Healing Herbs

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9 Healing Herbs for Your Magical Medicine Cabinet

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What herbs are in your magical medicine cabinet?. Image by Antonio Saba/Cultura RM/Getty Images

Many Pagans - and others - use herbs as a tool in the magical arsenal. While not every herb is safe to ingest - and be sure to read about Dangerous Herbs before you get started - many of them are used in a magical or folkloric context to bring about healing. If you're interested in healing magic, here are some of the most popular healing herbs to keep on hand, and how you can use them.

Please do keep in mind that if you're going to use herbs internally - such as a tea or tincture - it's always a good idea to check with your physician first. There are some medical conditions that contraindicate the use of various herbs, so do your homework before you begin.

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Rosemary

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For magical use, burn rosemary to rid a home of negative energy, or as an incense while you meditate. Hang bundles on your front door to keep harmful people, like burglars, from entering. Stuff a healing poppet with dried rosemary to take advantage of its medicinal properties, or mix with juniper berries and burn in a sickroom to promote healthy recovery. In spellwork, rosemary can be used as a substitute for other herbs such as frankincense.

When it comes to healing, rosemary can be used in a variety of ways.

  • Make an astringent out of it and use it as a skin wash to clear up your complexion, or as a soother for eczema.
  • Infuse it into an oil or poultice, and use it topically on achy joints and muscles, and even bruises.
  • Crush fresh leaves in your hand and rub the oils over your skin before gardening - it is believed that this can help keep mosquitoes and gnats from biting you.
  • Blend it into a light tea, and sip throughout the day to relieve an upset stomach. Note: Pregnant women should not ingest rosemary in large quantities, although using it in cooking is generally considered safe.

Learn more about rosemary and its magical uses here: Magical Herbs - Rosemary

Disclaimer: Before using any herb for medical purposes, please be sure to consult a healthcare professional.

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Lavender

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Medicinally, lavender has many uses. Noted herbalist Nicolas Culpeper recommends "a decoction made with the flowers of Lavender, Horehound, Fennel and Asparagus root, and a little Cinnamon" to help with epilepsy and other disorders of the brain. Tincture of lavender has been officially recognized as a treatment in the British Pharmacopceia for two centuries. Judith Benn Hurley writes in The Good Herb that during the sixteenth century, English herbalists used lavender tucked into a cap as a cure for headaches, and advocated the use of its oils as a method of keeping wounds clean and avoiding infection.

  • Like many medicinal herbs, lavender is great for the skin. Add a few drops of the essential oil into a base of witch hazel, and use as an astringent. You can also add the oil to cold water and spritz it on mild sunburns for cooling relief.
  • Use dried lavender in an herbal tea to help you sleep - you may want to add a bit of chamomile or honey so the flavor is more agreeable.
  • Lavender is popular in aromatherapy - inhaling its fresh scent, or a few drops of oil, can help calm an anxious or nervous mind, as well as providing headache relief.

Learn more about lavender: Magical Herbs - Lavender

Disclaimer: Before using any herb for medical purposes, please be sure to consult a healthcare professional.

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Feverfew

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Feverfew has been used in medicinal applications for centuries. As the name suggests, it can be used to treat fevers, but there is some question as to the effectiveness of this practice. Instead, it's become popular for use in the treatment of migraines. A decoction sweetened with honey or sugar is sometimes used to relieve light coughing or wheezing.

It's a great herb to use externally as well - make a tincture or ointment to apply onto insect bites to relieve itching or swelling.

Feverfew is also used to treat issues with menstrual cramping and difficult childbirth, when brewed into a tea. If you are experiencing either of these things, consult a medical professional before using feverfew as treatment.

Disclaimer: Before using any herb for medical purposes, please be sure to consult a healthcare professional.

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Basil

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Basil is known far and wide as a culinary herb, but it also contains some interesting magical and medicinal properties.In some countries, however, basil is considered something that real men don't eat -- why? Because it's associated with teas that are used to provide relief from painful menstrual periods.

It's also used as an anti-inflammatory. Try some of these methods to incorporate basil into your healing magic.

  • Chewing on the freshly harvested leaves has a couple of different benefits - it can help relieve symptoms of coughs and colds, and even better, it can leave your breath smelling healthy and refreshed!
  • Use a bit of the oil or extract on insect bites to relieve pain and itching.
  • Boil the leaves in water to make an infusion, and take a small amount every few hours to help reduce fever, as well as provide headache relief. Gargling with basil water can make a sore throat feel better.

