A Beginners Guide to Herbalism

Advice to the Beginning Herbalism Student

Herbalism, like midwifery skills, is one of the oldest parts of teaching within the craft, but is also one where we have lost a huge amount of information and where science has yet to catch up. Every pagan culture has utilized the herbalism of its particular region, and I have found no one source or teacher who could possibly know about every herb that grows on the Earth. Yet today we have the opportunity to perhaps achieve this within a lifespan or two, using the electronic communications at our fingertips. Science is now slowly beginning to learn the importance of the natural herbs in healing, but they will take centuries to figure it all out because of the way they go about things, unless nudged.

The first step in herbalism is to gather the tools you will need, and that is the main point of this first message. I have found the following useful and in many cases vital to learn and practice the use of herbs.

A Good mortar and Pestle, one of stone or metal is preferred. If wood is used you will need two, one for inedibles and one for edibles — make sure they do not look identical, as you do not want to accidentally poison anyone!

Containers: Although you can buy dried herbs over the counter in many places these days, do not store them in the plastic bags they come in, as these are usually neither reusable nor perfectly airtight. Rubbermaid style plastic containers are good, but expensive. I have used glass coffee and spice jars/bottles to good effect, as well as some medicine bottles. The more you recycle the better ecologically, just make sure they have been thoroughly washed and dried before placing anything inside them.

Labels: This is vital! None of us in this day and age can possibly recognize each herb in its various forms simply by sight. Always label your containers as you fill them, and if possible date them when they were filled so you don't keep spoiled stock on the shelf.

A Tea Ball: A good metal tea ball of the single cup size can be very useful in the long run when your are experimenting, and when you are making single person doses of teas and tonics.

Cheesecloth: Useful for straining a partially liquid mixture and occasionally for the making of sachets.

A Good Sized Tea Kettle: preferably one that will hold at least a quart of water.

A Good Teapot: for simmering mixtures. I use one from a Chinese import store that has done me well.

A good cutting board and a sharp cutting knife, for just herbal work.

A notebook, of some sort to record the information in as you go, both successes and failures. Always record anything new you try that may or may not work, and also and research information you get from various sources.

An eyedropper.

White linen-style bandages: Some ace bandages are also useful in the long run.

A metal brazier, of some sort, or a metal container that can withstand heavy usage and heat from within or without, useful for several things including the making of your own incenses.

Reference sources, Shortly you should see a list of books that I have read from in the past that I consider useful, build from this as a starting point to others and to your teachers help.

That’s it to start, you'll pick the rest up as you go. Take your time studying, take lots of notes, compare your sources and your own personal results on each herb and on herbal mixtures of any kind.

Herbs Indoors

Many herbs will grow well in pots on sunny windowsills, in window boxes, hanging baskets and in tubs or barrels in a sun room or on a balcony. There should even be enough space on one large, south-facing windowsill to grow a selection of the basic flavoring herbs or a row of scented herbs that can be used for making tisanes. If you have a sun room or baloney, then four tubs planted with mixed annuals and perennials and a good proportion of evergreen herbs for winter picking could provide most of the fresh herbs needed by a small household, as well as being decorative and sweetly scented.

Light and Temperature

The first necessity is light. Few herbs suitable for indoor growing will thrive in the shade. Most need sunlight for at least half the day, so set them in a south facing window, if possible, otherwise one facing east or west. It is possible to grow herbs in a shady room under special fluorescent tubes, which should be set about six inches above the top of the plant.

Temperature is important. It is useless to attempt to grow herbs directly above a radiator or stove in an airless kitchen that is often steamy and full of fumes. Ideally, there should be warmth during the day, lower temperatures at night and some humidity. In a centrally heated house, humidity may be lacking so keep a bowl filled with water above the radiator or near the herbs. A direct draft may harm the plants though fresh air is necessary.

Clay and Plastic Pots

Plastic pots are often used today, being cheaper, lighter and less likely to break than clay. But there are some advantages in using an unglazed clay pot, the most important being that excess water will evaporate through the clay walls so the roots are not likely to become waterlogged. Drowning by over watering is the most common fate of indoor herbs. Another advantage is that the moisture content in the soil can be discovered by tapping a clay container sharply; it will give a ringing sound if the soil is too dry and a dull thud if too wet. Whether plastic or clay, the container should have an adequate drainage hole and be stood in a saucer or tray. A layer of gravel in the tray will ensure that the pot never sits in stagnant water.

