Someone recently asked me what an herb really is? They were confused because I had talked about the healing properties of the plants in their kitchen garden, as well as those of a nearby tree. I consider them all to have herbal properties. I thought that I would write a bit about herbcraft.
What are herbs? Herbs are plants that provide medicine, therapeutic scents, healing energy and beautify our gardens. Herbs are also plants that can help us initiate healing and positive changes through magickal workings. Since the Industrial age began in the western world, herbs have been relegated to the background by "modern" cultures that are no longer living in harmony with the Earth.
A little history... Herbs have been used for thousands of years. From the first tribes' green witch/shamanic healers to the ancient Babylonians who, in approximately 3000BC, recorded on clay tablets medical treatments and from where their herbs were imported. Every culture on Earth has used herbs, since the earliest Babylonians, to China, Egypt and the Mayans. In written traditions, "herbals" became very popular in 16th century Europe. As science emerged, plants were demystified, dissected and classified. Herbals were no longer being written, in deference to the new age of science. It wasn't until 1931 that A Modern Herbal was written by Mrs. M.Grieve, which drew on both science and traditional information. This started the writing of modern herbals for an industrialized society, and the reintegration of herbs into health care practices in small communities.
Herbs today.... Most people now think of herbs as limited to the dozen or so culinary seasonings we grow in our gardens or get at the supermarket. Herbalists have always thought of herbs as any plant that is useful for healing and medicine. This includes familiar herbs such as rosemary and oregano, or other types of plants such as trees, like the white willow and cedar. Although these trees are not technically herbs, they have both magickal and medicinal properties. Herbal supplements are now found in every mass-market drugstore. Unfortunately, consumers do no look to their local herbalist or naturopath for advice and consultations. The major manufacturers of herbal supplements put a health claim on a bottle for consumers to determine their own medication needs. Herbalism is more complicated than that. Herbs aren't just like vitamins, they are medicine. People need to make informed choices. Today there are many herbal books on the market about making medicine, or using herbs in your magickal practice. Your best source of information is a trained herbalist or naturopathic physician.
I have alot of opinions about modern medicine and marketing, but I'll get off my soapbox for today!