Herbal Incense A common question I hear is "What do I do with herbs?" I'm going to assume (for now) that you know you can cook with them. If not, grab the closest copy of Betty Crocker and peruse the pages. Virtually everything in your spice rack is an herb! From there, let's look at some of their medicinal and magical uses.
Herbal incense smoke First, what is an "herb"? The dictionary defines an herb as a non-woody plant that produces seeds, like Peppermint. My current definition goes a little further than that and includes not only leaves, but flowers, fruits, stems, roots, barks, mosses, seaweeds, and even the sap of certain trees.
One of the confusing things about using herbs is the common name. If you're truly interested in herbs, either medicinally or magically, I encourage you to start learning the Latin binomials. These are unique, two-name identifiers given to each plant, and if you use them, you won't confuse yourself, or anyone else for that matter. Common names vary from region to region and country to country and you really don't want to use Monarda fistulosa where you wanted Melissa officinalis - both are known colloquially as "Balm". They do share some of the same properties, but not all, and are not in the same botanical family.
Second, what is "herb (or plant) medicine"? Most indigenous cultures don't differentiate between the medicinal and magical properties of herbs. The medicine man may give you a tea to drink or an amulet made of herbs to carry for an upset stomach - it depends on his perception of the problem. Today's most commonly-used definition means using herbs to help (but not necessarily "cure") physical illness.
Herbal incense smoke I am always amused when herbal medicine and other practices are referred to as "alternative" medicine. It's original medicine! Traditional Chinese Medicine is more than 5,000 years old, and Indian Ayurvedic medicine isn't that much younger. Before the 1930's in the Western world, man principally relied on herbs to heal what ailed them. (We won't go into the use of leeches.) Most people didn't travel very far and UPS certainly didn't deliver door-to-door, so one used what was growing in the yard or along the sides of fields or roads, what the local apothecary stocked, or what they could trade for. Many people had a "kitchen" garden and grew plants they knew not only tasted good, but were good for you. Then science came along and decided they could better what Mother Nature had already provided. Sometimes science is better, sometimes it's not.
Herbal Incense medicine isn't as easy as taking a pill your doctor prescribes but, for the most part, it doesn't come with all the nasty little side effects. It's not a miracle cure, either. Herbs don't cure the illness; they help fix whatever caused the illness in the first place. Natural practitioners use herbs and other methods to bring the bodily systems back into proper balance so that the imbalance that caused you to get sick in the first place isn't there anymore. Like changing the socket instead of just a bulb to get the lamp to work again, it takes a little longer.
As with prescription drugs, herbs can pose some problems. For example, if you had a ragweed allergy, I would caution you about using Feverfew or Calendula to help an issue. All three plants are in the same family and you just might be allergic to all. Some herbs can be dangerous if used improperly. Herbs can also interact (sometimes unfavorably) with prescription drugs.
Your doctor may prescribe a drug and tell you, "let's try this. If it doesn't work, call me and we'll try something else." Herbs also need to be experimented with to find the ones that work. Your body is very unique and what works for me may not be right for you. As an example, most people fall asleep when they take Valerian but for some it's like taking a stimulant.
One thing I will caution you if you decide to get involved in Herbal Incense medicine - talk with your primary care physician first. If he/she isn't interested in natural alternatives, consider a second opinion. My personal opinion is that allopathic (or conventional) and herbal medicine can be mutually beneficial. And don't go off any medication until you've spoken with a medical practitioner!
Above all, don't try to self-medicate with herbs if your problem is a serious one. Unless you're familiar with all the therapeutic properties and possible interactions, you could be cooking up a cocktail that, while not deadly, could make you feel worse than you already do. If you're unsure, consult a qualified naturopathic physician or Herbal Incense .
Magically, herbs are used to strengthen spells. Their energies combine with yours to make the spell more powerful than you would be on your own. Just as in a medicinal context, herbs can have more than one property (or energy), and you need to experiment to see what works for you.
So, to answer the question, "What do you do with a bag of dried or fresh herbs, or what's growing in your yard?" Either medicinally or magically you can:
Herbal incense smoke Absorb them through poultices, creams or ointments applied to the skin, bathing in herb-infused water, or absorbing the energies from a sachet or amulet carried with you;
Ingest them through food, a capsule stuffed with ground herbs, a tea or tincture (an alcoholic extract); or
Inhale them through the smoke of a smudged (smoldered) herb or incense, the vapors of an oil-enhanced humidifier, or the perfume of potpourri, a scented candle or warmed oil.
Go dig through your spice rack, grab a good starter book on herbs and see how you can use herbs to enhance your everyday life!