Witches, folk healers, apothecarists, alchemists, are all connected by the ancient practice which is used nowadays – herbal healing.
Using plants as medicine has been the common practice for centuries dating back to 25,000 years B.C.
That’s a LONG time.
Although there is a lot of speculation about the effectiveness of herbal medicine, if you think about it, we have a lot more experience and years under our belt using plants as medicine, than science.
Modern medicine, man-made and scientific methods of medicine, although effective, has only been around since the 19th century.
Shouldn’t we then have more faith in plant medicine and herbalism than modern, scientific medicine?
Of course, it’s effective and there have been some groundbreaking discoveries, remedies, and medicinal treatments that no plant could ever replace.
There is so much more information on plants based on uses and thousands of years of applying them to heal people, that we should be more inclined to turn to herbs for medicine, rather than our doctor. Hypothetically.
If we go back to our bare roots, ancient civilisations, folklore, and witchcraft history, perhaps the reason herbal medicine started to die out, was because of people’s lack of faith in it?
Or, because it was indeed the key to our health, suppressed by those in power…?
Either way, let’s delve into the topic of herbalism, and how you can introduce it (and whether it’s actually worth it) into your daily routine.
What Is Herbalism?
Herbalism is a practice, a belief system and a culture of using plants, herbs and flowers to treat illnesses, diseases and physical symptoms.
Herbs can be grounded together, giving off a (mostly) yummy smell, while releasing their healing goodness within them. They can be dried, cooked, soaked, frozen and extracted for their essential oils, with many more uses and ways to heal.
Flower juices and essential oils can be extracted to then target wounds and internal diseases.
The topic of essential oils is actually very closely related to herbalism because you’re essentially using the essence from the plant, in a liquid form to treat various illnesses.
You should do your research before buying and using essential oils, as they can be diluted and sometimes faked – you can read more about using essential oils and how to buy the real oils here.
Herbalism can be in various forms, not just liquid:
- Poultices (wet herbs wrapped in a cloth)
- Decoction (infusion made of harder parts of the herb)
If your idea of herbalism is a long-haired, witch-looking woman cooking up a potion in a cauldron in the middle of a forest, you’re not far off. That’s when herbalism really reached its peak and sadly, soon ended.
History of Herbalism
There was a bit of a dispute between modern healers (scientific medicine) vs witches who use herbs as medicine – herbalism was much more effective.
Their practices although perceived as shamanic rituals and work of the devil aka spells were curing diseases and illnesses.
This was seen as competition to the back-then doctors, and naturally, they didn’t like that.
Rather than patients turning to qualified doctors for help, they were turning to women labelled back then as witches, which meant very little money to doctors.
So, with the rise of herbalism (aka witchcraft), women started to become much more independent.
All they needed was herbs, plants and flowers, and off they went living happily in the woods, away from society or dependence on a man’s income.
As you can imagine, this didn’t go down very well, and hence why the burning of witches started as a thing to “remove the devil’s work” from villages and the world altogether.
Soon herbalism and healing with plants became labelled as “witchcraft”.
Suppressed by those who failed to understand it and appreciate what it meant (and could have meant) for the rest of our society and years to come.
Luckily, herbalism was not fully suppressed, just among the mainstream of society. We’re lucky enough to have access to it now.
With plenty of books, resources and tutorials to introduce it into our life now.
How Does Herbalism Work?
Herbalism works by extracting the essence from the plant/herb or a flower, to be used as medicine by either drinking, eating or applying it. Chamomile for upset stomach, ginger to help with nausea, ginseng to remove inflammation, and elderberry to treat cold/flu symptoms, are just a few examples. The plant/herb itself can also be used in its pure form, by for example wetting it and wrapping it in a cloth for direct application onto a specific area (poultice).
Through centuries of practice, failed and successful attempts, we have in that time acquired enough knowledge to know which herbs/plants are effective for each disease/symptom.
Thanks to our ancestors, we now know, which plants are toxic or poisonous, and what quantities are safe for human use/consumption.
There are of course continuous studies into herbalism, although this isn’t as largely pursued or funded, as modern/man-made medicine.
There is far more research, funding and money to be made in scientific medicine, than natural medicine and as a society, we accepted that actually, science and medicine, is the one we trust more.
This is because we’re presented with scientific-based results, quantified and carefully measured, proved – how can we argue with science?
That’s why we find it harder to believe in nature’s goodness and its effectiveness.
Particularly as we hear stories about side effects of herbs, or things going terribly wrong when too much of a herb is ingested and how some herbs/plants are toxic.
Are there no side effects and dangers in medicine too? Something to think about…
How Can I Introduce Herbalism Into My Life (Safely)?
If you’re thinking about using herbalism as a medicine, to treat and cure an illness or just because you’re feeling super witchy and want more nature in your life, you should definitely do your research and ensure you know the side effects of the particular herb you want to use.
Like with any medication, natural or man-made, if taken incorrectly, it can be dangerous.
Disclaimer: I am not a doctor or a health professional, therefore any advice provided in this blog post is purely for information purposes. You should always consult with a medical professional before using any natural medication.
Introducing herbalism into your life will depend on the level of your commitment and how much you want to change or take effect unless you have a particular condition you’d like to treat.
Start by going into a local herbal shop first – see what’s on offer, see what they actually look like and if you can, speak to the shop owner who will be knowledgeable in herbalism and will be able to recommend a specific herb and way of application.
My favourite way of using herbs is in my food and in my tea. Even herbs like oregano, thyme and rosemary (both in tea, and in food) are nutritious in the right amounts.
If you’re new to herbalism and aren’t sure where to begin, I would recommend buying a few herbal teas (loose-leaf if you can, as bagged tea really doesn’t taste the same and doesn’t provide the same nutritional value).
I have a selection of my favourite herbal teas I prepared right here. You can infuse the tea using any of the below:
- Tea strainers
- Reusable tea bags
- Glass tea sticks
- Teapots with strainers inside them
Read more about loose tea and tea bags (and WHY they contain plastic) here.
You can also use herb-based lotions, creams and tonics to use on your face/body and see if you notice a difference. Read more about natural skincare here.
How to Dry Herbs?
If you grow your own, or if you have shop-bought herbs you’d like to dry, they will be the freshest and most nutritious – rather than shop-bought packed dried herbs.
To dry your own herbs:
- Trim a bunch of your herbs with scissors
- Tie small bundles together
- Hang upside down in a cool, dark place for up to 7 days
- Store the dried herbs in an air-tight container
Yep, you can even smoke your herbs. Not all of them, so if you’re thinking about trying to smoke them, research it first.
These herbs are non-addictive and generally don’t have a strong effect on your feelings or wellbeing, but some can help with a cough, inflammation or sleep.
Here’s herbs you can smoke:
- Passion flower
If you’re feeling super witchy or you want to try something new, try smoking the above herbs. You can mix them all together or smoke them individually. This is a great option as well if you’re trying to quit tobacco and a much healthier option, naturally.