Wednesday, January 3, 2007

Herbal folklore: What our ancestors believed about herbs

Since ages past, medicinal plants have been crucial in sustaining the health and wellbeing of mankind. Linseed, for example, provides its harvesters with a nutritious cooking oil, fuel, a cosmetic balm for the skin and fiber to make fabric. At the same time, it was used to treat conditions such as bronchitis, respiratory catarrh, boils and a number of digestive problems.
Given the life-enhancing benefits that this and so many other plants conferred, until the 20th century, every village and rural community had a wealth of herbal folklore. Tried and tested local plants were picked for a range of common health problems and taken as tea, applied as lotions or even mixed with lard and rubbed in as an ointment.

As they did not know the effects of the herbs, they used to watch the behavior of the animals. If it did not affect the animals in any way, then they too used to eat that particular root, leaf or berry. In this way, they were able to find out more about herbs. Gradually, a folk understanding of the magical uses of herbs became a body of "resident knowledge." In the West, the following herbs, spices and minerals are said to have the following extra-medical properties:

Alderbark: Mix with chopped onion and carry when gambling.
Angelica Root: Carry to ward off Satan's forces and to prolong life.
Anise Seed: Burn or add to incense as an aid to meditation.
Bayberry: Where there's bayberry, there's good luck and money.
Benzoin: Mix with protection incense and burn to destroy evil forces.
Blessed Thistle: Boil and add to bath for many blessings.
Buckeye Leaf: Carry for good luck and to ward off rheumatism.
Calamus: Sniff to lessen sexual desire; hang around neck to prevent colds and flu; can be used in divinatory incenses.
Catnip: Anoint feet with tea to make one courageous.
Chamomile: Tea to relax and to wash hands with before playing games of chance.
Chewing John: Carry in pocket when looking for a job.
Comfrey Leaf: Stuff a green doll with this to draw money and luck.
Corn Flower: Sprinkle on right shoe when looking for a new lover.
Devil's Shoestring: Rub on hands to control any woman totally.
Dragon's Blood: Attracts good luck; used in uncrossing.
Eucalyptus: Wards off colds and protects one while sleeping.
Fennel Seed: Aphrodisiac.
Five Finger Grass: Allegedly wards off any evil that Five Fingers can do.
Frankincense & Myrrh: Summons spirits; used in sacred ointments, oils, and incense for protection, healing, spirituality, life, and peace of mind.
Goldenseal: Tea to purify blood; sprinkle in place of business to draw more money.
Guinea Pepper: Create strife in enemy's life. [Not recommended! The pagan rule is, what you put out comes back to you a hundredfold.]
High John Root: A powerful gambling charm for big winnings.
Hops: Place under pillow for restful sleep.
Jezebel Root: Others will be generous to one who carries this.
Kelp: Insures safety for sailors, seaman and all who travel.
Lady's Thumb: Love enters the doorway where this is strewn.
Laurel Leaves: Give to a Bride to promote a long and happy union.
Lavender: Wear near the heart to draw a lover near.
Lemon Grass: Tea for lustrous hair.
Linden Flower: Entices many lovers.
Lotus Root: Wear to bring pleasant thoughts and memories.
Low John, The Conqueror: Wrap in a bill to grow more money.
Mandrake: "Wonder of the World" root protects all from harm. [Mandrake has a human shape, as in the old rhyme from John Donne: "Go and catch a falling star / Get with child a mandrake root."]
May Apple: Carry in your wallet and you will never be broke.
Mojo Wish Bean: Carry for seven days to make a wish come true.
Mugwort: Aids in astral projection when placed near the bed. ["Moggy" was the main ingredient in witches' "flying ointment," which was rubbed on, and is a hallucinogen.]
Myrrh: Healing; protects and brings peace of mind.
Nutmeg: Always carry when gambling, for luck.
Orris Root: A love symbol carried to attract the opposite sex. [Like mandrake, it resembles a human form.]
Passion Flower: Strew around doorway to keep jealousy away.
Patchouli: Burn with commanding incense to break up affairs.
Raspberry: Carry to ease pains of pregnancy and childbirth.
Rosebuds and Petals: Wear near the heart to attract men.
Rosemary: Sprinkle for luck; wear to strengthen heart and mind.
Rowan Wood: Evil has no power over the home where this is kept.
Rue: For protection; brings love into the home.
Saltpeter: Takes away an individual's power.
Sandalwood: Mix with any incense and burn for quick success.
Sassafras: Add to mojo bag for good luck.
Sea Salt: Purifies or clears energy; place on the face of a mirror on which you've put an image of a lover to force their return.
Skullcap: Women wear to keep mate safe from other's charms.
Slippery Elm: Sprinkle on a voodoo doll and bury to stop gossip.
Solomon's Seal: A pinch in all corners will exorcise evil spirits.
Spearmint: Stuff in a pillow or a mattress for protection while asleep.
Spikenard: Add a spoonful to any herb bath to enhance its effect.
Star Anise: Highly prized lucky talisman for mojo bag.
Sulfur: Burn outside door to drive away all evil influences.
Verbena: Passions rise quickly when this is nearby.
Vervain: Ancients believed this would make one's every wish come true.
Witch Hazel: Alleviates heartache; dulls passion and allays sorrow.
Wormwood: Burn with angel incense to remove hexes and curses.
Yarrow: Place under pillow and dream of one's true love.