Updated: Feb 12
Author: Michael Erwin
Wortcunning: Herbs, Oil and Incense
This information has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration and is for educational purposes only. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. Medicinal information was used with permission for Mountain Rose Herbs. Much of the mystical information was taken from Cunningham’s Encyclopedia of Magical Herbs (Llewellyn Publications) and Wikipedia. Always check up to date information on herbs before taking herbs internally, or using essential oils Make sure you identify herbs by their scientific name, as many herbs have various folk names that can lead to confusion. Keep all herbs, oils and incenses away from children and pets. Always seek out a doctor's advice before taking any herbs.
Medicinal Herbalism: Medicinal Herbalism is the study of botany and use of plants intended for medicinal purposes or for supplementing a diet. Plants have been the basis for medical treatments through much of human history, and such traditional medicine is still widely practiced today. Modern medicine recognizes herbalism as a form of alternative medicine, as the practice of herbalism is not strictly based on evidence gathered using the scientific method.
Common methods of using herbs for medicinal benefit:
Broths: Prepare as a tea, but substitute broth in place of water. This preparation makes it easier to drink certain bitter or warm herbs and spices.
Capsule: Herb capsules are crushed, powdered or liquid extracts of herbs in a digestible pill. Easy to make and take, herb capsules are virtually tasteless. They are not as quickly absorbed by the bloodstream as herbs taken in a tisane or tincture, but they are handy, particularly for those on the go. By making your own capsules, you can create your own blend, perfectly suited to your needs.
Compress: Soak a piece of cloth in a hot decoction and place on the infected area. Repeat as necessary.
Cream: In a double boiler melt two ounces of beeswax, one cup of olive oil and blend. Add two ounces of herb and simmer for 20 minutes. Add two drops of benzoin tincture as a preservative and strain through cheesecloth into a sterilized jar.
Decoction: Decoction is a method of extraction by boiling, of dissolved chemicals, from herbs, which may include stems, roots, bark, and rhizomes. This is typically done by adding a proper amount of dried herbs to a simmering pot of purified water, placing a lid on top and lightly boiling for 15-20 minutes. Make sure to strain out the herbs, and squeeze out any excess liquid remaining in the herbs.
Infusion: An infusion is made by soaking dried herbs in purified water for long periods of time. Add dried herbs to a canning jar, add purified water (some use boiled water, some do not), tighten the lid and let sit in a cool, dark area for anywhere from a day to a few weeks, shaking daily. Strain, press out remaining liquid, return to jar and refrigerate. Infusions tend to have a much shorter shelf life than tinctures.
Liniment / Oils: Add dried herbs to olive oil (or other oil), cover and simmer for a few hours. Remove and strain, keep refrigerated. Use these to rub on the body to alleviate symptoms.
Poultice: A poultice is made by adding some hot water to dried herbs, placing onto a minor wound or other irritated skin, wrapping and let sit until desired results are reached.
Syrups: Add 1 ¾ cup brown sugar or a honey and sugar mix to two cups infusion or decoction, heat until the sugar dissolves. Pour into a sterilized jar and store in the refrigerator.
Tincture: Tinctures are an alcoholic extract of herbs that are created by adding alcohol to dried herbs in a jar. The alcohol and water present in the vodka or brandy extracts the medicinal qualities of the herbs. These are placed in a cool, dark area and shaken daily for 2-4 weeks, then the herbs are strained and pressed, leaving the remaining liquid in the jar. This method can preserve the medicinal qualities of herbs for 3 or more years.
Tisane: This essential is an herbal tea, but the word ‘tea’ is specific to the common plant Camellia Sinensis, commonly sold as various types of black and green tea. A Tisane is made by adding boiling, or just boiled purified water to dried herbs, covering and letting steep for 3-10 minutes until desired strength is reached.
Angelica (Angelica archangelica)
Also known as: Great Angelica, Garden Angelica, Wild Parsnip
Parts used: Root. Typical preparations: Decoction, tincture.
Medicinal information: The traditional uses of angelica included treating tumors, boils, and furuncles, relieving swollen gums, and forcing vomiting to treat food poisoning. Research published as recently as February 2005 confirm that angelica contains compounds that may prevent the proliferation of tumor
cells, at least under laboratory conditions. Modern herbalists most often use this form of angelica to relieve loss of appetite, flatulence, and gastrointestinal spasms, and to treat the pain of hacking cough, menstrual cramps and urinary tract infections.
Precautions: Avoid excessive exposure to sunlight if using angelica oil. Do not take angelica and eat celeriac (celery root) as a vegetable if you tend to sunburn. The safety of angelica for pregnant women and nursing mothers has not been established and its use is not recommended.
