Herbal teas can be purchased bulk or bagged at health food stores such as GNC or Chamberlainís, by catalog, or by on-line distributors. Here are two sources I trust: AFN/GC at 148 South Broad St., Lititz, PA 17543, contact Rainbear at www.herbsrainbear.com [she is Native American and carries a large assortment of superb herbs at reasonable prices].
You can grow many herbs in your garden or in pots indoors as long as they get sunlight. The addition of rose hips and a fresh mint leaf in a cup of tea is delightful, but you can also create your own flavorful mixtures. Do be careful with herbal teas, however, as some have very specific functions. Cassias Augustifolias and Senna teas should be taken in very small doses as the first will initiate menses/bowel function and the second is a strong laxative. If either of these teas is used and the desired result attained [usually within 24 hours] then you can counter the affect with a black tea, such as English Breakfast or English Tea Time. Bigelow and Twinings are my favorite brands for basic black teas, and PG Tips is an excellent British import for a full bodied "cuppa." The magic of a tea is enhanced with natural foods prepared with correspondences in mind, such as with homemade key lime pie, almond biscuits, or calendula scones.
Some of my favorite tea combinations utilize rose hips, elder flowers, mint, hops, dandelion root, burdock root, calendula, raspberry leaf, and chamomile. I usually mix several of these with a black tea for a flavorful herbal concoction. Some teas are good for particular ailments, and so raspberry leaf is helpful for a sore throat, while rose hips gives a vitamin boost, black cohosh aids with cramps, and mint settles the stomach.
Herbal soaps may be easily made with gel and molds available at most hobby, art supply, or craft stores. Adding a touch of finely ground herbs or diluted essential oils can create a special soap with magical properties. Avoid anything that will irritate the skin, however, such as cinnamon or rue. Good additives are rosemary, patchouli, clove, rose, dragonís blood, or lavender, although I do like create combination scents as with patchouli and clove, dragonís blood and clove, or violet and pomegranate. Experiment and see what you can invent. Directions come with the materials for melting the prepackaged gel and using trays with a variety of molds shaped like leaves, flowers, suns, moons, and stars, etc.
Herbal baths are made with dried herbs tied in a cheesecloth or muslin bag--or even placed in a mesh tea ball--and set in the tub while drawing the hot water. Do not place the herbs loose in the tub or after a few such baths your drain will be totally clogged! Dispose of the used herbs after the bath. Add a dash of sea salt while the water is running if you want a ritual cleansing, and combine suitable herbs according to your intent. A bath in herbs of prosperity before meeting with the boss about a pay raise enhances your aura for more money, while a bath in herbs of romance will add allurement to your aura.
There are so many good quality essential oils on the market today that it is an easy matter to purchase them. They are found in health food stores, grocery stores, gift shops, and of course in magical supply or New Age stores. Oils added to batting [the stuffing used for making quilts--available at most variety stores in the sewing section] can be placed in charm bags to enhance the herbs and other objects inside. They can be added to a small amount of water and heated to diffuse their scent in a room. There are some very nice aroma therapy burners for this, by the way--just be careful not to let it burn down as the oils will burn. Again, be careful with cinnamon oil or rue as they can irritate the skin.
Many herbs used in the Craft are common to the spice rack and are regularly used in cooking: allspice, basil, bay, cilantro, marjoram, mint, oregano, parsley, peppercorn, rosemary, sage, and thyme are typical cooking herbs. By consciously focusing on the magical benefits of the herbs, you create a magical and empowered meal. Other herbs may be grown in the garden, in window planters, or in pots around the home, and clipped fresh according to need. They donít take up much space, and by snipping off a portion, you encourage new growth. Always let the plant know your need, ask it what you may have, and give it a blessing or a gift to receive the gift of its energies. The gift you offer may be a bit of crushed egg shell, a dab of used coffee grounds, a coin, some water or fertilizer as needed, or an energy blessing wherein you bring your hands close to the plant without touching it and push some of your own energy into the plant to be used as the plant desires. Energy movement is something I discuss in Green Magic: The Sacred Connection to Nature. The hands are excellent conduits for energy movement and are used in spell work with or without tools [such as athames and wands] to get the magic into motion.
Herbs are terrific for cleansing magical tools. Using spring water [which you can buy in gallon jugs at the grocery store] is best for the process as this is not contaminated with chlorine, fluoride, and other additives. You can steep mugwort leaves in hot water, then cool and use as a cleansing wash for crystal balls and other divination tools, such as pendulums or even black scrying mirrors. If you have trouble finding this herb, try looking for it in garden nurseries or with on-line prepared herb suppliers.
Herbs to Enhance Divination
These herbs can be burned on charcoal diskettes, heated in water, or added to a candle flame. The diskette and candle should be in burners that will not break, such as a metal cauldron, and be placed on a tile or trivet of some sort so as not to scorch the surface where they sit. Also, if adding herbs to a candle flame, be aware that this normally will make the candle burn faster, so the container should be large enough to hold the hot, melting wax. I do not recommend glass containers since these can split or shatter with the heat of melting wax or a burning diskette. Some people like to add a layer of sand in a cauldron and set the diskette on top of that, others so this also with a votive candle in a cauldron. I donít see much need for a sandy base in a normal cast iron or heavy metal cauldron as it is easier to clean later on by sitting the cauldron in a pan of hot water for a few moments, then slipping out the hardened wax with a paper towel. Now and then you may want to grease [any cooking oil or shortening will do] and bake your cauldron in the oven at 325 degrees to keep the metal in good condition. Wipe excess grease off when it cools. Use any of these herbs to assist in creating an atmosphere conducive to divination: bay, copal, lilac, mugwort, myrrh, or sage.
Herbs can be as easy to grow as weeds--in fact, some herbs [such as dandelion, whose root in tea is used as tonic and diuretic] are considered weeds. Many herbs prefer a well drained soil, and most like a lot of sun. If you live in a high-sun zone such as Florida or the Southwest, however, you may need to protect your herbs from the strong rays of the sun for them to prosper. Planting your garden under the shade of trees or on the north side of your home may be a help in these cases. There are a number of books on growing herbs and how to use them, but my favorites are: Rodaleís Illustrated Encyclopedia of Herbs from Rodale Press of PA, and edited by Claire Kowalchik and William H. Hylton; The New Age Herbalist from MacMillan Publishing Co. of NY, and edited by Richard Mabey and others; and Weinerís Herbal: The Guide to Herb Medicine, by Michael Weiner, Ph.D., and published by Quantum Books of CA. There are many others to chose from, of course, and half the fun is finding the ones that appeal to your personal taste. Rodaleís has an excellent guide for growing herbs and provides good illustrations and photos. One thing you will notice is that the medicinal uses for herbs varies from book to book with some recommending an herb and others warning against ingestion. Be sure you make an informed decision before consuming herbs.
For listings of magical uses, check my books Green Witchcraft: Folk Magic, Fairy Lore, & Herb Craft [introduction to my Hereditary Tradition], Green Witchcraft II: Balancing Light & Shadow [for Dark Power herbal associations], Grimoire for the Green Witch [a complete listing of correspondences], or Witchcraft: An Alternative Path [a beginnerís guide to the Craft based on Nature also with a listing of correspondences].
With herbal charm bags, for example I suggest adding stones and crystals that enhance the energies, so tucking a small crystal into the bag with the herbs, and perhaps a bit of batting with an essential oil, sewing it up in material that is a color appropriate for the goal, will bring all the energies into alignment and add to the power of your charm. The bag can then be carried in a purse, briefcase, or pocket, or placed somewhere such as in the car or in a window sill or above the door at the home.