Okay, I said I’d start writing on plants, gardening and herbalism and anything else in that bucket that I know about.
First up: Herbalism. I’ve taken a lot of classes in herbalism and done a lot of research too when it was necessary and it’s always necessary.
Sooo the number one thing I’ve learned about Herbalism that most people seem to forget. ALL PLANTS ARE MEDICINES AND ALL PLANTS SHOULD BE RESPECTED BECAUSE OF THAT. And yes, I was yelling and I was yelling for a reason. One of my pet peeves is that if someone says it’s “all natural” it must be good. Uh, you might want to ask Socrates about the “all natural” drink they made him drink. And by the way the hemlock he drank is the not the same plant as the Hemlock that grows in North America.
That brings up my first point, the name may be the same in some places but it may not be the same plant so it’s safer to go with the Latin name to be exact. Hemlock in Europe in not a big coniferous tree. Skunk cabbage in the Eastern US is not the skunk cabbage in the West. And another problem is the name may be different but the plant is the same. California Bay Laurel is the same plant as myrtle in Oregon.Cinnamon sold here is not truly cinnamon but another plant entirely and oregano and marjoram in a spice jar are not the same as the plant at the nursery but a mix of herbs.
Number two, there is almost no herb that should be used every day. Remember? Medicine/drug? That includes coffee and teas. Black tea is camellia sinensis. Herbal teas sold at the stores are medicines too, read the label and know what you are drinking. Example: if you have high blood pressure and the tea has licorice of any kind, you should not be drinking it. Does the label say that licorice raises blood pressure, nooo, because they don’t have to. Are you diabetic and the tea has angelica root? Don’t drink it. It will raise your blood sugar. And for that matter, you can’t substitute agave for sugar, it’s actually sweeter and more concentrated than sugar and does worse damage. Aspirin and Ibuprofen are synthetic versions of salicic acid, the active ingredient in willow bark tea and while they all are pain relievers, they all make the stomach bleed. In the case of aspirin, it can be up to a tablespoon of blood per pill and to top it off, scientists have no clue how it works in the body, they just know it does.
If it ends in -ose, it’s a sugar, lactose, sucrose, fructose, all are sugars as well as anything with alcohol is a sugar as far as your body is concerned.
If you want to be sure of what you are using, grow your own. If you buy plants at a nursery, change the dirt if you aren’t sure how they were grown or get bareroot and then it won’t matter.
Even chamomile tea drunk every day can do damage to your stomach and that is a pretty innocuous plant.
Some herbs and what you may think of as spices are hallucinogens, it may be mild but it’s still a hallucinogen, things like nutmeg and mace. So is mugwort. The Hallows we drank mugwort tea still gives me the willies. I’m the type of medium that doesn’t take much to set off on her little pink cloud and all of a sudden I had someone in my head I had not invited in, a really pissed off demi-god that spoke archaic Gaelic and was really, really not happy no one had been talking to her in a very long time and she was very big and my head is not and she had a lot to say and was intent on saying it. The mother of all migraines and no way to kick her out but go with it. This was not amusing to me and not that much fun for the rest of the group except for the teacher.
Somethings are dangerous hallucinogens. I have a friend who is a nurse and also one of the most experienced herbalists I know and normally very careful. One Samhain night on the way home from work saw some datura growing wild by the side of the road. She thought it was alright to just take 2 leaves to add to her incense for the rite. She came to a few hours later in her car with no memory of anything after she picked it. She usually used gloves and assumed that small amount wouldn’t hurt. Uh No!
The number one most deadly herb here in the US, Nicotine from the lowly tobacco plant and it’s used in a lot of pest control and herbicides on the market. So if you smoke cigarettes? Guess what? Poisoning yourself everyday.
If a plant in a book says it stimulates cell growth like Comfrey never, ever, ever take it internally. If it stimulates cell growth it stimulates ALL cells. This would include cancer and tumour cells. If you are prone to things like skin tags or fibroids, you grow all kinds of other things too. If your body is the type to grow things, you grow all kinds of things like tumours benign and not benign as well. Sometimes that even includes hair. And the hair isn’t where you would like it to grow.
Some herbs do other things, rosemary is a great thing for shiny healthy hair but if you want to keep your blond or red locks use plain henna instead. Rosemary darkens hair.
It’s nice to read Culpeper and Grieves but you need to do much more modern research and not on websites pushing to sell those herbs. They might not tell you who shouldn’t be using it. Take some herbal classes from several teachers if you can. Get some good books like Paul Beyerl’s wonderful “Herbal Compendium” or “Master Book of Herbalism”. Scott Cunningham’s books are good for magical uses of herbs. I like the “New Age Herbalist” by Richard Mabey and Michael McIntyre. Paul teaches excellent classes up in the Seattle area and has the most glorious garden. And he’s good people.
So, I’ll get off my herbalist soapbox for now but please, please, please, do your research before taking anything internally and that includes incense and things that go up your nose like oils and perfumes.