Dill (Anethum graveolens)
Also known as: American Dill, Dill Herb, Dill Weed, Dilly, European Dill.
Parts used: Seeds (actually fruit), leaves. Typical preparations: Capsules, cooking, tincture, tisane.
Medicinal information: Dill both settles the stomach and is mildly antibacterial.
Precautions: None if taken properly.
Valerian (Valeriana officinalis)
Also known as: Common Valerian, European Valerian, Valeriana and Allheal.
Parts used: Root. Typical preparations: Capsule, decoction, tincture.
Medicinal information: Valerian is a calmative and tranquilizer. Its properties have been known at least since the time of Hippocrates, and it was prescribed by the ancient Greek physician Galen for the treatment of headaches, insomnia, nervousness, restlessness, menstrual problems, nervous stomach, and hysteria. Clinical trials have confirmed the use of valerian for treating insomnia, especially the insomnia that accompanies menopause. The advantage of valerian over tranquilizers such as Valium and Xanax is that it reduces sleep latency, the time required to fall asleep, without a period of bedtime drowsiness and without creating a "hangover" or grogginess the next morning. Valerian has greatest effect in treating chronic insomnia, rather than short-term sleeplessness. It also soothes the digestive system and may prevent cramping caused by irritable bowel syndrome.
Precautions: If you use valerian for several months and suddenly stop using it, you may experience withdrawal symptoms such as headache, insomnia, racing heart, and general grouchiness, although rare. Reduce dosage of a period of about a week if you wish to discontinue using the herb suddenly.
Magickal Herbalism: Magickal Herbalism is simply tapping into the natural vibration or ‘spirit’ found within plants to help with our magickal processes. The methods may vary depending on each plant, but burning, carrying, scattering and hanging herbs are all commonly used methods. It seems that on every part of the globe where humans have lived, there has developed a body of herbal knowledge, something which has led to a special relationship developing between herbs and people. In addition to their culinary and medicinal uses, certain herbs have also adopted a reputation for having spiritual and magickal qualities.
Magickal Herb Profiles
Angelica (Angelica archangelica)
Folklore: Its virtues are praised by old writers, and the name itself, as well as the folk-lore of all North European countries and nations, testify to the great antiquity of a belief in its merits as a protection against contagion, for purifying the blood, and for curing every conceivable malady: it was held a sovereign remedy for poisons agues and all infectious maladies. In Pomerania and East Prussia, wild-growing Angelica abounds; there, in early summer-time, it has been the custom among the peasants to march into the towns carrying the Angelica flower-stems and to offer them for sale, chanting some ancient ditty, so antiquated as to be unintelligible even to the singers themselves. The chanted words and the tune are learnt in childhood, and may be attributed to a survival of some Pagan festival with which the plant was originally associated. After the introduction of Christianity, the plant became linked in the popular mind with some archangelic patronage, and associated with the spring-time festival of the Annunciation. According to one legend, Angelica was revealed in a dream by an angel to cure the plague. Another explanation of the name of this plant is that it blooms on the day of Michael the Archangel (May 8, old style), and is on that account a preservative against evil spirits and witchcraft: all parts of the plant were believed efficacious against spells and enchantment. It was held in such esteem that it was called 'The Root of the Holy Ghost.’
Magickal information: Useful in incense mixes for exorcising evil spirits and granting protection. Sprinkled around the home is said to ward of negative energy, and when added to baths is said to remove hexes and curses. Native Americans carried the root for luck while gambling.
Dill (Anethum graveolens)
Folklore: The Vikings cultivated a plant they called "dilla," or "soothing," as a remedy for colic in babies. In the Middle Ages, Dill was also one of the herbs used by magicians in their spells, and charms against witchcraft. In Drayton's Nymphidia are the lines: ‘Therewith her Vervain and her Dill, that hindereth Witches of their Will.' Culpepper tells us that: 'Mercury has the dominion of this plant, and therefore to be sure it strengthens the brain.... It stays the hiccough, being boiled in wine, and but smelled unto being tied in a cloth. The seed is of more use than the leaves, and more effectual to digest raw and vicious hum ours, and is used in medicines that serve to expel wind, and the pains proceeding therefrom....'
Magicka information: As the plant creates a multitude of seeds, Dill fruits are excellent for working magic for abundance and prosperity. Add some to your altar in the north for prosperity in the home, sprinkle some around your home or business, add some to a Mojo bag, or anoint prosperity amulets with some dill oil.
Valerian (Valeriana officinalis)
Folklore: 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, 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. Valerian has an effect on the nervous system of many animals, especially cats, which seem to be thrown into a kind of intoxication by its scent. It is scarcely possible to keep a plant of Valerian in a garden after the leaves or root have been bruised or disturbed in any way, for cats are at once attracted and roll on the unfortunate plant. It is equally attractive to rats and is often used by rat-catchers to bait their traps. It has been suggested that the famous Pied Piper of Hamelin owed his irresistible power over rats to the fact that he secreted Valerian roots about his person.