Boxes and Barrels

Wooden boxes or barrels make good containers if you have the space. Boxes should be at least 10 inches deep. Saw barrels in half and use them as tubs, or cut several holes about two inches across in their sides and grow a herb from each hole. If you use a large barrel in this way, put a narrow tube of wire netting down the center from top to bottom, before filling it with earth. By watering down the tube, the moisture will spread evenly through the soil; with no tube, the lower plants may suffer from drought. Do not creosote the insides of wooden containers to sterilize them as the fumes may damage the plants, instead make a small fire of newspaper inside the container, just sufficient to char and sterilize the surface of the wood.

Hanging Baskets

To make the best use of all available space and light, plant a hanging basket with herbs, the upright species in the center and trailing mints and thymes, nasturtiums or ground ivy round the edge. Special clay bowls or wire baskets can be bought for this purpose or even an old kitchen colander will do. To contain moisture, line the wire basket thickly with sphagnum moss or hay, or with a plastic sheet, before filling it with earth.

A large, unglazed, terra-cotta bowl with six or seven two-inch holes bored in it will make an ideal hanging onion pot, if you can buy one or have one made. Fill it with earth, plant chives in the top and press the bulbs of Welsh onion into the holes. You will be able to cut the hanging green shoots throughout the winter.

Soil, Water, Food, and Care

Put a layer of broken crocks or stones in the bottom of large containers before filling them with soil and sprinkle a few spoonfuls of granulated charcoal over them to prevent the soil souring. Then, fill with a standard potting compost bought from a shop or good, loamy, garden earth mixed with a little coarse sand. Sterilize the garden earth for an hour in the oven if you wish, to kill insect eggs and weed seeds.

Be careful not to over water, especially during the winter when plans are resting and should not be stimulated into unseasonal growth. It is best to water in the morning so that excess moisture can evaporate during the day and to use only tepid water. During the summer, it may be necessary to syringe the leaves of broad- leafed herbs such as sweet basil with tepid water to prevent them from flagging. The leaves of herbs in city window boxes will also need occasional syringing to prevent their pores becoming clogged with grime and fumes.

Each spring, spread a little well-rotted compost over the earth in the herb container and water well. If any other food is needed, use a herbal fertilizing tea.

Although the restricted light and space will prevent herbs from growing as large indoors as they would outside, they will need regular cropping or trimming to keep them compact and controlled. Pinch out the center shoots to encourage bushy growth and cut off any runners. Examine the drainage hole regularly and if root fibers are showing, transfer the plant to a larger pot.

What to Grow

Many people will want to grow culinary herbs indoors that cannot be bought fresh and do not dry well. Three large pots, 12 inches in diameter, filled with the annuals, chervil, basil, and coriander, will provide a good mixture with strong, distinctive flavors. Sow their seeds directly into the pots in the spring in moist, fairly rich soil, and thin out the seedlings. The chervil and coriander will begin to shoot and grow leggy soon after midsummer, but basil, especially the compact bush basil, will continue into the winter months.

Sweet marjoram and summer savory also grow well indoors and are both annuals. For a basic supply of perennial, evergreen culinary herbs, plant thyme species, winter savory, a clump of Welsh onions and the prostrate rosemary. Decorative dwarf golden sage can be included, and the biennial parsley. None of these are invasive herbs and can be planted together, but mint needs a pot of its own and plenty of moisture. If you have room for a deep tub or barrel on a balcony or roof, then it may be possible to grow tall herbs such as angelica, deep-rooted caraway or horseradish; otherwise these species are obviously unsuitable for indoor growing.

Another series of pots or a large box could be used for growing herbs for tisanes. Plant peppermint and lemon balm (whose roots may need confining), the annual German chamomile, the little rock hyssop, lady's mantle and trailing ground ivy.

Herbs grown for their scent might include dwarf lavender species, clove carnation, dwarf santolina and upright and trailing pelargoniums. There are literally hundreds of pelargonium varieties, each with leaves of a different scent and shape, and all make admirable houseplants, being easy to grow and easy to propagate from cuttings. Use the leaves to flavor custards, creams and gelatins and in potpourri mixtures.

Several Ways of Preparing Herbs for Use

Notes: Always keep a record of the work you do. If using herbs for healing, remember you are not a doctor, use them only for adjuncts not replacements for medical treatment. The traditional Herbal Craftsperson will meditate as the work is done and after it is completed, in this way learning is continued.

The Water in the following preparations is brought to boiling then poured over the herb, the herbs are not boiled in the water, for that would cause a breakdown of the vitamins and minerals in the herbs that are so vital to the healing process.

Making an Infusion: This process draws the properties you want out of the herb for healing. An infusion is basically a strong tea. The normal mixture is one pint of water to one ounce of herb. It takes experience to learn how long each herb needs to steep, some take longer than others, the average length of time is hour but with practice you'll learn which take longer and which take less time.

