HERBS; Medicinal, Magical & Metaphysical

The study of herbs could take many lifetimes and there are a lot of sub categories and "herbal adjacent" things to study besides how they heal physically. As with life itself, the physical, mental and spiritual can all be healed and enhanced using herbs and there are a wide variety of ways, from teas and tinctures to Rootwork in the Hoodoo or in the Gypsy tradition and even to the use of entheogens, to explore. This zone is meant to be open to ALL of those avenues of study and discussion. DISCLAIMER None of the information presented here is meant to replace medical treatment. Only use herbs as medicine if you know what you are doing, not if you just THINK you know what you’re doing, if you’re wrong there can be negative side effects. Improper use of herbs, just as improper use of prescription drugs, can harm or kill. Remember, natural doesn't always mean safe. Cross reference at least three reliable sources of information before taking an herb. Be sure about dosage and longevity...
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      • SoulFish
        SoulFish published a new thought: 'MEDICINAL HERBS: Liniments'

        MEDICINAL HERBS: Liniments

        Liniments are herbal extracts that are rubbed into the skin over areas of soreness caused by strained muscles and ligaments.  They also help with inflammation and arthritis. Generally they will include some combination of herbs that stimulate to get the blood moving, antispasmodic herbs and aromatic herbs to penetrate into the muscles and increase circulation.

        One can make a liniment by placing 4oz of dried herbs or double that if they are bruised, fresh herbs. Add 1 pint of vinegar, alcohol or massage oil and allow to extract. Shake the bottle a few times a day for three days if you used powdered herbs and fifteen if you used herbs that were whole or cut.

        There are so many varieties of ways to make liniment it could fill volumes, the best way to make one that works best for you is experimentation.


        • SoulFish
          SoulFish added a new discussion topic Medicinal Herbs; Ways to take them.

          Hi-Ho. I'm adding quick blurbs about various ways one can take herbs as medicine. I figure that is one of the less complicated and first questions one might ask. I've already added info on the following: Electuaries Fomentations Herbal Capsules Teas; Infusions and Concoctions I still have plans to add blurbs about smoking herbs, liniments, oils, making pills, poultices, salves, syrups, tinctures and varied food as medicine like congee and kitcharee. What have I missed? Want me to add something? Want to know but don't want to do the research? Let me help!  
          • SoulFish
            SoulFish published a new thought: 'MEDICINAL HERBS: Herbal Capsules'

            MEDICINAL HERBS: Herbal Capsules

            It used to be the only kind of capsules one could get were gelatin, animal product. These days vegetarian capsules are available too. There are three main reasons to take herbs in capsule form cited in Way of Herbs by Michael Tierra, they are:

            • When the herbs are to be taken in small amounts; one-half to three grams at a time.
            • When the herbs are bitter tasting or mucilaginous.
            • When the herbs are to be taken over a long period of time.

            For best absorption by the body it's good to take them with a meal or with a cup of water or herbal tea. It's also important that the herbs are powdered. Some are lighter and will powder in a coffee grinder, some you may have to purchase powdered, they have to be powdered finely enough to be absorbed by the body properly.

            To make the capsules just blend the herbs together in a bowl and then fill both sides of the capsule with the powdered herbs. When both sides are filled, push them together.

            It isn't a good idea to use capsules for mild herbs since the dose required would be difficult to take in such small quantities. Of course, some mucilaginous herbs are the exception to that rule since capsules are the best way to take them. Bear in mind that mixing mild herbs with potent ones can diminish the potency of the strong herbs and the mild herbs will not present in sufficient quantity to be effective.

            There are a lot of variables to consider when taking into account potency and quantity and dosage, among other things. Much also depends on the ailment being treated and the herbs, such as whether they are root, bark , leaf or flower.

            • SoulFish
              SoulFish published a new thought: 'MEDICINAL HERBS: Fomentation; aka- Compress'

              MEDICINAL HERBS: Fomentation; aka- Compress


              Sometimes really strong herbs cannot be taken internally, that is when a fomentation or more commonly called, a compress, can be used. To make one is simple, make a strong tea, dip and absorbent cloth in it and place it over the affected area as hot as you can tolerate. A flannel blanket can be put over that and even a hot water bottle. Using heat allows for these herbs to be absorbed by the body slowly and in smaller amounts. I remember making compresses using my daughters cloth diapers, they worked better than anything else I used. I also used her little flannel baby blankets when she was done with them.

