Pouring elixir into mortar and pestle filled with herbs
Magickal Practice

Beginner’s Guide to Magickal Herbs

I was at an apothecary shop this weekend gathering loose herbs to refill some of my herb jars at home. The action of pulling each glass jar from the shelf, scooping and measuring the herbs, and then transferring the herbs to my jars at home is all quite soothing for me. Teas, tinctures, oils, ointments, incense, bath mixtures – working with herbs is a way to connect with the Earth and add more oomph to your magickal practice. Oh yes, there is a lot of magick in herbs. Take mugwort, for example…

What Mugwort is Used For

Mugwort is a versatile herb I have a lovely relationship with, and not just because it has a witchy sounding name. Mugwort’s magickal properties lend to its popularity among us witches and our magickal cupboards. Its uses are varied and powerful:

  • Slip mugwort under your pillow to enhance your dreams and encourage lucid dreaming.
  • Burn mugwort to cleanse your space and bring protection. You can also create a protection oil for the same purpose.
  • Drink mugwort as a tea before divination or going to sleep at night (about 1 tablespoon to 8 ounces of hot water). I suggest adding honey and/or floral herbs, like lavender or rose, to it since mugwort tea is not that palatable by itself. Drinking mugwort tea can also be used to stimulate your menstrual cycle if you experience irregular cycles, which is why you shouldn’t drink mugwort tea if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.
  • Add that mugwort-infused water to your bath for divination and purification.
  • Use mugwort in spellwork and rituals for purification and protection. On the same token, you can include it in a pouch or in a locket to carry or wear for protection.

Floral teacup and steel tea kettle against white wall

Where to Get Herbs

Growing your own herbs is thought to be more powerful because you are putting your magick into them from the get-go. You then have the option to harvest them based on astrological timing, moon phase, or time of day. As much as I adore the idea of gardening, I have a black thumb (as my husband likes to lovingly tell me) and the plants are safer in somebody else’s care.

I think it’s always a good rule of thumb to get the best sourced and quality herbs you can afford. If that happens to be a cheap packet from your local grocery store then there’s nothing wrong with that. Some grocery stores actually have amazing bulk herb sections which is a great way to stock up without going broke. Mountain Rose Herbs is an option for purchasing organic herbs in bulk if you’d rather go the online route.

As tempting as it can be to have a gorgeous – and impressive – display of herbs in your home, you don’t need all the herbs. Like with crystals, there is a lot of overlap with the uses of herbs. With a little research you can discern which ones you’d use the most and start with those ones.

What Herbs to Get

What herbs you decide to have on hand is entirely up to you. You probably already have herbs in your kitchen that you could use like basil, thyme, mint, rosemary, cinnamon, and even salt. Ten I always like to have on hand are (in no particular order):

  • Mugwort (surprise, surpise)
  • Vervain
  • Mullein
  • Chamomile
  • Lavender
  • Mint
  • Nettle
  • Rose
  • Rosemary
  • Yarrow

You can enchant an herb before using it to add extra power to whatever you are using it for. A simple way I like to do this is to put it in a clean bowl, run my fingers through it while visualizing my intention, and put it into words. For example, if I were to use lavender for relaxation, I would run my fingers through it while visualizing myself feeling relaxed and say, “Lavender, you make me relaxed,” repeating it until I feel like it’s ready.

Hands cupping lavender

How to Store Herbs

You can store your herbs in plastic bags if you want to, but having them in glass jars makes it easier to see what you have (and it’s far more pleasing to look at). Rather than recycling glass jars, I clean and use them to hold my herbs. You could ask friends and family to save their glass jars for you instead of tossing them in the recycle bin. I don’t need uniformity and rather like the eclectic look. Up until yesterday I had handwritten labels on the jars that were beginning to curl. I purchased some Avery round labels and designed and printed them for free from their website (had to go with the witchy motif, of course). I’ve fallen in love all over again with my magickal cabinet.
Herb jars in cupboard

Herb Resources

Magickal Uses

  • Herbal Riot. In depth blog posts on the magickal uses of herbs.
  • Cunningham’s Encyclopedia of Magical Herbs by Scott Cunningham. Lists the folk name; associated gender, planet, element and dieties; powers, ritual uses and magical uses for each herb.
  • Magickal Cat. A quick reference guide giving herb correspondences.

Medicinal Uses

  • The Herbalist by Joseph E. Meyer. I mentioned this book in a blog post about my esoteric vintage book collection and this book happens to be not so much esoteric as it is medicinal. Published in 1918, it lists the common names, medicinal parts, description, practical properties and uses, and dose for each herb.
  • The Complete Medicinal Herbal: A Practical Guide to the Healing Properties of Herbs, with More Than 250 Remedies for Common Ailments by Penelope Ody. I think the title says it all.

Do you work with herbs? What are your favorites?

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