This is the easiest method.

Making a Decoction: This is much the same as an infusion (tea) except you are working with a much more solid herb such as thick pieces of root or bark which can't be ground up or the remedy calls for a much stronger dose.

This is the one case where you should boil the herb. In fact that's the whole process. Make sure that no steam escapes or the vital oils will go away with it. Also never use any metal when doing any herbal remedies.

If you will have more than one ingredient in the decoction begin by boiling the toughest then work down. Start with cold water and after boiling for what you consider long enough allow it to steep usually for at least 30 minutes.

Making a Poultice: This is used when you need to apply the herbs externally such as for a burn or for acne. Yes it's messy but often essential for healing. Pour boiling water over the herbs using just enough to dampen them or evenly cover the plant matter, you're not trying to extract anything from the herb only to moisten it. When it is all evenly wet remove it with a strainer and place between two pieces of gauze (cheesecloth also works well if folded several times). You then apply the gauze with the herbs inside to the affected part and allow the moisture with the herb essence to pass within the person.

Making an Ointment: This method involves mixing the herb(s) with a fixative such as petroleum jelly or vegetable fat. This is done by heating the fixative until it is quite warm and adding the ground herbs to it. Once mixed up the mixture can be heated more than once and allowed to cool, Once you are satisfied that all the goody has been removed from the herb the whole mixture should be strained and put into a storage container then allowed to cool. This is the same procedure used to make salves.

Making a Wash: Same as an infusion (tea) except you use it externally.

Making a Tincture: These are used when long term storage is required. It requires alcohol of at least a 75% grade which can be safely ingested. Place the following in a jar which can be tightly sealed:

  • 1-4 ounces of the herb
  • Eight ounces of alcohol (drinkable!)
  • Four ounces of water

Seal the jar and keep it safely out of the light for two weeks. Each day at least once, check it and make sure that you loosed the mass of herb inside the jar by swirling it about. Continue this process until at the end of the two weeks the alcohol has extracted all the constituents without need of heat. This process is best begun on the new moon and completed on the full.

Aromatherapy — The Art of Herbal Scents

Aromatherapy, the art of healing with aromatic plants, or with the oils of those plants, was well known to the ancient ones. The Egyptians, the Romans and the Greeks all practiced it as an integral part of their medicinal lore. Wise women and men treasured the secrets of precious scents and applied them with great skill. The Romans massaged themselves with sweet-smelling unguents before plunging into their elaborate baths. The Greeks assigned a godlike virtue to each plant, and by inhaling the fragrance, they believed they would assume the attributes of that god. During the Plague of Europe's 17th Century, the perfumers who dispensed the pine, cypress and cedar incense that was burnt in the streets and in the hospitals to mask the dreadful odors, those perfumers were untouched by the virulent disease that annihilated great masses of the population.

Of course, medical science has come a long way. Many treatments that were used in the past have been supplanted by more modern, more scientific methods. But, have they thrown out the baby with the bathwater? About a hundred years ago, the great medical minds of the world decided that this herbal scent business was just so much superstition, and that such old-wives’ tales had no place in Modern Medicine. Since that time, no medical practitioner would recommend scent, with the exception of the menthol-type scents burnt or inhaled for respiratory complaints, which were already known to be so effective that to forbid them would place a seal of unbelievability on the entire edict. All other scent-medications were scorned, even though they had proven to be a very effective means of well-keeping. And the public, believing the medical profession to be infallible, went along with it. Today, aromatherapy is enjoying a re-birth in the holistic spirit of New Age Medicine.

The mind plays a major role in all bodily ailments, as proven by recent research. That is not to say that the mind can cure the body of all its ailments, but fragrances that can alter the patient's emotional state may be able to leave the way open for a beneficial cure, by accepted means. In other words, why leave anything to chance? What would it hurt to smell an herb when you have a headache? Would it infringe upon the noble Medicine Man's territory if we sniffed flowers when our tummies hurt?

If you need medication, take medication. But, be sure you need it. Are you taking medication because it is required by your condition, or are you popping pills you bought over the counter to self-cure a 'minor' problem? Illnesses that are stress-induced, like asthma, headache, and depression respond very well to inhalation therapy. Skin disorders, respiratory ailments, digestive problems and backache can respond to inhalation and massage with scented oils. The same way a lovely perfume evokes memories, or desires, all fragrances cause the brain to respond in some way. If the fragrance brings about a sense of relaxed wellness, who is to say that that is not the healing element? Aromatic bathing enhances the benefits of the scents used as inhalants or tactile medicants.