Magickal information: Valerian root scan be added to magical bags, or sprinkled around the home for protection. If the plant is hung in the home, it is said to prevent lightning strikes, and placed under the pillow aids in deep sleep and prophetic dreams. When powdered it makes a great substitute for graveyard dirt.
An essential oil is a concentrated hydrophobic liquid containing volatile aroma compounds from plants. Essential oils are also known as volatile oils, ethereal oils, or simply as the "oil of" the plant from which they were extracted, such as ‘oil of clove’. An oil is "essential" in the sense that it contains the characteristic fragrance of the plant that it is taken from. Essential oils are generally extracted by distillation, often by using steam. Other processes include expression or solvent extraction. Essential oils should always be kept in a locked, safe place, away from children and pets. Essential oils can kill cats and some can kill a human in very small doses. Many essential oils are flammable as well. For aromatherapy uses, essential oils enter our body with a breath. Our olfactory hairs pick up the scent and bind them to receptors. Messages are sent along neurons to the olfactory bulb and directly to the limbic brain. We possess and incredible average of 5 million olfactory neuron cells! The human nose is a sensitive organ that can detect more than 350,000 different scents. The human sense of smell plays an important role in memory because scent receptors in the nose connect directly to the section of the brain responsible for memory and emotions. So powerful, in fact, the nose is believed to affect 75% of our daily emotions.
Aroma lamps: Floating 5 to 15 drops of essential oil on purified water, then heating slowly until the volatile oils are released into the air. This can be done with the heat from a candle or with electricity.
Inhalation: In the form of facial steam bath, ready-made inhalers, or off of a piece of cloth.
Compresses: Add a few drops of a skin safe oil to warm water, immerse a clean cloth, dip, wring it out and apply to needed area.
Bath: Mix a few drops of skin safe oils with conditioner, milk, oatmeal or bran and add to running water.
Massage oils and lotion: Using skin safe oils, mix a few drops into your favorite body cream and apply.
Relaxing Essential oils: Clary Sage: Salvia sclarea, Cypress: Cupressus sempervirens, Lavender: Lavandula angustifolia, Patchouli: Pogostemon cablin, Marjoram: Origanum majorana , Ylang Ylang: Cananga odorata var genuina
Uplifting essential Oils: Bergamot: Citrus bergamia , Spearmint: Mentha spicata, Geranium (Rose): Pelargonium graveolens, Black Pepper: Pepper nigrum, Grapefruit: Citrus paradisi, Rosemary: Rosmarinus officinalis
Essential Oil Profiles for Aromatherapy:
Lavender (Spike)- Lavandula latifolia is a subspecies of true lavender grown at lower altitudes. Like other lavender oils, Spike Lavender Oil is floral, fresh, sweet and herbaceous. However, it is much more camphorous in aroma, similar to the scent in Rosemary Essential oil.
Compounds found in Spike Lavender Essential Oil:
Linalool is one of the compounds found in this plant. Over 200 species of plants produce linalool, mainly from mint, laurels, cinnamon, rosewood, citrus fruits, birch trees and other plants, from tropical to boreal climate zones. It has also been found in some fungi and cannabis. Akio Nakamura and colleagues from the University of Tokyo and T. Hasegawa Co., Ltd in Kawasaki, Japan, claim to have demonstrated that inhaling linalool can reduce stress in lab rats.
1,8-Cineole (often called Eucalyptol) is another important compound found in Spike Lavender. Eucalyptol has a fresh mint-like smell and a spicy, cooling taste. Because of its pleasant spicy aroma and taste, eucalyptol is used in flavorings, fragrances, and cosmetics. Cineole-based eucalyptus oil is used as a flavouring at low levels (0.002%) in various products, including baked goods, confectionery, meat products and beverages. In a 1994 report released by five top cigarette companies, eucalyptol was listed as one of the 599 additives to cigarettes. It is claimed that it is added to improve the flavor. In a 2003 study, eucalyptol was found to control airway mucus hypersecretion and asthma. A 2000 study found eucalyptol to reduce inflammation and pain when applied topically.
Camphor is also found in this plant and is an active ingredient (along with menthol) in vapor-steam products, such as Vicks VapoRub. It is used as a cough suppressant and as a decongestant. Camphor was used in ancient Sumatra to treat sprains, swellings, and inflammation.
Borneol - is an organic compound and a terpene. It is said to be useful for Coughs, bronchitis, flu.
B-Pinene - is a monoterpene, an organic compound found in plants. and is one of the most abundant compounds released by forest trees. It is rumored to help with anxiety and depression.
