Herbal on Patreon

Hello folks! Just a shout out that on my Patreon page, on top of other benefits that I’m offering there is also an herbal which I add to each and every month (at the Extra-Special Thanks and also Deepest Gratitude tier). This month I’m looking at one of my favourite trees: beech. I thought I’d share this post with you all here on my blog page, in case you are interested in joining me on my Patreon community page as well!

BEECH

(Fagus Sylvatica)

Beech is a tree that, for some reason, often gets overlooked in many modern and magical herbals. It is not part of the Druid tree ogham, and shows up rarely in other Pagan herbals. As an indigenous British tree, I feel that we need to include the beech once again in our herbal grimoires, and honour this most beautiful and magnificent being.

According to Mrs Grieve, the word beech is thought to derive from the Germanic language and refers to  the word “book”. It’s thought that early books were made from beech. Maybe this is why the Druids didn’t include it in their tree ogham? As members of an oral tradition, this might be one use that they’re not terribly comfortable with…

It’s one of our largest and most gorgeous trees. It spreads its canopy and isn’t afraid to shine. In the autumn especially, we see its enchanting beauty as the chlorophyll retreats and the golden leaves begin to glow in the late, slanting sunlight. They then turn to a beautiful, rust colour if they’re not blown away by the autumn winds. The pale grey, smooth trunks stand in silent glory, with little to no undergrowth beneath them to mar their stately splendour. They are truly magical beings, and always make me think of the Fair folk, of the elven wood of Lothlorien in Tolkein’s work, these majestic and proud trees.

Beech wood was often used in the making of chairs, wooden panels for furniture, carpenter’s planes and charcoal for gunpowder. But it’s not just the wood that is useful: the nuts (mast) were very valuable for owners of livestock who grazed their animals in the woods and under these trees on the village common. Like acorns, beech nuts are very nutritious for pigs, and the wild deer, squirrels and badgers are also very fond of them. The whole nuts are not good for human consumption, but the oil extracted from them is used in cooking on the continent. You can also use the oil as a furniture polish.

The tar has been used medicinally as an antiseptic, and also for treating chronic bronchitis. You can also make a liquer from the young leaves (pick them before midsummer). Here is a recipe from Anna Franklin: Fill a jar with them, top up with your favourite spirit (for me, that’s gin) and leave for 10 days. Then and add a pound of sugar per pint of spirit, dissolving the sugar over a low heat but do not boil off the alcohol. Bottle, let it sit for three months to a year, and enjoy!

For magical purposes, beech can be used in spells to enhance one’s appearance, or in spells that call for strength, grace, or adaptability. You can use beech to consecrate your Book of Shadows, or even better, use slats of beech wood as the covers! I also think that beech is a great tree to connect to the Fair Folk, though this is from personal experience, and not something that is written down in any lore.

References:

Grive, M. A Modern Herbal, Cresset Press, 1992

Franklin, A. The Hearth Witch’s Compendium, Llewellyn, 2018

Book review: Wicca Herbal Magic by Lisa Chamberlain

Wicca Herbal Magic: A Beginner’s Guide to Herbal Spellcraft is another fine installment from Lisa Chamberlain in her series of books on Wicca. This one, as several others, is published by Sterling in their “Mystic Library”, a series of lovely introductory hardcover pocket books. I’ve reviewed two others in this series, and this latest one does not disappoint. I adore hardcover books, and the little pocket sizes are excellent for those just starting on the path. They provide enough content to give a basic grounding in the subject, as well as a beautiful layout that really pleases the eye and captures and reflects the written contents of the book. I love these little books!

Lisa Chamberlain’s writing is excellent, as ever.* I liked the way that this book was laid out in three sections. The first is “The Ancient Art of Herbalism”, which contains a kind of short history of herbalism and its shamanic practices, as well as a look at the ancient system of correspondences and the aspects of Hermetics that relate to working with plants (and indeed many magical systems).

The second part of the book, the practical section, looks at thirteen herbs that can be used magically (as well as some of the better-known physical benefits that these provide). Most of these herbs many people already have in their cupboards or in their gardens, such as basil, bay laurel, cinnamon, dandelion, nutmeg, rosemary, sage and thyme. It shows us how we can work with herbs that have a long history in magical works, and without breaking the bank. On top of this, we have some wonderful tips on purchasing herbs, creating a magical garden, foraging, drying and storing herbs and how to use them magically (such as charging herbs before putting them to work).

Part three is an herbal grimoire, with recipes for magical teas which anyone can work with, magical baths, herb and candle spells, smudging, making oils and more. There are also rituals in this section such as blessings. At the end of this work, there is a brief overview of how to work with herbs in relation to astrology, which if you work with natal charts, the zodiac or planetary energy is perfect.

There are also handy tables of correspondences for quick reference at the end of the book.

All in all, this is a great little book to get you started working with our herbal allies. At just over 100 pages, it is not overwhelming and is easy to take in. Lisa’s writing style is informal but impeccable, and makes you want to learn more, try out the recipes and spells and get more involved with the work as a whole. It’s a great little gift for anyone interested in magical herbalism. I’ve been working with herbs for many years now, and I learned some new things in this book – with witchcraft, magic and herbalism, you never stop learning!