Along the same lines, the inhalation of a burning scent, if purely made, would have the same or maybe a more readily-absorbable effect. So, take stock of the fragrances available to you, in the forms of incense, oils, potpourris and even teas. Even if they don't heal what ails you, they can make you feel more relaxed, more well. And isn't that what you wanted, after all?

What follows is a list of fragrances and the ailments they have been reputed to affect. I have tried to use only the herbs, plants and seeds you can find most easily in your garden, in the supermarket, and at the corner fruit stand. Also, below are some guides that will help with your plans.

An aromatic tea is to be consumed close to the nose, so as to continuously inhale the healing aromas while you drink the beverage.

When you use oils for massage, you will need to know the areas of greatest value for that massage. We suggest you consult a chart that shows the acupressure/acupuncture points, used by the great Chinese practitioners for centuries of healing.

A foot soak is reputed to be nearly as beneficial to the body as a whole-body soak, since the feet will absorb the medicating herb and propel the journey upward into the body of the healing element.

Inhaling is done over a bowl of boiled water in which the herb or its oil are floated, while you lean over it with a towel over your head to simulate a steam tent.

A compress is either cool or warm, but always damp, with the herb impregnated within, and is laid gently upon the area, not rubbed or massaged or moved about in any way. For this reason, compresses work quite well for burns, wounds and sores. You can burn an herb in many ways.

A purchased herbal incense works well. Or you could place the dried herb on any burning incense, or an open fire. Scented candles also provide the same scent. Essential oils dropped judiciously upon burning coals will do. You must only decide whether you want just the scent in the air, or if the smoke is what you feel will benefit. Burning always gives a dry scented air, as opposed to steaming, which provides a damp scented air.

T: Aromatic Tea, also known as Tisane
W: Bathe (Make a tea and add it to your bath
M: Massage with a scented oil
C: Compress, wet, either warm or cool
S: Steam (Best way is with a humidifier)
B: Burn
I: Inhale, either the smoke or the steam, but also the aroma of the other methods
F: Foot Soak, with a stronger tea blend than in the bath

Scent, Product, Health, Condition, and Method of Use


  • Water Retention (T)
  • Arthritis (T, C, M)
  • Cholesterol Reduction (T)


  • Infant/Child skin care (M, W)
  • Coughs, Colds (M, I)


  • Meditative frame of mind (B, T)
  • Abates nightmares (T, M)

Baby's Breath

  • Healing frame of mind (B)


  • Skin care (W, M)


  • Bronchitis, Colds, Internal Cleansing (B, I)
  • Antiseptic (C)
  • Depression (M, W)
  • Fainting (I)
  • Nervousness, Insomnia (T, B)
  • Fever (T, M, W, S, C)
  • Indigestion, Nausea (T, M)
  • Mental fatigue, Peaceful frame of mind (B, T, M, W)
  • Hormone Stimulant (M, T, C)
  • Insect Bites (C, W)
  • Migraine (B, C, W, T)
  • Stimulant (T)
  • Weight Loss, Skin Care (M, W)


  • Antiseptic (W)
  • Decongestant, Colds (S, I, W, T)
  • Internal Cleansing (B, I)
  • Hair Loss (M, W)


  • Antiseptic, Acne (W, S)
  • Pain Relief, Neuralgia (M, C)
  • Insecticide, Lung Congestion (B, I)


  • Calm, Healing frame of mind (T, B, M, W)


  • Nervousness, Headache (T)
  • Hysteria, Insomnia (T, B, M)
  • Fever, Hives (W)
  • Stomach Upset, Hiccups (T, I, S)


  • Fever, Internal Disinfectant (T)


  • Internal cleansing (B)
  • Lung congestion, Expectorant (B, M, I, W, S)
  • Digestion (I)
  • Antiseptic, Astringent, Eczema (W, C)
  • Sexual Response (M, B)
  • Sedative (B)


  • Burns (C)
  • Depression, Nervous Tension, Calm (T)
  • Nausea, Fatigue, Insomnia (T, W)
  • Diarrhea, Indigestion, Menstrual Cramps (T, M)
  • Eczema, Rheumatism, Arthritis (M, W, C)
  • Fainting (I)
  • Fever (C, T, W)
  • Headache, Migraine (M, I)
  • Weight Loss, Cellulite (T, M, W)
  • Infant skin care, Inflammations (W)
  • Hemorrhoids (W, C)
  • Menopause (M, W, T, B, S)
  • Pain Relief, Neuralgia (C, W, M, T)
  • Sore or Weak Eyes, Sores, Wounds (W, C, S)
  • Hysteria, Relaxant, Appetite Stimulant (T, B)


