Category Archives: Herbal This & That

WOTC Extra – Using Your Plant


Using Your Plant


How do you extract the goodness from the plant and put it to use? You can’t just eat all the herbs you want to use, and strangely enough, some dried herbs have more medicinally active constituents than fresh ones. Use some common sense and follow safety procedures. First make sure that you identify your herb correctly- if in any doubt at all, leave it alone. Make sure that you have looked up the method of preparation and the safe dosages. Pick your herbs from unpolluted locations- herbs from the side of a busy road will be covered with chemicals.  Herbs may be used in a variety of ways, internally and externally:

Internal Remedies:

Dried Herbs in Capsules

This is usually the way you purchase herbs from a shop, and it is the worst way to take them, and the least effective. They are poorly digested, poorly utilized, often stale or ineffective, and quite expensive.

Hot Infusion (Teas or Tisanes)

Many of a herbs components, such as its minerals, vitamins, sugars, starches, hormones, tannins, volatile oils and some alkaloids dissolve well in water, and for this reason, herbs are often taken as infusions or tisanes. Generally the difference between the two is simply of strength- an infusion is a medicinal dose, whereas a tea or tisane is weaker. Use one teaspoon of dried herb per cup or 1 oz per pint of boiling water. Pour the boiling water over the herb and infuse for 5-15 minutes.

Cold Infusion

Some herbs have properties which are destroyed by heat, so a cold infusion is made. Use a non metal container and put in 1 oz of the herb and 1 pint of cold water. Close the lid or cover with cling film and leave for 5-6 hours.


Some seeds, roots, buds and barks etc. need to be boiled in water for a while. This is called a decoction. If they are dried they should first be pounded into a powered. Use 1 oz of dried herb or 2 oz of fresh herb to one pint of water. Bring the mixture to the boil in a non aluminium pan and simmer 10-15 minutes. Strain.


Plant constituents are generally more soluble in alcohol than water, so tinctures are made. Alcohol will dissolve and extract resins, oils, alkaloids, sugars, starches and hormones, though it does not extract nutrients such as vitamins or minerals. Brandy or vodka is usually used. Because a tincture is much stronger than an infusion or decoction, you only use a few drops -5-15) in a glass of water as a medicinal dose. Alternatively, a few drops may be added to a salve or bath. To make a tincture put 4 oz of dried herbs or 8 oz fresh herbs into a clean jar and pour on one pint of vodka or brandy. Seal and keep in a warm place for two weeks, shaking daily. Strain and store in a dark bottle.

External Remedies


Add one pint of infusion or decoction to the bath water.

Ointments (Salves)

Herbs can be made into salves. Melt 8 oz petroleum jelly or other fat and simmer 2 tablespoons of the herb in it for 15 minutes.


Prepare a clean cotton cloth and soak it in a hot infusion or decoction. Use this as hot as possible on the affected area. Change the compress as it cools down.


Bruise fresh herbs and apply directly to the skin and cover directly with a cloth.

Cold Infused Oil

Fats and oils extract the oily and resinous properties of an herb, many of which are strongly antibacterial, antifungal, antiseptic, and wound-healing. These are applied to the skin or used with massage. To make an infused oil cut up the herb and cover with vegetable oil (olive, sunflower, almond etc.) in a glass bottle or jar, Leave in  a warm place for 2-3 weeks, shaking daily. Strain into a clean jar. Infused herbal oils are available as is, or thickened into ointments. Unlike essential oils, they do not need to be diluted for use.

Essential Oils

These can be used in the bath, with massage or in an evaporator. They cannot be made at home, but are readily available from shops. They are very concentrated and must always be diluted with vegetable carrier oil.

Hearth Witch (The Eight Paths of Magic)

Anna Franklin

Let’s Talk Witch – Meeting the Plants

Potion Making


Only a few short years ago, every child would have walked to school picking rose hips to make itching powder, nibbling ‘bread and cheese’ (i.e. the hawthorn buds before they unfold in the spring), telling the time with dandelion clocks, using the buttercup test for whether you liked butter, throwing sticky buds and playing pooh sticks. Not too long ago, children knew most of their local plants and played in the open fields and parks. However, a couple of years ago I gave a talk on herbalism at a Pagan camp, and I was shocked to discover that while most people over forty could identify a good many common plants and trees, two out of every three people under twenty could not even recognise a simple dandelion.

If you want to work in the Hearth Witch tradition with herbs, then you must begin by getting to know the plants that grow in your local area, those vegetation spirits that live with you, along your local hedgerow, meadow, park, road or in your garden. Don’t assume that medicinal plants are hard to find; dandelion, plantain and nettles (to name just a few) are as common in cities and suburbs as in the country. Get a good field guide to help you identify them and a reputable modern herbal to tell you what they may be used for. You will need to refer to the botanical name (usually Latin or Greek) since these names are specific while the same common name can refer to several very different plants. There are a dozen dissimilar plants referred to as bachelor’s buttons, while “marigold” can be Calendula officinalis, a medicinal herb, or Tagetes, an annual flower used as a bedding plant.