              Fomentations are used to treat superficial ailments like swellings, pain, cold and flu. Generally speaking  you wouldn't want to use a hot treatment like this in a hot condition but it's great to stimulate the blood and lymph and reduce inflammation to restore warmth to cold joints. If some part of the body has been weakened and you are trying to build it back up you can alternate this heat treatment with a shorter application of cold. Heat will relax the body and open the pores, cold will stimulate the body and cause contraction. This alteration revitalizes the area.

              A compress can also be made a little more mobile by wrapping the cloth around the herbs and tying it off, it may not penetrate as deeply but for a sprain or something like that, it's perfect.

              • SoulFish
                SoulFish published a new thought: 'MEDICINAL HERBS: Electuaries'

                MEDICINAL HERBS: Electuaries

                An electuary is used when you have to give herbs that don't taste very good to children. To make the herbs more palatable they are mixed with something sweet such as honey, syrup or even peanut butter, it's the "teaspoon of sugar" that helps the medicine go down.

                An electuary is made pasty, it can be made into little bite sized goodies or it can be spreadable and put on toast or an apple or even just taken by the spoonful. One example in Michael Tierra's repertoire is enticing a child to take cayenne in a bit of peanut butter coated in honey.

                Of course, there are the more fancy varieties, like these chocolate mini cupcakes with nettle frosting...


                • SoulFish
                  SoulFish published a new thought: 'MEDICINAL HERBS: Simples'

                  MEDICINAL HERBS: Simples

                  To try "simples" is to just use one herb. I have done this when I want to pinpoint what a specific herb does so I can use it or not use it when I am making a formula. It's also a good way to deconstruct a complicated formula into something simpler or reverse engineer a mystery formula.

                  I have always done a simple using the herb in tincture form. As a tincture I can take it for a long enough time to feel and document its effects over a course of three weeks or so.

                  There's a lot I like about tinctures. One thing is that as you macerate the herb in whatever menstrum you choose the mixture is in a large jar. I go to shake it every day for the two to four weeks or so that it's macerating and I have an index card with information about the herb in the jar that I can read while I'm shaking it. Doing this helps me to remember the properties and uses of the herb, among other things. I found it useful when I was younger to learn and now it's useful as I'm older to remember.

                  As to the menstrum, some folks don't like alcohol. I do. It does the job better and I don't like the taste of glycerin. When my daughter was just little I could give tinctures macerated in alcohol to her as well by simply burning off the alcohol in a bit of boiling water.

                  There is more information on tinctures elsewhere in this tribe, In the meantime, I want to be clear, there are a lot of ways to make simples and the best way to find what is best for you is to just do it, it's a great way to get to know an herb, and then another, and another, and another.....

                  • SoulFish
                    SoulFish published a new thought: 'MEDICINAL HERBS: Tea- Infusions and Decoctions'

                    MEDICINAL HERBS: Tea- Infusions and Decoctions

                    I don't need to go on and on about how to make tea, it's a pretty simple process. Here are a few points to make note of though, just as a reminder.

                    • With dried herbs, cut and sifted is best as is loose bulk. If you purchase them in bulk, each separate, it opens the door for you to make your own formulas specific to your own needs and to test "simples."
                    • With fresh herbs it's good to bruise them a bit to release the properties within. This can be done by rubbing them between your hands, I've torn them a time or two. One can also use a mortar and pestle.
                    • Best to use a non-metallic container, so glass, ceramic, enamel. There are a lot of ways to do it these days since more and more folks are drinking tea. I've used a coffee press to great effect.
                    • Some folks will say it's better not to use tap water, this is especially applicable if you know the tap water in your area is less than stellar.

                    There are two main methods when preparing medicinal tea: Infusion and Decoction

                    INFUSION: When you are using the "softer" parts of the plant such as the flowers or soft leaves you would make an infusion. Infusions are also more known to tap into the volatile oils in herbs, this is prevalent in teas like mint and eucalyptus. This is just a fancy way of saying your steeping tea. Bring the water to a rolling boil, pour it over the herbs, cover it and let it sit for about 15 minutes.

                    DECOCTION: When you're using thicker leaves, roots, barks, stems and such a decoction is appropriate. A decoction will draw out the deeper essences of the plant. In this case, you simmer the herbs for about an hour, about half the water will evaporate off. You will end up with a strong, concentrated medicinal tea.

                    COMBINING: If you are using all parts of a plant, the soft as well as the thicker bits, make a decoction first with the thicker bits. Next, make your infusion but rather than pouring water over the soft leaves and flowers for the steeping process, pour the decoction over it and let it steep.