  • Healing frame of mind (M)
  • Bed wetting (B, S)
  • General Weakness (T)
  • Spasms, Circulatory Problems (W, F, M, C, T)
  • Impotence (M, B)
  • Infections (W)


  • Weight loss, Skin care (W, M, T)


  • Calm (T, B, I)
  • Muscle Tension, Spasms, Pain Relief (M, W, S, C)
  • Toothache (T, C)
  • Insect Repellent (B, C, W)
  • Stimulant (B, T, M)
  • Infections, Antiseptic (W)
  • Nervousness, General Weakness (T, W, S)
  • Cough, Colds, Gargle (T, W, S, B)


  • Depression, Calm, Heartache (T)


  • Internal cleansing (M, W, I)


  • Water retention (T)


  • Peace, Calm (B, I, S)


  • Water retention, Cellulite, Menopause (W, M)
  • Varicose Veins, Hemorrhoids (W, C)
  • Coughs, Sinus, Flu, Colds (I, C)
  • Cramps, Muscle Tension (M)
  • Wounds, Sores, Cuts, Acne (W, C, M)
  • Rheumatism, Arthritis, Aches & Pains, Spasms (F, C, M, W, S)
  • Nervousness (S, B, I)
  • Deodorant, Astringent (W)


  • Blood weakness, Water retention (T, W)
  • Eczema (W)


  • Hiccups, Health maintenance (T, I)


  • Asthma, Bronchitis, Cough, Flu (I, C)
  • Sinus, Migraine (M, W, I)
  • Burns (C)
  • Diarrhea, Indigestion, Kidney/Urinary Infection (W, M)
  • Sore throat, Laryngitis (I, S, C)
  • Rheumatism, Aches & Pains (M, W, F)
  • Antiseptic, Wounds (C, W)
  • Insect Repellant (B, C, W)
  • Fever (C, M)


  • Colic, Constipation, Cystitis, Flatulence, Indigestion (T, W)
  • Nausea, Weight loss, Reducing hunger pangs (T, W)
  • Health maintenance (T)


  • Depression (W)


  • Calm (B, I, M, W, F, S)


  • Asthma, Hypertension (C)
  • Intestinal Worms (T)
  • Antiseptic, Antibiotic (W)
  • Toothache (M, T, C)
  • Insomnia (T, W)
  • Coughs, Colds, Congestion (T, M, C, S)


  • Water Retention, Cellulite (M, W)
  • Insect Repellant (B, C, W)
  • Varicose Veins, Circulation Problems (W, C)
  • Astringent, Wounds, Fractures (W)
  • Burns (C)
  • Neuralgia, Pain Relief (M, W, F, C)
  • Hormone Stimulation (M, B)
  • Fatigue, Exhaustion (M, W, F)


  • Health Maintenance (T)
  • Menstruation (T, C)


  • Depression, Heartache, Grief (I, B, M)
  • The Pain of Childbirth (I, S, M)


  • Asthma, Bronchitis, Colic, Flu (I, S, F, C)
  • Eczema (W)
  • Fever (W, C)
  • Indigestion, Rheumatism (M, W, C)


  • Good spirits, Peace, Calm (B, S, I)
  • Meditative frame of mind (I, B, W, T)


  • Water Retention, Hemorrhoids (W, C)
  • Rheumatism, Gout (C, M, F)
  • Stimulant, Energizer (W, B)
  • Antiseptic, Sores, Wounds (W)
  • Colic, Cough (T, S, I)
  • Exhaustion, Fatigue (F, M, W)
  • Kidney/Urinary Infections, Cellulite (M, W)
  • Constipation (M)
  • Diarrhea, Flatulence, Indigestion (T, C)
  • Eczema (W, C, S)


  • Burns, Eczema (W, T, C)
  • Wounds, Spasms, Acne (C)
  • Hemorrhoids, Insect Repellant (W, C)
  • Calm (T)
  • Sore throat, Nausea, Diarrhea, Nervous tension (T, I, S)
  • Depression, Headache, Migraine (W, B, T, I)
  • Hair Loss, Cellulite, Weight Loss, Menopause (M, W)
  • Rheumatism, Fatigue, Exhaustion (M, W, F)
  • Fever, Pain Relief (M, C)


  • Rheumatism, Gout (W, F)
  • Aging Skin, Acne, Antiseptic, Astringent (W)
  • Insect Repellant (B, C, W)
  • Water Retention, Gastric Distress (T, I, S)


