a clearing effect on the mind, and a heightening of the extra senses, so it is a good thing to start any working that is going to involve an altered or trance state at some point.
Medicinal Use: Fresh parsley leaves in tea form are a treatment for cramps, while dried root decoctions eases urinary infections and arthritis. Externally, crushed leaves relieve insect bites, and may be applied in poultice form to sprains. Both parsley leaf and root can be used in teas as a diuretic to rid the body of excess water. This may explain its folklore reputation for helping gout and rheumatism. Parsley does inhibit the histamines that trigger allergies so may help treat sinus infection and congestion.
Sacred Use: Sacred to Persephone, parsley was used in the victory wreaths of the Isthmian games by the Greeks. Some also attribute it to Aphrodite and Venus, and with Mother goddesses. Parsley was thought to come from from the blood of Archemorus, a servant of Death.
Magical Use: Used in magic for purification and protection.
Medicinal Use: Rub fresh juice on nettle stings and insect bites. Roots and leaves help urinary tract, kidneys, and bladder. Heals gastrointestinal ulcers. Used in ointment for hemorrhoids. Use in external wash for sores, boils, inflammations, and ringworm infestations. Decoction used for thrush in children. Seeds are edible and can be ground into flour, their mucilage lowers cholesterol. Confirmed antimicrobial; stimulates healing processes.
Traditional Magical Use: Bind with red wool to the head to cure headaches. Like mugwort, place in shoes to cure weariness on long trips. Hang it in your car to prevent evil from entering. Carrying the root protects from snakebite. Said to cause regeneration – Pliny claimed that if several pieces of flesh are boiled in a pot with plantain, it will join them again.
Shamanic Magical Use: This is the plant of Helheim, the land of the Dead. Its shamanic uses are many and varied and rather subtle. First, it can create a certain amount of invisibility for a short period of time. Notice how the weedy plantain manages to make itself so inconspicuous? That’s a power that you can harness, especially if you are journeying or pathwalking. Second, it can be used in recels to speak to the ancestors, or to find your way to the Helvegr. Its name “waybread” echoes this usage – waybread will help you find the way.
General: Rosemary is a common European Herb, used for remembrance, for mental agility, purification and loyalty. It was placed on the graves of English heroes.
Medicinal Use: Promotes healing of wounds, acts as an antiseptic, and can be a mild stimulant. Good in teas for treating flu, stress, and headaches or body aches. Mental and physical booster. Used for treating muscular sprains, arthritis, rheumatism, depression, fatigue, memory loss, migraine headaches, coughs, flu and diabetes. Excellent remedy for acne or cellulite. Oil of rosemary is excellent in hair conditioners, and the flowers of this herb may be added to lotion recipes to improve the complexion
Magical Use: It is used as a smudge or dried and sprinkled on coal to release the smoke to purify an area. to improve memory, sleep, purification, youth, love, power, healing, and protection. Place a sprig under your pillow for sleep and healing. Rosemary has a long herbal tradition as a herb that improves concentration and memory, Greek students would braid Rosemary into their hair to help them with their exams. Modern science attributes much of rosemary’s action on the central nervous system to it’s potent antioxidant, rosmarinic acid.
General: Sage is a shrubby perennial herb of the mint family native to the Mediterranean. There are over 500 varieties of sage, and most are medicinally useful. They grow throughout the tropical and temperate zones and many of them have medicinal and culinary value.
Medicinal Use: The colonists also considered sage a valuable remedy for colds and fevers in the harsh New England winters. Sage has excellent antibacterial and astringent properties, which explains it popular use in gargles for sore throats, gingivitis and sore gums. A strong sage tea or tincture diluted with water can be used. Sage is an excellent natural disinfectant and deodorizer, drying perspiration and helping to eliminate body odor. Extracts of sage are used in personal skin care for its capacity to heal the skin as well. Chinese medicine uses red sage, Salvia miltiorrhiza, combined with dan-gui (dong quai), to regulate menstrual flow. Both clinical studies and traditional wisdom agree that sage (Salvia officinalis) or Spanish sage (S. lavandulifolia) has positive effects on memory and concentration in both older people with cognitive problems and younger people with AD. (1)
Shamaic Use: Sage is for health, longevity, wisdom, esteem, wishes, happy home and safety for children. Sage’s Latin name comes from the word salvere which means to be healthy. Sage was a sacred ceremonial herb of the Romans and was associated with immortality, and was interestingly said to increase mental capacity. The Greek Theophrastus classified sage as a “coronary herbe”, because it flushed disease from the body, easing any undue strain on the heart. Salvia divinorum also known as ‘Diviner’s Sage’, ‘Sage of the Seers’, or simply by the genus name, Salvia, is known as the most psychoactive of the salvias.
General: Also called ‘All Heal’. Common throughout Europe and Asia.
Medicinal Use: The root of V. officinalis is intended when Valerian is mentioned. Valerian is a powerful nervine, stimulant, carminative and antispasmodic. It has a remarkable influence on the cerebro-spinal system, and is used as a sedative to the higher nerve centres in conditions of nervous unrest, St. Vitus’s dance, hypochrondriasis, neuralgic pains and the like.