                    PROPORTIONS:  Generally speaking teas of any kind are stronger when being used for medicine than if your just having tea and biscuits with a pal. Also, if using tea as a course of treatment you will likely be taking it more than once a day, you can make it in batches and leave unused portions in the refrigerator for about 3 days. The general proportion for herbal medicinal tea is 1 oz. of dried herbs to 1 pint of water, some of that water, of course will be absorbed by the herbs.

                    If you are using fresh hers it is recommended to double the amount of herb since a lot of the weight of a fresh herb is water.

                    • SoulFish
                      SoulFish published a new thought: 'The Purge; A Story About a Healer'

                      The Purge; A Story About a Healer
                      I saw a movie recently, I cannot remember the name of the movie but I do remember it was very "Hallmark Special" in theme and presentation. It was one of the characters in the movie that caught my eye and kept me watching despite the overall Hallmarkiness of the thing. The character was an elder, a medicine woman, though I doubt she would have called herself that. I associate her with that title because her methods of healing match that name better than any other I can come up with. She was a healer, a mid-wife, an herbalist and a spiritualist. As that is the type of healing I myself am most interested in, I was intrigued.

                      The story goes that this "medicine woman" has a granddaughter who has been learning from her since she could walk, helping her with home visits and such. At one of these visits the young girl sees someone die. Being a bit young for such things the overall experience turned out to be a bit traumatic for her. Now bear in mind that this child has helped with births and with wounds and puss-filled infections, so she is no stranger to some of what the human body is capable of. Death, however is a different kind of experience for her and she seeks the council of her grandmother after seeing a person die and go through the process of what her grandmother calls “purging.”
                      Grandmother: "When someone foams at the mouth upon dying it indicates a great back-jam of truths and desires and wishes that they never spoke, purging spills it out of 'em."
                      Granddaughter: "Like a dead man saying he's sorry?"
                      Grandmother: "yes"
                      Inevitably the girl gets older and by the time she becomes a young woman the grandmother dies. As she delivers the eulogy the young woman makes note of how her granny never purged. "She always said exactly what was on her mind and never regretted anything she ever did." While that might be a sound enough story to make a movie out of, especially a feel-good Hallmark vehicle that drops you off in Sunny Valley, it isn't real. By now the average person has seen or heard that there is a physiological reaction when a person dies, whether they have regrets or not. Whether they always spoke their mind or held on to secrets galore physiology is physiology. Are there exceptions? Of course, but there is no direct evidence that they are related to whether or not a person lived their life adhering to any specific theology.  

                      Of course for the totally tactless this is great news. It means you've been right all along, speak your mind without hesitation, forget about tact or respect, whether it be self respect or respect for whomever you are interacting with. On the other hand, it only takes a few test runs to see that more is achieved through conversation than through confrontation and by using tact and demonstrating respect things tend toward the conversational. In this overly cynical world full of overly sensitive people more used to communicating on screen than in person, it is more than ever before important to remember how to communicate in a way conducive to growth rather than stagnation.

                      As it relates to the context here the idea is that if "purging" as the grandmother describes it were a real thing, clearly whether or not a person would purge upon death would rely heavily on how they lived their life. A big part of that is how people treat other people, how they communicate with them. If you purge because you regret how you treated people and treated people the way you did so you wouldn't have regrets there is a problem. It all comes back to how people treat one another. Always saying what's on your mind can be a good thing or a bad thing depending upon how things are carried out. Being free of regret is a choice but is it one that makes you a sociopath or simply a cautious person? A person who doesn't care enough to have regret or a person who thinks before they act and takes the best action bearing in mind others as well as themselves when considering consequence. At the end of the day It's simply a matter of not doing things one might later regret, generally that means thinking before acting. Simple.
                      • SoulFish
                        SoulFish published a new thought: 'Mistletoe'


                        Mistletoe will grow and has been found on almost any deciduous tree preferring those with soft bark, most commonly, old apple trees. It is also found on Ash, Hawthorne and Lime to name a few. It is an evergreen parasitic plant and grows on the branches of its host forming pendent bushes 2 to 5 feet in diameter. It has a woody stem with small leaves growing in pairs and flowers that are usually found in threes and have both female and male parts. When storing mistletoe it is recommended to remove the berries and store them separately as they are far more toxic than the leaves.

                        Mistletoe has been used in the treatment of high blood pressure and hardening of the arteries. It is said to calm the convulsions of epilepsy and other nervous disorders and to treat hemorrhage, severe headache and menstrual difficulties particularly excessive bleeding and painful cramps. It also improves circulation.  The berries have been used externally to make a wash used in treating oily skin and acne. The berries aren’t recommended or internal use as they are highly toxic. Mistletoe is also being used in the treatment of cancer.

