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 electonic communications at our fingertips. Science is now slowly begining to learn the improtance 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 Pestile, one of stone or metal is prefered. 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 reuseable 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.
- Tea Ball. A good metal teaball of the single cup size can be very useful in the longrun 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 occasionnally for the making of sachets.
- A good sized teakettle. 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 (like this echo!)
- 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 useage 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.