Spend time with the plants, noting where they live, in sun or shade, on chalky soil or sandy soil and so on, their growth habits, when they flower, and when they set their seeds. Note the shape of the leaves, their texture and colour, their taste, if edible. In this way you will begin to learn from the plants themselves. Each plant is a living teacher and must be approached as an individual spirit, a vital life force which may become your ally if approached with love and respect. You must learn to speak its language by listening with an open heart and using the inner senses, as well as the everyday senses of taste, smell and touch. Don’t expect to learn everything at once as it will likely be over several seasons that the plant reveals its nature to you. This is the wisdom that the old herbalists passed down to their apprentices, part of which is preserved in folklore and old wives tales. It is a knowledge that cannot be bought, and which cannot be learned from books but only by doing.  Allow yourself to trust your inner wisdom, and you will uncover the instinctive knowledge of Mother Nature that lies deep within all our souls.

Witches use plant powers, but to capture them without dissipating them is not simple a matter of walking three times around a tree and saying ‘can I have a branch?’  lopping one off and leaving a coin in return. You might as well buy a dried herb off the shelf in the local shop, or pick up a dead twig from the forest floor. These instructions are based on folk magic, a distorted version of half forgotten lore, a shadow of the true knowledge. I learned this from Phil, my old High Priest, who insisted that first of all a relationship must be established with the particular tree or plant that you want to cut. Of necessity, this will be forged over a period of time; you must understand each other. He insisted that some plants are well disposed towards humankind, some need to be persuaded, some fought and some will never give you anything no matter what you do, and it would be dangerous to try. Few western magicians today understand or work with the Old Knowledge concerning plants.

Trees and herbs are not really ‘used’ magically. When properly approached they may share something of their life force, their spirit. True magical herbalism is not really a case of following a kind of cookbook approach, a pinch of this and a pinch of that. Individual herbs and plants can be befriended as allies to enable the practitioner to travel to Otherworldly places, and to become in tune with different energies. The Craft of the magical herbalist takes many years and absolute self discipline to master. The plant itself is always the teacher. Each plant must be correctly approached and harvested in perfect condition. It must always be respected as a living being: its life force is the essence of its power. This force is harnessed by taking the plant internally or externally, fresh or as an infusion, by smoking it or employing it in an incense or bathing herb, by using it as a magical condenser, and so on.

If the herb is approached with love and trust, its force will harmonise with the witch and share its secrets. If the plant is taken with the wrong motives, if it is mistreated or misused, it may cause discomfort, mislead or seek to gain control of the witch. If an enemy is made of the plant spirit, it can destroy. It is a common misconception that a plant needs to have hallucinogenic properties to facilitate expansion of consciousness. Only a small number of power plants are psychedelic, and these plant spirits are the most difficult to deal with and easily overcome the weak will of anyone stupid enough to use them for recreational purposes. Every plant, from the common daisy to the mighty oak, has its own power and vibration, and by taking time to gain the trust of the plant spirit, these can be shared.

Hearth Witch (The Eight Paths of Magic)

Anna Franklin

Samhain Incense and Oils

Samhain Incense #1

  • 1 part Powdered Allspice
  • 1 part Ground Black Pepper
  • 2 parts Clove Powder
  • 1 part Myrrh
  • 12 parts lightly crushed Rose Petals
Samhain Incense #3

  • 1 part Rowan Berries
  • 1 part Blackthorn Wood
  • 1/2 part Galangal Root
  • 1/2 part Chervil
  • 1/2 part Vervain
  • 1/2 part Parsley
Samhain Incense #2

  • 1 part Crushed Holly Leaf
  • 1 part Crushed Oak Leaf
  • 1 part Dragon’s Blood Resin
  • 1 part Cedar Berries
  • 1 part crushed Rose Petals
  • 2 parts crushed Mugwort Leaves
  • 2 parts Frankincense Tears
  • 4 parts Myrrh Resin
  • 4 parts crushed Rosemary Leaves
  • 4 parts Chrysanthemum Flower Petals
  • 4 parts crushed Pine Needles
Samhain Oil

  • 2 parts Pine Oil
  • 1 part Frankincense Oil
  • 1 part Patchouli oil
  • 1 part Lavendar oil


A Quick Note About Moon Gardening

~My Finest Hour~

A Quick Note About Moon Gardening


I’m experimenting with gardening according to the phases of the moon. While the moon is a constant presence in the night sky, it is ever changing. As she waxes and wanes, pulling with her the tides of the sea, she influences all that is living. As the moon waxes the energy flows upwards into the leaves and stalks of the plant, as it wanes the virtue travels to the roots. Plants to be harvested for their roots should be planted and gathered at the waning moon, and plants required for their flowers, leaves and fruits should be planted and gathered at the waxing moon.