  • Weight loss (T)


  • Asthma, Bronchitis, Colds (I, S)
  • Constipation, Indigestion (M, T)
  • Colic, Headache, Nervous tension, Depression (M, W, T)
  • Health maintenance (I, B)
  • Insect Bites (C, W)
  • Menstrual Cramps (M)


  • Meditative frame of mind (T, M, B, I)


  • Rheumatism (M, C, W)
  • Water Retention (T)


  • Asthma, Bronchitis, Colds, Flu (T, I, S, W)
  • Colic, Indigestion, Nausea, Morning Sickness (T, M)
  • Mental Fatigue, Shock (T, W)
  • Toothache (W, C)
  • Fatigue, Weight Loss (T, C)
  • Headache, Migraine (M, I, W)
  • Insect Repellant (B, C, W)
  • Cooling, Fever, Nerves (M, C)
  • Spasms, Pain Relief (C)


  • Sinus, Bronchitis, Flu, Decongestant (I, C)
  • Hormone Stimulant (M, B)
  • Fatigue, Aches & Pains, Rheumatism, Gout (B, C, M)
  • Infection, Antiseptic (W)
  • Water Retention (I, W)


  • Calm, Peace, Depression, Insomnia, Fatigue (T)
  • Nausea, Heart, Liver, Uterus, Stomach (T)
  • Weight Loss, Infant skin care (M, W)
  • Sex Drive/Libido (M, B)
  • Headache (W, M, I, T, B, S, C)
  • Astringent (W)


  • Weight loss, Nervous tension (T)


  • Depression, Healing frame of mind, Stimulant (T)
  • Asthma, Colds, Flu, Decongestant (M, W, F)
  • Constipation, Diarrhea, Cellulite (T, M)
  • Fainting, Headache (T, M, I)
  • Rheumatism, Gout, Arthritis, Aches & Pains (M, F)
  • Weight Loss, Migraine (M, W)
  • Exhaustion, Fatigue (T, M, W, F)
  • Hormone Stimulant (M, B)
  • Sores, Burns (C)
  • Antiseptic, Skin, Astringent (W)
  • Fumigant (B)
  • Heart, Sickliness (T, M, B, I, S)
  • Sprains, Pain Relief (M)


  • Meditative frame of mind (B, T)


  • Asthma, Bronchitis, Cold (T, I, S)
  • Burns, Eczema (W, C)
  • Fainting, Low Blood Pressure (T, M, B)
  • Flatulence, Headache, Indigestion, Diarrhea (T)
  • Sore throat, Cough (T, I, S, C)
  • Toothache, Weight loss (T, W)
  • Menopause, Cellulite, Aches & Pains (T, M, W)
  • Menstrual Cramps, Nervousness, Hair Loss, Trembling (T, M)
  • Fatigue (W, M)
  • Memory, Ability to Learn (B, T)


  • Depression, Heartache (T) (Use Spearmint for the same reasons as Peppermint, but Spearmint is less powerful and better for children.)


  • Heartache, Depression, Calm (T)
  • Internal cleansing, Kidney/Urinary Infections (W, M)
  • Asthma, Bronchitis (I, S)
  • Fainting, Restore Energy, Renew Spirits (B, I, T)
  • Rheumatism, Weight loss (M, W, C)
  • Cellulite, Aches & Pains (W, F, M)
  • Insect Bites, Antiseptic, Inflammation, Infection (W, C)
  • Wounds, Sores, Cuts (C)
  • Constipation, Intestinal Parasites (T, M)
  • Fatigue (T, B, M)
  • Spasms, Hair Loss, Digestion (M, W, T)


  • Peace, Calm (T, B)

Herbal Cures


Witch Hazel Extract: Soak one ounce witch hazel leaves and twigs combined in two cups of alcohol. Shake daily. Strain. Use full strength on bruises. (You can dilute with water and use as a mouthwash also.)

Yerba Santa Poultice: Good for severe bruises and swelling too. Mash the leaves of a Yerba Santa, then soak them in water, and apply while still hot to the bruise. Cover the leaves with a clean cloth.


Mari-Gilly Water for Burns and Sunburns

An Actual Case History from the Author:
"One day while lighting the oven the book of matches took fire in my hand and stuck there. After shaking it off, I dug into my herbal closet. I was looking for a remedy I had made a month before. Amateurishly I had preserved it beneath a layer of oil, and it was colorful with mold. I filtered it out and plunged the badly burned hand in the liquid. Within two minutes the pain was gone. In 20 minutes the hand was wrapped in cloth and no longer painful. There were no blisters of any kind, but within three days a black, horny layer appeared where the blisters might have been. Very ugly. In another week, this peeled off, and once again the hand was smooth, pink, soft, and completely unscarred."