                        There is wonderful lore surrounding this herb, particularly among the Druidic priesthood. It is a fertility herb, an aphrodisiac, an herb of protection and a visionary herb. It is also associated with immortality and rebirth. The wood has been used in the making of wands and to fashion the handle for ritual knives. Since mistletoe is thought to banish evil and negativity it was often hung over the doorway to protect and bring harmony to the home. It is thought that the best time to gather this herb if the intention is to use it magically is Midsummer and household amulets are hung at Midwinter. To Druids the plant was so sacred they gathered it with a gold blade. They would spread white cloth on the ground so the trimmings would not come into contact with the ground. Because it retained its fresh green color it acquired its association with fertility and immortality.

                        As a fertility herb it can be used to bring fertility for either a would-be child or for a personal project of creativity.  The berries represent sexual potency and are used with frequency in amulets for heightened sexual experiences. Kissing under the mistletoe is likely the most well known tradition related to this herb. This tradition was not meant to get out of hand. To prevent abuses the original custom held that a man might steal a kiss under the hanging branch but when he did he was to remove a berry from the plant. Once the berries were gone, the kissing charm of the branch was spent. As a magical herb mistletoe can be used in any positive working.

                        • SoulFish
                          SoulFish published a new thought: 'The Barefoot Doctors of China'

                          The Barefoot Doctors of China
                          In some countries there are shortages of health care professionals for the main populace. In fact there are countries that have as few as 10 doctors for every 100,000 people and I won’t even begin to expound upon the fact that in some countries the only reason people cannot get health care is because they are low income or uninsured. When China faced the problem of health care not reaching rural areas its government came up with a solution, train the peasants to treat the peasants and thus the term Barefoot Doctor originated in China in the 1960’s.
                          Despite some coordinated efforts in their past, medical care was simply not reaching the rural areas of China. The fact that urban trained doctors didn’t settle in rural areas only exacerbated the problem. In China the ball started rolling in 1945 on the eve of the communist revolution. Party leaders, including Mao Zedong, knew that improving the health of peasants was integral to increasing agricultural production. Mao Zedong, the then Chairman of the Communist Party of China, was a critic of the urban bias of medicine and said as much in the Health Care speech he delivered in 1965. Mao's revolution was struggling in 1965 and with his launch of the Cultural Revolution he expanded the idea of health for the masses ordering that, "In health and medical work, put the stress on rural areas." With that, China's "barefoot doctors" were brought to light.

                          By 1968 the Barefoot Doctors program was integrated into public policy. Barefoot Doctors were farmers who received basic paramedical training and worked the rural areas of China. The name comes from southern farmers who would often work barefoot in the rice paddies. In the spirit of community and with the interests of good health both mentally and physically the Barefoot Doctors of China were part of a cultural revolution. Serving rural communities in China this way even lowered health care costs. Of course there are times when western medicine is really the only option but there is much we can learn about attending to ourselves when it comes to acute conditions. It is also fairly easy to treat oneself using herbs and other things that are easy to come by, like a potato or even a spiderweb among other household things.

                          "It is more important to know what sort of person has a disease than to know what sort of disease a person has."
                          ~Hippocrates (460-377 B.C.)
                          • SoulFish
                            SoulFish published a new thought: 'TCM: Traditional Chinese Medicine'

                            TCM: Traditional Chinese Medicine

                            For several years I studied TCM and it was one of the most insightful things I ever did. I graduated from the school I attended feeling empowered with a knowledge of how to better understand my own physical body as well as my emotions. TCM impacted me in a profound way and still does. I had already been studying Herbalism for many years prior to taking on TCM and the two went together beautifully. Of course I began categorizing my Western herbs according to the Eastern style I had learned in school.

                            Five Elements Theory

                            The Five Elements theory positions metal, wood, water, fire, and earth, as the basic elements of the material world. These five elements are in constant movement and change. As well, the complex connections between material objects are explained via the interactions and mutual restraints that regulate these elements. In traditional Chinese medicine the Five Elements theory is used to interpret the relationship between the physiology and pathology of the human body and the natural environment.

                            The Five Element theory is based on the observation of the natural cycles and relationships in both our environment and within ourselves. The foundation of the theory focuses in the communication between each element to a variety of phenomena. Common correspondences are provided in the following chart:

                            This chart is from here






















                            Indian Summer




                            Blue Green





                            INJURIOUS CLIMATE






                            YIN ORGAN



                            Spleen- Pancreas


                            Kidneys- endocrine

                            YANG ORGAN

                            Gall Bladder

                            Small Intestine


                            Large Intestine








                            BODY PART



                            Flesh- Muscles


















                            Sing Song



                            SPIRITUAL QUALITIES











                            Fear- Paranoia



















                            A lot to take in….