Hearth Witch (The Eight Paths of Magic)

Anna Franklin


WOTC Extra (a) Preparing the Soil


Preparing the Soil


Once the ground has been cleared you need to determine what kind of soil you have. It will be obvious whether it is very stony, sandy or heavy clay that sticks together, but you need to know how acid or alkaline it is. To do this you can get a PH tester kit from the garden centre and follow the instructions. Take time to know and understand the requirements of your herbs. Pennyroyal, violets and thyme are quite happy to grow between cracks in paving slabs. Feverfew, pellitory, houseleeks and wall germanders will grow next to a wall. Some plants like shade, including alexanders, angelica, chervil and woodruff. A clay soil supports foxgloves, mint and parsley, while broom, lavender and thyme will be happier on a sandy soil.

Though herbs generally prefer a poor soil, most flowers and vegetables need added nutrients. Soil usually needs to be improved with plenty of organic matter to enrich its nutrient content, and help it to retain water. This is done by adding manure or compost. I get my manure from the ponies belonging to my neighbour or from the dairy farm down the road. This needs to be well rotted before it goes on, or it may be too ‘hot’ and will burn young plants. I also add home compost, and every garden, however small, should have its own compost heap. You can buy a plastic bin or make a wooden box from palettes, and throw in all your uncooked kitchen waste – eggshells, vegetable peelings, rotten fruit, non seeding weeds, leaves and other soft garden matter. Do not add meat, cheese, cooked food, seeding weeds and perennial weeds. There are supposed to be all sorts of secrets to good composting, but I just keep adding stuff on the top and getting nice crumbly compost out of the bottom.

The ash from my garden fires is rich in potash, and the fruit trees and bushes get a good dressing of this every spring.



Hearth Witch (The Eight Paths of Magic)

Anna Franklin


Let’s Talk Witch – It’s Gardening Time, Clearing the Ground To Get You Started

Strange Brew

Clearing the Ground


Both my present allotment and garden had been sadly neglected when I bought them. They were knee high in couch grass, brambles, thistles, horsetails, docks, dandelions and other weeds. I didn’t have the time or energy to devote to clearing this by hand, and I knew I wasn’t going to use weed killers, so I bought a heavy duty petrol strimmer and flattened the lot. Then I covered the allotment in black plastic bought from a builder’s yard and left it for a year- all 150 ft X 29 ft of it. If you are going to do this, the plastic has to be black to keep light from the ground and prevent weeds from growing, though old bits of carpet and lino will work equally well for smaller areas.

The first year I uncovered a third of the allotment. Then we made several deep beds from wooden frames. I decided to do this, as with ME I could no longer cope with a conventional method of allotment gardening as I had in the past, which involves a lot of back breaking digging several times a year. If you are making deep beds remember that the idea is that you do not dig them over frequently in a conventional fashion, and that you should be able to weeds them without standing on them. Mine are 4 ½ feet wide by 12 ft long.  The paths between them we sowed with grass seed.  I continued to expose more of the allotment every year and adding more beds for five years, until it is now all under cultivation. I recommend this method if you have never had an allotment before, as you will be discouraged by the amount of work involved. Each winter, after all the crops have been harvested, the beds are manured and covered with oblongs of black plastic weighed down with old tyres and left till spring.



Hearth Witch (The Eight Paths of Magic)

Anna Franklin


WOTC Extra (b)5 Best Herbs For An Herbal Salve

5 Best Herbs For An Herbal Salve


What Are The 5 best Herbs For Making Herbal Salve

By Amy Jeanroy, Herb Gardens Expert

Salve making is one of the first ways a home herbalist becomes familiar with herbal healing. Salves are easy to make and can be crafted to suit particular ailments, or made with an assortment of herbs for a more general healing.

When crafting salves, think about the sort of skin issues you want to treat. Do you want to simply provide protection from the elements on exposed skin? How about who the salve is going to be used on; some people do not like the feeling of heavy or waxy things on their skin. Others object to strongly scented herbs.

Most of all, consider when to apply a salve. Never apply to an unclean or fresh wound that may become infected. You do not want to trap unwanted extras in a wound, and the oily layer will do just that. In this case, wash the wound well, allow it to begin healing, and then apply a clean, fresh salve to continue the healing and provide a layer of protection from any more damage to the area.

The following is a list of 5 easy to find, easy to grow herbs that make up a lovely introduction to herbal salves.

1. Burdock

Used for skin issues like eczema, acne and psoriasis, burdock is a wonderful herb to include in your salve making. Try it for these ailments, keeping in mind that many issues that appear on the skin as a result of something needing attention within the body.

Burdock root is used as an infused oil in this application.