The recipe for the miracle is:
Simmer one handful of balm of Gilead buds and one handful of marigold flowers in an enamel or glass pot with water to cover. Do not boil. After 15 minutes remove from heat, strain and pour liquid into a clean and sterile jar. Add a layer of olive oil to cover. Do not let the oil and liquid mix. It will keep for a few months.

To Use: Hold breath (as liquid does not smell good) and pour through filter paper or paper towel. Use directly on burns, sunburns, and other similar problems.

Marshmallow-Comfrey Oil: Simmer one handful of crushed marshmallow root and 1 handful of Comfrey root in one cup of white wine in an enamel pot. Cover. Simmer for 20 minutes. Strain. When cool apply to burns and sunburns.


Note: All these cures will work for pimples, zits, and corns too.

Stolen Apple Cure: Get an apple. Cut this apple into as many pieces as you have warts. Rub one peace onto one wart, and repeat with all warts. Wrap up the apple bits in a piece of cloth, then bury the whole thing. When the apple bits have rotted, the warts will be gone.

Dandelion Juice: Gather together, many dandelions, this includes stems, heads and leaves. Squeeze them. Apply their milky fluid to the wart or corn.

Oil of Thuja: Apply this oil to a wart. An infusion used as a wash on the warts will work too. (Note: Thuja is also called White Cedar)

Marigold Juice for Warts: Take a fresh marigold, squeeze out the juice and apply it directly to a wart. Let the juice dry. Make applications until the warts fall off.

Milkweed Juice: Take some fresh milkweed, squeeze it, and apply this milk to the warts. The Indians say that it will entirely cure warts with just a very few applications.


If you use tobacco products, try this instead. Try chewing a combination of gentian root and chamomile flowers every time you feel the need to smoke, then try these tea recipes.

Manzanita Cider: Crush a handful of manzanita berries and bruise a handful of the leaves, and pour over 2 cups of boiling water. When settled, strain off the liquid and use throughout the day as a drink.

Horehound Tea: Take one ounce of the green herb, one ounce of honey, and 1 pint of boiling water. Cover, and set aside until cold. Drink four ounces at a time for a cough.

Other Herbal Teas: Try a combination of coltsfoot, mugwort, and culeb, with lemon and honey.

Try a snuff of golden seal; small pinch of the golden yellow powder snuffed into each nostril is sometimes very efficacious in the treatment of bronchitis. If your respiratory passages are particularly painful, slippery elm tea is an excellent demulcent.

Sinus Infections

Golden Seal Snuff: Take powdered golden seal and snuff a bit into each nostril whenever needed.

Herbal Inhaler: In a small bottle add 10 drops of each of the following oils. Carry it around with you and sniff the scent of these fine aromatics whenever you wish to clear your nasal passages.

Eucalyptus, Lavender, Rosemary, Bay Leaf, and Cloves or Peppermint

Sore Throats

Dirty Sock Cure: During the winter, when you get a sore throat, wrap your dirty wool sock around your throat every night and the soreness will soon disappear.

Sage Tea: Take equal parts of sage, rosemary, honeysuckle, and plantain. Boil these herbs in sufficient water to cover. Add a small tablespoonful of honey to each pint of liquid and use as required.

Yerba Mansa Root: This root, chewed slowly, will ease the pain of sore throats.

Colds & Coughs

Teas for Colds and Coughs: To help eliminate mucus in the respiratory passage, mix together equal parts of the following ingredients:

  • Comfrey root
  • Hyssop
  • Balm of Gilead
  • Chamomile or coltsfoot
  • Elecampane or wintergreen leaf*

For either tea steep 1 heaping teaspoon of the herbs in one cup of boiling water. Cover the pot and steep for 10-20 minutes. Strain. Drink this tea as often as you like. You can add lemon and honey. (*Potentially dangerous. Can cause irritation, allergic reaction, gastric distress or other discomfort.)

Tea for Coughs: Mix together equal parts of pennyroyal, licorice, and horehound and make a tea by steeping one heaping teaspoon per cup of boiling water for 10-20 minutes. Strain. Drink with lemon and honey as often as you like.

Tea for Colds in the Chest: Mix together equal quantities of birch leaf, horehound, and licorice. Steep one heaping teaspoon of herbs per cup of boiling water for 10-20 minutes. Strain. Drink with lemon and honey as often as you like.