The drug allays pain and promotes sleep. It is of especial use and benefit to those suffering from nervous overstrain, as it possesses none of the after-effects produced by narcotics. During the recent War, when air-raids were a serious strain on the overwrought nerves of civilian men and women, Valerian, prescribed with other simple ingredients, taken in a single dose, or repeated according to the need, proved wonderfully efficacious, preventing or minimizing serious results. Though in ordinary doses, it exerts an influence quieting and soothing in its nature upon the brain and nervous system, large doses, too often repeated, have a tendency to produce pain in the head, heaviness and stupor.
It is commonly administered as Tinctura Valerianae Ammoniata, and often in association with the alkali bromides, and is sometimes given in combination with quinine, the tonic powers of which it appreciably increases. Oil of Valerian is employed to a considerable extent on the Continent as a popular remedy for cholera, in the form of cholera drops, and also to a certain extent in soap perfumery.
Ettmuller writes of its virtues in strengthening the eyesight, especially when this is weakened by want of energy in the optic nerve. The juice of the fresh root, under the name of Energetene of Valerian, has of late been recommended as more certain in its effects, and of value as a narcotic in insomnia, and as an anti-convulsant in epilepsy. Having also some slight influence upon the circulation, slowing the heart and increasing its force, it has been used in the treatment of cardiac palpitations. Valerian was first brought to notice as a specific for epilepsy by Fabius Calumna in 1592, he having cured himself of the disease with it.
Culpepper (1649) joins with many old writers to recommend the use both of herb and root, and praises the herb for its longevity and many comforting virtues, reminding us that it is ‘under the influence of Mercury, and therefore hath a warming faculty.’
In the Middle Ages, the root was used not only as a medicine but also as a spice, and even as a perfume. It was the custom to lay the roots among clothes as a perfume (vide Turner, Herbal, 1568, Pt. III, p. 56), just as some of the Himalayan Valerians are still used in the East, especially V. Jatamansi, the Nard of the Ancients, believed to be the Spikenard referred to in the Scriptures. It is still much used in ointments. Its odour is not so unpleasant as that of our native Valerians, and this and other species of Valerian are used by Asiatic nations in the manufacture of precious scents. Several aromatic roots were known to the Ancients under the name of Nardus, distinguished according to their origin or place of growth by the names ofNardus indica, N. celtica, N. montana, etc., and supposed to have been derived from different valerianaceous plants. Thus the N. indica is referred to V. Jatamansi (Roxb.), of Bengal, the N. celtica to V. celtica (Linn.), inhabiting the Alps and the N. montana to V. tuberosa, which grows in the mountains of the south of Europe.
General: Chile and Peru. Cultivated in European gardens.
Medicinal Use: Febrifuge, sedative. The uses of Lemon Verbena are similar to those of mint, orange flowers, or Melissa, as a stomachic and antispasmodic in dyspepsia, indigestion and flatulence, stimulating skin and stomach. The leaves, which have been suggested to replace tea, will retain their odour for years and are used in perfumery. They should be gathered at flowering time.
Spiritual Use: Verbena or Vervain has long been associated with divine and other supernatural forces. It was called “tears of Isis” in Ancient Egypt, and later on “Juno’s tears”. In Ancient Greece, it was dedicated to Eos Erigineia. In the early Christian era, folk legend stated that Common Vervain (V. officinalis) was used to staunch Jesus’ wounds after his removal from the cross. It was consequently called “Holy Herb” or (e.g. in Wales) “Devil’s bane”. Other European examples of sacred herbs include Yarrow, and Mugwort.
- Tiger Balm:
General: Originally named for containing tiger bone, an ingredient in traditional Chinese medicine dating back 1,500 years to treat pain, inflammation and to strengthen muscle. Tiger Balm now consists purely of herbal ingredients.
General: Other names – ‘Milfoil’, ‘Old Man’s Pepper’, ‘Nosebleed’.
Medicinal Use: The chemical makeup of yarrow is complex, and it contains many active medicinal compounds in addition to the tannins and volatile oil azulene. These compounds are anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, and help relax blood vessels. It’s feathery leaves making an ideal astringent swab to encourage clotting. Yarrow skin washes and leaf poultices can staunch bleeding and help to disinfect cuts and scrapes; taken as a tea it can help slow heavy menstrual bleeding as well. Note: Avoid in pregnancy, can cause allergic skin reactions in sensitive people who suffer from allergies
Spiritual Use: Chiron, the centaur, who taught its virtues to Achilles that he might make an ointment to heal his Myrmidons wounded in the siege of Troy, named the plant for this favorite pupil, giving his own to the beautiful Blue Cornflower (Centaurea Cyanus). Yarrow stalks are still used by the Chinese for casting I Ching predictions.
Magical Use: Inspires courage, psychic abilities and the tea drunk prior to divination will enhance one’s powers of perception divination, often used as a component in incantations.