By Shelly Kay - Our In House Magickal Herbalist
Q: Do I need to use organic herbs?
Yes for the best and safest results. However, it's not always possible and if you need it in a pinch, use it but with caution. I would not ingest it and make sure it is used in a well-ventilated area if burning it. Also make sure it is safe to use on skin.
Q: Do I have to grow my own?
No, your connection with them will be stronger, but you can’t grow everything. You can pick from the wild (wild harvested), but take only as much as you need and no more than ⅓ of the plant and thicket; local farmers or reputable sources such as The Nice Rock Shop which has a great selection as well!
Q: Why do recipes use parts instead of regular measurements?
It is much easier to increase or decrease the batch by using part numbers instead of regular measurements. In other words, say you didn’t realize how big of a batch you made and only need like a 3rd of it next time you make it. So instead of having to figure out what is ⅓ of ½ a cup is, you would use ⅓ of 6 parts. Which would be 2 parts.
Q: How do I know if it's the right herb to use?
For magickal blends, I go with my gut and intuition. If it feels right, it is. Or if it's the only herb I have with the properties I need, it is. You do not need to go buy specific herbs; you can substitute with what you have that has the same properties. Example, a love attraction spell has Saffron as an ingredient, but I don’t have any because it’s too expensive. But I have lily, lotus, and thyme that all have love as a property. But when I look closer, lily is for breaking love spells, and lotus can be used for both attraction and breaking spells. So, I’ll use the thyme because it’s specifically for love attraction.
Q: How safe is it?
They are safe as long as you follow the safety information of each individual herb. Some are toxic to pets, unsafe for pregnant women, can cause allergies, or have side effects. Research and know the safety of each herb before you use them. I use “The Herb Book” by John Lust as my safety resource. I also do not recommend ingesting magickal blends to be safe.
Q: How much do I use?
A little generally goes a long way with herbs. You only need a pinch if burning loose charcoal, a dab of a blended oil on specific spots like the third eye, the wrists, the chakras, or the spell paper. For candles I like to put a couple drops of oil on my finger or what I’ll be inscribing my candle with then scribble the symbol onto the candle. If I’m mixing herbs into a candle, I make them very fine so as not to start a fire while burning and use just a pinch or two until the amount feels right.
Q: What herbs should I start with?
Start with the herbs that call you to and research it and all the ways you can use it. I like to keep herbs on hand that can do double duty, such as Rosemary - protection, love, healing; and Cinnamon (this is my signature herb) - spirituality, success, psychic powers; and Chamomile - money, sleep, purification.
Q: How much should I keep on hand?
Generally speaking, you only need a bit of each herb no more than an ounce, unless you are making huge batches and going through them quickly.
Q: How long do herbs last?
The recommended time frame is 1 year for herbs. However, if you are keeping them tightly sealed and protected from sunlight they can last longer. If they smell bad, have no scent, have turned colors, energy is gone or generally don’t seem right, toss them.
Q: Is there a right or wrong way to use herbs in Magick?
Don’t give to or use around/with others without their knowledge, they may be allergic or have a condition which makes it dangerous. As long as you are not going against your morals and ethics, then you are golden.
Q: Which part of the plant do I use?
Each plant is different, you need a good resource to know what parts can and cannot be used. And some plants use different parts for different properties.
Q: Can I use oils, or does it have to be the plant itself? Can I use other things that herbs and oils?
Yes, oils can be used, but they are extremely concentrated so need to be mixed with a carrier oil such as olive, sunflower, grapeseed, etc. to be used safely. You can use other ingredients as well; I love to use honey in my incense blends!
Q: What's the difference between aromatherapy, herbal medicine, and herbal Magick?
Aromatherapy uses the same concepts as medicine and magick, however aromatherapy quality oils are essential oils heavily diluted (around 2% Essential oil and 98% Carrier Oil). Herbal Magick works on an energetic and spiritual level where the main goal is not intending to affect change in the body, whereas Herbal Medicine is the just the opposite.
Q: Is stick, cone, or loose incense better?
Stick and cone incense can be easier to use, but harder to make. I prefer loose incense because the colors and textures add to the magick for me.
Q: How do I use loose incense?
Use a heat proof object such as a cast iron cauldron, you can also use other items such as an abalone shell, however you have to put sand in it to absorb the heat. Light a charcoal block and once it has gotten a good ashy appearance all over, place a pinch of incense blend onto the block. DO NOT USE BBQ charcoal or hookah charcoal, only specific blocks made for incense.
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Q: How do I use stick & cone incense
Once the stick or cone has a bright reddish orange coal, blow out the flame and place it in a holder.
Q: Do I have to use a mortar & pestle? What equipment do I need to get started?
You really only need herbs; you do not need any fancy equipment. I prefer to use the mortar and pestle as much as possible so my energy is more directly absorbed into it while I grind the herbs, but you can also use an electric grinder. You can crumble the herbs in your hands, cut them up with scissors, or whatever works. I do not recommend plastic or metal as they can both react to the herbs and oils. I use paper bowls to mix blends in and then use the bowls for fire starters.
Q: What are some good beginner books?
“The Herb Book” by John Lust
“Cunningham’s Encyclopedia of Magical Herbs” by Scott Cunningham
“The Secret Teachings of Plants: The Intelligence of the Heart in the Direct Perception of Nature” by Stephen Harrod Buhner
“Rodale's Illustrated Encyclopedia of Herbs” by Rodale Press
"The Green Witch: Your Complete Guide to the Natural Magic of Herbs, Flowers, Essential Oils, and More" by Arin Murphy-Hiscock
"The Modern Herbal Dispensatory: A Medicine-Making Guide" by Thomas Easley
“Rosemary Gladstar's Medicinal Herbs: A Beginner's Guide: 33 Healing Herbs to Know, Grow, and Use” by Rosemary Gladstar