*For those in the Pagan community who still (wrongly) profess that Lisa Chamberlain is not a real person, (and the books are written by ghostwriters) it’s time to stop. She is real, she is lovely and I’ve spoken to her. It’s time this misinformation ends. She is a prolific writer, and good on her!

My herbal blog – it’s been a while!

After a busy autumn, winter and spring I’ve finally had a chance to put up a new blog post on one of my other blogs, The Druid Herbalist. Do check it out and feel free to subscribe to be kept up to date on all future posts!

Herbs for the Heart

With the hawthorn in full bloom, it’s time to celebrate the wonderful properties that hawthorn and other herbs can provide for our circulatory system. As always, please talk to a qualified herbalist before taking any medicine, as there may be contraindications, especially if you are pregnant or are already on medication.

Welcome in the May!

Hawthorn (Crataegus oxycanthus) – leaf, blossom and berry

Hawthorn is a good heart tonic, beta blocker, protects the heart muscle, prevents heart attacks, is a vaso-dilator (peripheral), helps promote sleep and is the best herb for blood circulation.  It regulates low blood pressure, steadies the heartbeat and lowers cholesterol.  It contains chemical compounds that keep blood vessels open, and it vital where vessels lack tone and are inert due to fatty or calcium deposits.  It lessens pain in the heart and adjacent areas, re-elasticates blood vessel walls (through rutin), rebuilds collagen fibres in outer layers of vessels and is a powerful anti-oxidant, as well as being rich in vitamin C.  It reduces inflammation, relaxes the smooth muscles of the uterus, intestines and other areas to relieve congestion and reduces water retention (bloating before period).  It also aids digestion and eases sore throats.

This herb is to be used as a tea, syrup (berries) and as a tincture.

*Not to be used with other beta-blockers or heart drugs/herbs. Please consult a qualified herbalist if on heart/blood pressure medication of any kind.

 

Cayenne (Capsicum annum) – fruit

Cayenne is a brilliant styptic (stops blood flow from wounds). It equalises blood pressure and is good for heart attack or stroke victim recovery as it strengthens the heart and improves circulation. It dilates the arteries and protects from damage. It aids in heat tolerance, stimulates endorphins and is a good treatment for migraines (prevention and cure).  It also reduces the tendency for blood clots. It aids digestion, is a cathartic and also relieves sore throats.

This herb can be used in cooking, in capsule form (powder) or as a tincture (HOT!).

*There are contra-indications with this herb, especially for asthma sufferers.

Click HERE to read about more herbs for the heart and to see the full article.

Materia Medica

Working on my materia medica, creating my own herbal as part of my 2 year journey with Herbcraft professional diploma course, associated with the Association of Natural Medicine.  Here’s the second herb I chose for my own personal herbal – if you’re interested in the green and growing world, come one down to my other blog at The Druid Herbalist!

NETTLE (Urtica Dioica)
Plant Family: (Hamamelids)
nettle-topsParts Used:
Leaves, buds, rhizomes and roots.

Collection season: early spring for leaves and buds until they flower, seeds and roots in autumn.

Soil and Environment: Universal throughout British Isles and most of temperate world, found in forests, woods, river banks, under shrubs and bushes, wasteland – pretty much anywhere. Thrives in nitrogen-rich soil.
Propagation:
Wind-pollinated perennial.

Description:
Up to 5ft tall, with long jagged edge to shield-shape leaf that comes to point at tip. Stinging hairs along leaves and square stalks. Small, creamy-green flowers in long strands, seeds not long after flowering.

Nettle 1History:
An Anglo-Saxon sacred herb (wergulu) and used in medieval times as beer to treat rheumatism. Tibetans believe their sage and poet, Milarep (AD 10252-1135) lived on nettle soup until he turned green. Nettle tops were used as a rennet substitute in cheese-making as they turned milk sour. There are around 500 species of nettle.

Chemical constituents:
Chlorophyll, vitamins A, B complex, C, D, E and K, folic acid, minerals, bioflavinoids, seretonin precursor.

Actions and Medicinal Uses:
Reduces fatigue, improves stamina, nourishes kidneys, adrenal glands, nourishes immune, digestive, endocrine and respiratory system, increases metabolism, normalises weight, eases/prevents rheumatism and arthritis, good for skin and hair, eases lung complaints such as asthma. Galactagogue. Eases leg cramps and muscle spasms. Reduces haemorrhoids. Anti-inflammatory, alterative, astringent, haemostatic, circulatory tonic, diurectic.

Combinations:
Can be used to “boost” many other herb actions, especially when dealing with immune system.

Usage:
Tea – 2 tsps steeped (dried) or 3 tsps (fresh) in boiled water for 5 to 10 mins three times a day. Tincture is 1 tsp twice a day.

Contraindications:
None.

Spiritual Aspects:
Protection, self-respect, resiliency and flexibility. Teaches of healthy boundaries while providing deep nourishment. Good meditational tea and also cleansing/purifying bath before ritual.

The Druid Herbalist

sorrel-leavesAs I have just begun my 3 year diploma course to become a professional herbalist through Herbcraft, taught by Melanie Cardwell and accredited with the Association of Natural Medicine, I plan to document my journey into the healing world of plants. If you’re interested, please join me on my dedicated blog, The Druid Herbalist – blessings of the green to you all! xoxo