2. Calendula

Quite possibly the gentlest of skin herbs, calendula makes the list of salve herbs. Calendula is soothing, lightly scented, and anti inflamatory; perfect for salves that help protect a delicate baby’s bottom. You often see it as an ingredient in herbal preparations for babies.

I like to also use it for salves on elderly skin. Medications and time both make elderly skin thin and delicate. Calendula is soothing and nourishing. If making a salve for elderly skin, infuse in a skin friendly oil that will be absorbed into the skin. A heavier oil like olive, can be too greasy feeling

3. Comfrey

Comfrey gets a bad rap occasionally. Although the idea that comfrey is dangerous, is akin to the glass half empty idea. Yes, it can keep infection in a wound, but that is only because it heals skin so quickly, that an unclean wound will heal over and trap the infection within. Comfrey does not cause infection.

Despite this, it should remain on the list of salve herbs, because if a wound is free of infection, applying comfrey salve is a wonderful idea. This type of salve is going to speed healing considerably.

4. Mullein

Mullein is a must have for salve making. The flowers are used for salves, and are gentle enough for a baby’s skin. Mullein is a wildly common herb, so you may find a patch on a roadside or back side of a farmer’s land.

Making an infused oil out of mullein flowers is not difficult but can be time consuming. The flowers actually open in a spiral pattern around the plant. Every morning, one can harvest a few more and add to the original oil. I keep mine on a windowsill, covered with a coffee filter than has been held on by elastic. That way, the natural moisture of the fresh flowers does not create condensation inside the jar. This moisture promotes spoilage, and should be avoided. The finished oil is an electric yellow color, beautiful!

5. Plantain

Plantain is one of those herbs that you probably walk on every time you get the mail. It grows in most lawns in the US, sticking to the height of the mower blade, making it sometimes difficult to notice. Renowned for its soothing ability on bees stings and bug bites, once you try plantain, you will keep a sharp lookout for this useful herb.

Infuse some oil with it when plantain is growing everywhere, then you can keep making this skin soothing salve all year round.

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WOTC Extra (a)Top 9 Herbs For Making Skin Creams


Top 9 Herbs For Making Skin Creams


What Herbs Make To Include In A Skin Cream Recipe

By Amy Jeanroy, Herb Gardens Expert

No matter what the bottle says, all skin creams and lotions are based on a few simple ingredients. The percentages of ingredients,is the only difference in the recipes.

All creams are a mixture of melted waxes, oils and scent infused water. These simple ingredients are then vigorously mixed together, while the mixture is cooled. The result is a luscious cream, perfect for soothing and softening your skin.

1. Aloe

Aloe is the perfect addition cream. It provides soothing and healing properties and is usually tolerated by young and old alike.

Use the clear gel inside the leaves, and remove any of the green outer layer before adding to your cream mixture.

2. Borage

Borage is a good ingredient to include in a cream for dry or sensitive skin.

3. Calendula

Probably the most commonly used herb by those who create herbal creams and salves, calendula is definitely a must have.

It is well tolerated by any age skin, and is used for rough, damaged skin, as well as helping to provide a soothing protective layer to the area. This is the first herb I use for any salve or cream that is going to be used on a baby – especially a diaper area.

4. Chamomile

Another gentle herbs, chamomile is useful for any recipe that is going to be soothing and calming the skin. Perfect for babies and the thin skin of the elderly, chamomile is lightly scented and blends well is all other herbs.

Use chamomile if you are specifically trying to soften the skin, when there is redness from chafing and irritation. It seems to calm the inflammation very quickly.

5. Comfrey

Often misunderstood, comfrey deserves a place in this list of herbs for salves. Comfrey heals the skin, a fact that no one denies. The problem lies in that comfrey heals so well, it can heal over an infected area, trapping the infection under healthy skin. Use comfrey in any cream that you wish to use on healing skin; skin that has no sign of infection present, and needs only to heal. You can also use comfrey cream on skin that is irritated

6. Dandelion

Dandelion is amazing as an emmolient herb, perfect for the driest of skin. This is the must have herb, if making a cream for elderly skin. Dandelion has so many uses, it is hard to narrow down just the top few. Here are just a sampling of uses for this common weed.

7. Elderflowers

Used for any type of skin, elderflowers and especially nice for reams that will be used on mature skin.

Said to smooth wrinkles and soothe sunburn, this is a useful herbal flower to include in your recipe!

8. Fennel

Once again, fennel surprises many of us. Not always used to the fullest potential, fennel is great for a cleansing cream. It is a very soothing herb, and the scent is relaxing.

9. Lavender

Lavender is a gentle herb, great for any type of skin. It’s lasting scent is both soothing and refreshing. I prefer using lavender as a common herb in almost all my creams. I feel that it holds up the other scents well, and offers just the right amount of soothing and comfort to any skin condition.


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