Geranium (Rose)- In aromatherapy, geranium oil is said to help treat anxiety, depression and insomnia. It is popular among women due to its supposed beneficial effect on menstruation and menopause. The essential oil can also aid in uplifting mood, lessening fatigue and promoting emotional wellness.
Ylang Ylang- antidepressant, antiseptic, aphrodisiac, hypotensive (lowering of blood sugars), nervine (calms the nerves) and sedative substance. benzyl acetate is one of the compounds found in this oil, which is also found in Jasmine. it is used widely in perfumery and cosmetics for its aroma and in flavorings to impart apple and pear flavors. It is one of many compounds that is attractive to males of various species of orchid bees, who apparently gather the chemical to synthesize pheromones; it is commonly used as bait to attract and collect these bees for study.
Vetiver- aphrodisiac, nervine, sedative, tonic (may improve immune system) It is said to help with ADHD, anxiety as it soothes and helps promote restful sleep.
Rose (Damask)- Anicenna, the 10th century Persian physician, used the rose as his first plant to distill and a rose distillery existed in 1612 in Shiraz, Persia. It takes about 60,000 roses to make one ounce. The chemical composition of rose oil is one of the most complex and contains more than 300 known compounds, phenyl ethanol being a main compound, which is also found in carnation, hyacinth, orange blossom, ylang-ylang and geranium and is a powerful anti-inflammatory. The therapeutic properties of damask rose oil are antidepressant, antiseptic, antispasmodic, antiviral, aphrodisiac, astringent, bactericidal, depurative (purifying and dexotifying) as a nervous system sedative.
Magical Oils are not that different from using herbs as we are tapping into the spiritual vibration of the plant. In some cases, oils can be much more concentrated and dramatically more aromatic. We can use these oils for anointing people during rituals, as a reminder of the changes we are trying to make through magickal means, to ritually ‘seal’ our intent in candles, for adding to incense, for consecrating magickal objects and for creating a vibration within a space through the power of scent.
Essential Oil Magickal Profiles:
Bergamot: Calm and balance emotions, breaking hexes, releasing grief and other matters of the heart
Black Pepper: Courage, removing negative energy, protection, energy
Camphor: Divination, health, past lives, prophetic dreams
Cedar Wood: Protection, purification, mental blockages
Clary Sage: Vivid dreams, stress, visions, addiction
Clove Bud: Stopping gossip, memory, attraction
Cypress: Luck, protection, transitions, strength, comfort, liberation
Dill: Prosperity, love, protection from bad dreams
Eucalyptus: Healing, protection, joy, purification
Fir Needle: Prosperity, protection, fertility, prophecy
Ginger: Power, money, mental stimulation, confidence, romance
Jasmine: Lunar, passion, love, romance, dreaming, spirituality
Juniper Berry: Protection, anti-theft, cleans out negative energy
Lavender: Calming, purity, balance, health, sleep
Orange: Promotes happiness, success, finances
Patchouli: Grounding, money, lust, independence
Peppermint: Healing, purification, mental stimulant
Rose Geranium: Psychic energizer, confidence, success
Rosewood: Meditation, calming, well-being, self-love, releasing fear
Ylang Ylang: Euphoria, harmony, love, insight, visions
The word incense comes from Latin for incendere meaning "to burn”. Incense is aromatic biotic material which releases fragrant smoke when burned. The term refers to the material itself, rather than to the aroma that it produces. a gum, spice, or other substance that is burned for the sweet smell it produces. Incense is composed of aromatic plant materials, often combined with essential oils. The forms taken by incense differ with the underlying culture, and have changed with advances in technology and increasing diversity in the reasons for burning it. Incense can generally be separated into two main types: "indirect-burning" and "direct-burning". Indirect-burning incense (or "non-combustible incense") is not capable of burning on its own, and requires a separate heat source. Direct-burning incense (or "combustible incense") is lit directly by a flame and then fanned or blown out, leaving a glowing ember that smolders and releases fragrance. Direct-burning incense is either a paste formed around a bamboo stick, or a paste that is extruded into a stick or cone shape. Incense can help cleanse, purify, and sanctify homes, people and objects as well as create a dramatic and aromatic environment in which to work magick.
Dragon’s Blood Resin: This powerful resin is a great choice for cleansing work as it help to remove things that do not want to move, including stagnant energies, entities and other unwanted spirits.
Frankincense Resin: This resin was highly prized in ancient Middle East. It is considered Fire Element as the ancient Egyptians burned it to honor their sun gods. It is excellent for helping to clear built up energy from a space, person, or object.
Sage: Traditionally used by American Tribes, this aromatic plant helps to banish unwanted energies but also helps send prayers up to divine sources.
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