Sleep Tea for Colds: Mix together equal quantities of dandelion root, chamomile, and valerian. Steep one heaping teaspoon of herbs per cup of boiling water for 10-20 minutes. Strain. Drink with lemon and honey to relax you and help you sleep when you have a bad cold.

Tooth Aches

Garlic: Put a piece of a garlic clove inside the cavity. It kills the pain and seems to slow up the infection process. At night place a peeled garlic between your teeth and your cheek. This is also good to keep a cold from becoming severe. (Make sure you wash out your mouth in the morning though!)

Marshmallow Root Poultice: If you have an abscessed tooth and a swollen jaw, place pieces of dried marshmallow root between the tooth and cheek. Renew the poultices in the morning and night. This greatly reduces the inflammation and keeps the pain in check.

Bad Backs

Chamomile Oil: This is an old Egyptian formula. Take flowers of chamomile and beat them up with pure olive oil. Leave to stand until the virtues of the flowers have been extracted. Then with the oil rub over the whole body, especially the back. Go to bed, cover up. Good for over-strained muscles, cramps, strains and stitches.

Super Massage Cream:

  • 1 ounce of coconut oil
  • 1 ounce of turtle oil
  • 1 dropper sweet clover oil

Mix all the ingredients together. This is an excellent cream, useful for all sore and aching muscles. According to the therapist the author consulted, this cream is superior to anything supplied by the hospital.

Lavender Oil: Mix one part oil of lavender with three parts olive oil, or one part oil of lavender with one part coconut oil, and use to massage the muscles of the lower back. Use sparingly.

Aching Joints

Parsley Tea to Stimulate the Kidneys: Take a handful of fresh parsley and pour over it two cups of boiling water. Steep until cold then strain. Drink one cup of this tea before every meal and before going to bed.

Indian Tea: The Indians drink a tea of rose petals, peppermint, lemon peel, and liden leaves for arthritis.

Rheumatism Tea: An excellent tea to take daily for the treatment of rheumatism and arthritis is a mixture of cascara sagrada, poke root, cimicfuga, uva ursi leaves, chamomile and sassafras. Take one tablespoon of this mixture and pour it over two cups of boiling water. Let it steep for about 10 minutes and strain. Make it fresh in the evening and drink one cup, with lemon and honey if you like. Drink the other cup, cold, in the morning.


Insect Bite Ointment: Beat some frankincense to a powder and mix it with oil of bay. Use it to anoint the body to ease the itch of insect bites. For the sting, a little oil of cajeput offers relief.

Dog Bites: Four ounces rue, four ounces treacle, four ounces garlic, four large spoonfuls of scraped pewter. Boil all of the ingredients with a bottle of strong ale. (Beer will do.) Strain. Apply the sediment to the wound and drink the clear liquid nine spoonfuls every day for nine days.
— A seventeenth-century recipe.

Athlete's Foot

Soap & Powder: Mix together one ounce powdered gum, benzoin with four ounces starch. When washing your feet, use soap bark, a useful detergent, especially good for athlete's foot.

Apple Cider Vinegar Bath: Steep one ounce sage and agronomy in two cups of hot apple cider vinegar for 15 minutes. Keep it covered. When cool enough put your feet in and soak for as long as you can. Repeat two or three times a day.


Olive Hair Oil: To four ounces olive oil, add one teaspoon oil of rosemary, and five drops oil of lemon grass. Rub a tiny bit into the hair each night. This is version of an old time recipe that helps hair grow.

Yucca Root Shampoo: Boil four ounces yucca root or soap bark in two cups of fresh water until it is reduced to one cup. Strain and cool. If not sudsy enough for you, add castile shampoo. Brunettes can substitute rosemary water, and blondes chamomile water, for the two cups of liquid-both cleanses and deodorized the scalp.

To Thicken the Hair and to Keep it from Falling Out: Put four pounds pure organic honey into a still with 4-6 ounces grapevine tendrils and 2-4 ounces tender rosemary tops. Distill as cool and as slowly as possible. Allow the liquid to drop until it begins to taste sour. Rub this into the hair roots daily.

Sage Tea: Drink sage tea daily and rub the infusion onto the roots of your hair to retain its rich, dark color.

Herbs That Repel Animals and Insects

Flies: Clover flower, oil of sassafras, mixture of clove, bay, and eucalyptus
Insects: Oil of mint, feverfew, oil of citronella, pennyroyal, and oil of pennyroyal
Mice: Peppermint pennyroyal
Body Lice: Oil of bergamot, oil of pennyroyal
Fleas: Rue, chamomile, savory, and pennyroyal
Cats: Rue, lavender, and ginger
Dogs: Ginger

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