                            The above is the tip of a very large iceberg, there is so much to the TCM 5 element theory and most of it is related more to herbalism and acupuncture but can be applied to so much more. You can see how TCM links things together, how the system treats all life as interconnected and how balance plays a role in that. If one system gets out of balance it can affect another system.

                            “Balance” has become a buzz word these days, like the word “energy” it has lost much of its true meaning to over and improper use. I have even heard people argue that balance isn’t something one should strive for, that balance is stagnant or boring. I see their point, by THEIR definition of balance that might very well be true. However, the definition as it pertains to keeping these associations within the body and mind in balance, is quite the opposite. Keeping the bodily and mental associations of TCM in balance is hardly boring, if anything it is one of the most challenging tasks a person who can handle it can take on. It is an every day, every minute and for the rest of your life challenge. Hardly stagnant!


                            • SoulFish
                              SoulFish published a new thought: 'MEDICINAL HERBS; Properties List'

                              MEDICINAL HERBS; Properties List

                              Herbal Properties/Medicinal

                              Below is a list of definitions. Often when we refer to medicinal uses of herbs properties are listed that might need definition, this list is meant to provide that. The following is a basic list, there are many more properties that I may have left out for now. Questions? Ask in the comments.

                              ABORTIFICANT: Induces abortion.

                              ADAPTOGEN: Helps the body adapt to stress.

                              ALTERATIVE: Detoxifies via chemical reaction or through enhancement of a normal detoxifying or eliminative function restoring normal bodily functions.

                              ANALGESIC: Relieves pain.

                              ANHYDROTIC: Stops sweating.

                              ANODYNE: Applied externally it relieves pain.

                              ANTHELMINTIC: Eliminates internal (especially intestinal) parasites.

                              ANTIBIOTIC: Stops growth of bacteria.

                              ANTIEMETIC: Relieves nausea; stops vomitting.

                              ANTI-INFLAMMATORY: Counteracts inflammation.

                              ANTI-PRURITIC: Relieves itching.

                              ANTI-PYRETIC: Relieves fever.

                              ANTI-SPASMODIC: Relieves spasms.

                              ANTI-TUSSIVE: Prevents or reduces coughing and/or vomitting.

                              APERIENT: Mild laxative.

                              AROMATIC: Contains odorous volatile oils.

                              ASTRINGENT: Firms tissues and organs as well as reducing discharges and secretions.

                              CALMATIVE: Soothes and sedates.

                              CARDIAC: Assists the heart.

                              CARMINATIVE: Relieves intestinal gas; promotes parastalsis.

                              CATHARTIC: An extreme purgative.

                              CHOLOGOGUE: Promotes bile secretion

                              DEMULCENT: Lubricates tissues.

                              DEPURATIVE: Purifies blood.

                              DIAPHORETIC:Causes persperation

                              DIGESTANT: Promotes digestion.

                              DIURETIC: Causes urination.

                              EMMENAGOGUE: Promotes menses.

                              EMOLLIENT: Softens tissues.

                              FEBRIFUGE: Reduces fever.

                              GALACTAGOGUE: Promotes lactation.

                              HEMOSTATIC: Stops bleeding.

                              HEPATIC: Promotes the health of the Liver.

                              HYPNOTIC: Powerful sedative.

                              LAXATIVE: Promotes bowel movement.

                              LITHOTRIPTIC: Dissolves or discharges urinary or biliary stones.

                              NERVINE: Strengthens functional activity of the nervous system; calming.

                              NUTRITIVE: Nourishes the body.

                              OPHTHALMIC: Treats the eyes.

                              PARTURIENT: Assists or induces labor.

                              PECTORAL: Affects the bronchopulmonary area.

                              PROPHYLACTIC: Prevents dis-ease.

                              PURGATIVE: Causes a strong bowel evacuation.

                              REFRIGERANT: Reduces temperature.

                              RUBEFACIENT: Dilates the capillaries, can cause a red, flushed appearance.

                              SEDATIVE: Induces sleep.

                              SIALAGOGUE: Promotes the secretion of saliva.

                              STIMULANT: Increases internal heat and enhances organ functions.

                              STOMACHIC: Relieves stomach problems.

                              STYPTIC: Stops bleeding.

                              TONIC: Strengthens vital functions.

                              VASODILATOR: Dilates the lood vessels.

                              VERMICIDE: Destroys worms.

                              VERMIFUGE: Expels or repels intestinal worms.

                              VULNERARY: Promotes the healing of wounds.