Herbs have always been a big part of my craft, and have helped me use magic in a much more inconspicuous way when I needed to. I always try to incorporate a little magic into my cooking, so I’ll use specific herbs to help give intention and different energies to the meal I’m making.
Even as my craft and cooking style have grown and changed over the years, I’ve found that there are a few herbs that I am always drawn to and like to use. This is both because of the correspondence associated with the different herbs, as well as the taste they add to my food. Because of my chronic conditions, I also tend to lean towards herbs and spices that have medicinal uses. While there are a lot that I like to use regularly, here are my top five herbs that I use most frequently.
Since being diagnosed with a digestive disorder in high school, ginger has become a staple in my diet. I put dried or fresh ginger in almost everything I cook, and drink ginger tea on a daily basis. The herb has proven digestive aid benefits and is often taken to reduce nausea and motion sickness. I find that it settles my stomach almost instantly, and helps me eat most meals without the nausea and discomfort that I used to get.
In spellcraft, ginger is a fire based herb, so it is often used as a quickening agent to speed up or intensify the effects of a spell. In my experience, fresh ginger is the best to use if you want to add some gentle heat to a spell, and works particularly well for positive spells. This is because fresh ginger has a much sweeter, lemony taste that is much more enjoyable than dried ginger. Conversely, dried ginger has a distinct, biting heat to it that is perfect to add sudden intensity to a spell and could work for positive spells or curses.
Garlic is one of my favorite herbs for adding flavor to meals and I put it in almost everything. It’s taste can range from a savory sweet (when cooked) to sharp and pungent. There are some preliminary studies showing that garlic has some anti-fungal and anti-parasitic properties, but nothing definitive has come out yet. It even has potential to help reduce tick and mosquito bites if eaten frequently enough.
Similar to ginger, garlic is a fire herb that is used to add heat to a spell. With it’s harsher flavor and potential to repel blood sucking insects, I find this herb is great for banishing spells that you want to kick in quickly and stay consistent. For some people, garlic can also be an irritant and have adverse side effects such as bloating and discomfort when ingested, or skin irritation when the oils come in contact with sensitive skin. This is another reason why I think it’s great for banishing spells, as well as curses to add some lingering unpleasantness to your target.
While there is insufficient evidence showing it’s effectiveness, basil is often used to aid in stomach spasms and general digestive discomfort. I haven’t found any medicinal use in it, but I love the flavor fresh basil adds to my dishes. It has a flavor that is reminiscent of cat nip, but much more savory and perfect to add in sauces or stir fries.
Basil is frequently associated with protection, luck, and fortune and is a great herb to keep around the house for a number of spells. Some even suggest to grow a basil plant in your home or garden to maintain blessing and luck over your household. Personally, I like to use it in both protection and money spells. With it’s gentle flavor and pleasant aroma it helps to invite the right energy into my spells and give them a consistent effect. However, basil is typically slow acting, so using it in spells means you much be patient and allow it to do it’s work over time.
There is some evidence that rosemary can be beneficial to memory, particularly when used by young people to maintain strong memory. Some also use it to help settle upset stomachs and to reduce inflammation. Like basil, it imparts a wonderful flavor into food, but fresh rosemary is quite strong and can easily overpower other flavors if not used carefully.
Rosemary is considered an all-purpose herb when it comes to magic, and can be used in a pinch for any spell, the same as using a white candle or quartz crystal. Some witches use it for protection and luck as well, so this one is always good to keep fresh or dried around the house. With it’s memory aiding properties, rosemary is especially beneficial for memory, dream, and lost things spells.
Finally, we can’t have a top 5 list of herbs without including something spicy! Cayenne pepper is my favorite herb to use to add the perfect amount of heat to every dish. Like other spicy peppers, cayenne also has a strong concentration of capsicum, which has been shown to reduce pain and inflammation, as well as improve circulation. Additionally, as anyone who’s ever eaten spicy food while congested can attest, the pepper can help relieve cold symptoms and congestion.
For me, cayenne is a tricky herb to classify magically. While on the one hand, the strong heat and intense burn that is can impart is perfect for just about any curse, particularly if you want it to kick in fast and add a little pain to your target. One of my favorite uses is in a banishing powder that includes other unpleasant things like rust, charcoal, and bone dust.
That being said, the medicinal qualities of cayenne shouldn’t be overlook when considering it’s magical uses as well. Like ginger and garlic, you can use it to heat up a spell and add some speed to it, but remember it’s HOT, so use it sparingly and be prepared for a sudden and intense effect. In particular, it can be used in healing spells to help get over a stronger illness, or to relieve symptoms for a short time if needed (ie. for a job interview or special occasion).
**A note on cayenne: This is a very strong pepper, so be careful when using it. Whether you’re working with dried powder or a fresh pepper, always refrain from touching your face and wash your hands after handling. If you have sensitive skin, it’s not a bad idea to wear gloves when handling.
The way I use all of these herbs is a combination of the wider known associations, as well as my own association and understanding of the herb. The fire herbs in particular have some strong benefits for me in dealing with my digestive symptoms, so I have a bit more of a positive relationship with them than others might. If you want to start working with herbs, using the know correspondences is a great place to start, but I strongly encourage you to make your own association with them too!
While I use herbs both medicinally and magically, I am in no way an herbal or medical expert, as such nothing in this post should be taken as medical advice. If you are going to work with herbs, please do your own research and make sure you understand any potential risks or side effects they may have. If you’re going to use any herbs consistently or in a large quantity, consult with a medical professional as many herbs react with prescriptions, over the counter medications, and may exasperate symptoms of existing conditions.