Obtaining Herbs: Purchasing

Obtaining Herbs

Purchasing

Many of the ingredients used in herb magick come from far-flung parts of the globe. While I’d love to grow a sandalwood tree on my front porch, it’s just not possible.

So many herbs have to be purchased. This doesn’t lessen them in any way; in fact, the herb trade ensures that plant materials which would otherwise be unavailable can be obtained and used in magick.

Use mail-order herb and essential oil suppliers, you will be able to buy magickal herbs from around the world while sipping herb teas in your living room.

Then again, most larger cities and towns have at least one herb shop or health food store which stock herbs.Check your phone book.

Take care when buying essential oils. If the salesperson say, “Yes, it’s real jasmine oil!” and it carries a $3.00 price tag, it’s real synthetic jasmine oil. Even those oils labelled “essential” are usually the products of the laboratory rather than of the fields.

One good yardstick is price. Most true essential oils sell for between $10 and $40 per 1/3 or 1/2 ounce. Some, such as camomile, yarrow, cardamom, neroli, jasmine and rose can be far costlier. Buy carefully!

Synthetics have long been used in magickal herbalism, but I urge you to use only true essential oils.

Regarding herbs: Many stores can’t be relied upon to lay in fresh stock at regular intervals, so the rosemary you buy may be several years old. In general, choose dried herbs with bright colors, with few stem pieces and with fresh smells.

Avoid all herbs that are mostly stem, that have varying discoloration, are insect-damaged or moldy. Also avoid any with little scent if the herb is usually heavily fragranced.

Buying by mail complicates this process–its tough to determine whether the frankincense you’ve ordered is top quality. Simply avoid ordering more herbs from suppliers who send you lesser quality herbs.

And remember–suppliers are at the mercy of the growers. Obtaining a year-round supply of first-grade herbs is often difficult. So use what you can find and hunt for better supplies in the future.

Scott Cunningham

The Complete Book of Incense, Oils and Brews

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