Read more about basil here: Magical Herbs - Basil

Disclaimer: Before using any herb for medical purposes, please be sure to consult a healthcare professional.

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Apple Blossom

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Apples, as a fruit, are well known for their health benefits. After all, there's that old saying about an apple a day keeping the doctor away. However, even before the fruit grows on the tree, you can take advantage of the blooms and blossoms.

Apple blossoms are actually an edible flower. You can include them in your summer salads, as a way to help digestive issues - just be sure you wash them first to get rid of any chemicals, pesticides, or crawly critters.

Make a vinegar infusion with the blossoms, and use it to treat itchy, painful insect bites or stings. A seventeenth-century herbal recommends mixing apple blossom extract with a bit of rose water and some pig fat as a cure for rough, dry skin. If you don't like the idea of using pig fat on your skin, there are plenty of alternatives - a bit of soft beeswax will work, or even some unscented cold cream.

Read more about apple blossoms here: Magical Herbs - Apple Blossoms

Disclaimer: Before using any herb for medical purposes, please be sure to consult a healthcare professional.

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Chamomile

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In Back to Eden, Jethro Kloss recommends everyone "gather a bagful of chamomile blossoms, as they are good for many ailments." This all-purpose herb has been used to treat everything from loss of appetite to irregular periods to bronchitis and worms. In some countries, it is mixed into a poultice and applied to open wounds in order to prevent gangrene.

You can use chamomile in a variety of medical applications:

  • Brew into a tea to aid in problems such as morning sickness, digestive disorders, gastritis, and difficult bowel movements.
  • Blend with witch hazel and use as a skin wash to relieve dry skin, sunburns and eczema.
  • Make a mouthwash and gargle to get rid of gum inflammations.

Read more about chamomile here: Magical Herbs - Chamomile

Disclaimer: Before using any herb for medical purposes, please be sure to consult a healthcare professional.

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Sandalwood

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One particular species, the Indian sandalwood, which grows primarily in Nepal and southern India, is an endangered plant. However, much of the sandalwood essential oil sold in the United States and Europe today actually comes from Australian sandalwood. This is a non-endangered species, and although it has a lighter concentration than the other varieties of sandalwood, it’s still very fragrant and is popular with many aromatherapists.

While it is is typically the flowers that are harvested and used, many different parts of the sandalwood plant are used for a variety of purposes.

  • The essential oil is often used in holistic medicine for its anti-inflammatory properties, and some researchers are even testings its impact on cancer and other diseases.
  • Use the oil, diluted with a base, as an external wash for inflammations of the genital area - please, check with your doctor first on this one!
  • The wood can be ground down into a fine powder, and used for beauty treatments - add a bit of rose oil or camphor, and apply it to your skin for cleansing.

Read about the magical uses of sandalwood here: Magical Herbs - Sandalwood

Disclaimer: Before using any herb for medical purposes, please be sure to consult a healthcare professional.

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Goldenseal

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Goldenseal has been used in medicinal applications for several centuries. While it can be taken internally, this should really be done with caution. Pregnant women should not ingest goldenseal, because it can cause uterine contractions.

However, even if you're not taking goldenseal internally, it has some useful topical applications.

  • Boil the leaves in water to make an antiseptic wash, and use it to treat skin inflammations, including athlete's foot.
  • The root can be used to make an eye wash for mild eye irritations.
  • Keep goldenseal handy in your medicine cabinet to clean out minor wounds and abrasions.

Disclaimer: Before using any herb for medical purposes, please be sure to consult a healthcare professional.

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Eucalyptus

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There's a reason your cough drops often smell and taste like eucalyptus. It's been a popular remedy for colds and respiratory ailments for a long time. You can use the oil, which is pressed from the leaves of the eucalyptus plant, in a number of healing applications.

  • Make a rinse of eucalyptus oil blended with water to gargle with, to relieve dental issues such as swollen or inflamed gums and gingivitis.
  • Warm the leaves or oil, and inhale the vapors to clear clogged sinuses, stuffy noses, and other upper respiratory issues.
  • Blend eucalyptus oil with a non-scented base such as coconut oil, and rub it on the chest when you've got a cold. Some people also believe you can apply it to the soles of the feet, and this will work to alleviate breathing problems, such as congestion or asthma. If you're using it to treat asthma, check with your healthcare professional first.

Disclaimer: Before using any herb for medical purposes, please be sure to consult a healthcare professional.