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Vervain – Herb of the Month, February 2020

Vervain, commonly known as Verbena, is an extremely versatile herb, both magickly and medicinally. Found all around the world, it has a rich and useful history. Vervain has been considered a magickal and sacred herb in many different cultures throughout the centuries. It is best remembered as a sacred plant to both the Druids and the Roman priesthood.

Vervain - Verbena Officinalis
Verbena Officinalis

To the ancient Romans the name “verbena” meant altar plant. The twigs of the plant were put into bundles and then used to sweep the altar and temple areas.

The name “vervain” comes from the Celtic term “ferfaen;fer” meaning “to drive away” and “faen” meaning “a stone”. Healers would gather this herb to be used to treat kidney stones – something it is still used for today.

Vervain is a slim plant that may grow to be about 80 cm (32 in) tall. It is a hardy perennial and self-sows. It grows freely in the wild and is often found along roadsides and in dry or stony grounds. Today it is a favorite in many a garden and a staple in every witch’s herbal cabinet and apothecary.

Plant: Common Vervain

Scientific Name: Verbena

Genus: Verbena, L.

Latin Name: Verbena Officinalis, Verbena Californica, Verbena Hastata (Blue Vervain)

Family:  Verbenaceae

Folk/Secret Names: Van Van, Dragon’s Claw, Enchanter’s Plant, Herba Sacra, Holy Plant, Frog’s Foot, Juno’s Tears, Pigeon Grass

Gender: Feminine

Elements: Water

Planet: Venus

Astrological Signs: Gemini

Deities: Venus, Cerridwen, Isis, Mars, Venus, Aradia, Jupiter, Thor, Juno

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Vervaain - An artists rendition of vervain

Magickal Uses of Vervain

Vervain is a sacred plant, potentially the most mystical plant on earth. It is used on altars and is a staple plant in magic ceremonies. It is a versatile herb that has many magickal uses.

Parts Used: Flowers and Leaves

  • Bestowing peace
  • Catalyst – use to make spells “go”
  • Cleansing the altar
  • Consecration of tools
  • Healing
  • Herb of Immortality
  • Keeping evil at bay
  • Protection
  • Purification
  • Romance and love
  • Turning your rival into an ally
  • Used in fortune telling and prophecy
  • Vervain is the herb of poets, singers, and bards.  It was often carried by these performers for to bring inspiration and increased skill
  • Vervain was placed around fields to prevent bad weather and to ensure a good harvest.
  • Vision questing

Substitutions: Motherwort, Skullcap, California Poppy

Verbana hastata
Verbena Hastata

Growing Vervain

This easy to grow plant is a favorite in many home gardens. The Verbena genus is large, contains both annuals and perennials, and has a range in height from 10 cm through to 1.4 m. Vervain (Verbena) as an annual grows in zones 1 to 10, as a perennial: zones 3 to 10. In general the plants have dark green toothed leaves, and bloom from summer until the first frost of winter. Depending on the variety they may have clusters of tiny flat fragrant flowers or spikes with tiny flowers, making Vervain a great attractor of butterflies and bees to the garden.

Vervain can easily be started from seeds. Be sure to stratify the seeds (follow link for definition) to increase the germination rate. Sow seeds outside after the last frost of spring. Seeds can take anywhere from two weeks to three months to germinate, so don’t get discouraged. Alternately you can pick up plants from your local nursery.

Plants need full sun and well-drained soil. Keep the soil moist, but not wet. Spacing of your plants will depend on the variety.  Consult the information on the seed packets or plant tags to determine the planting space required for your variety. When in doubt, consult the staff of your favorite nursery or garden center.

Depending on your soil quality and acidity, Vervain needs very little fertilizer.  I usually add a bit to the soil before I sow seeds or add new plants and to any established perennials in the early spring.

Blooms are very long lived.  However, Vervain is self-sowing so if you don’t want your garden overrun with these beautiful plants cut the flowers before they go to seed.

Medicinal Uses

The information provided below is for educational purposes only and is not to be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Additional Information

Verbena Officinalis is most often used medicinally.  Alternately you could use Verbena Hastata. Some of Vervain’s properties are:

  • Analgesic
  • Antibacterial
  • Anticoagulant
  • Anti-inflammatory
  • Antispasmodic
  • Astringent
  • Diaphoretic
  • Diuretic
  • Emmenagogue
  • Galactagogue
  • Nervine
  • Stimulant

Vervain is most often used to treat:

  • Anxiety
  • Ascites
  • Cirrhosis
  • Colds
  • Depression
  • Flus
  • Gout
  • Headaches
  • Insomnia
  • Jaundice
  • Kidney Stones
  • Liver disorders
  • Mastitis
  • Painful or irregular menses

Please consult a licensed Herbalist and your Physician before using any parts of the Vervain plant medicinally.


Sources: 

Beyerl, Paul The Master Book of Herbalism Blaine, Washington, Phoenix Publishing Inc. 1981

Dugan, Ellen Garden Witch’s Herbal, Woodbury, MN, Llewellyn Publications 2009

Mueller-Ebeling, Claudia, Ratsch, Christian, and Storl, Wolf-Dieter Witchcraft Medicine Vermont Inner Traditions 2003

Tierra, Michael The Way of Herbs New York, NY, Pocket Books, 1998

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Camellia – Plant of the Month

Camellia Plant of the Month - March 2019

Our plant for March 2019 is the ornamental Camellia flower, Camellia japonica. Known as common camellia, Japanese camellia, or tsubaki in Japanese, this is one of the best known species of the genus Camellia. The other most common type is Camellia sasanqua. The Camellia is an evergreen shrub which is related to the tea plant. It is grown for its showy flowers and shiny leaves.

The name camellia is of Latin origin, and means ‘helper to the priest.’ It was named after a Jesuit botanist Georg Joseph Kamel, although he knew nothing about the plant.

Camellia Flower - 4 red camellia flowers
4 Red/Pink Camellia flowers

Plant: Camellia

Higher Classification: family Theacaea

Scientific Name: Camellia japonica, Camellia sasanqua

Folk Names: Rose of Winter

Gender: Feminine

Elements: Water

Deities: Benzaiten, Shichi Fukujin

Planet: Moon

Magickal Uses of Camellia

Parts Used: Petals or Whole Flower

  • Confidence
  • Decision Making
  • Divine Feminine
  • Friendship
  • Good luck
  • Gratitude
  • Humility
  • Perfection
  • Reasoning
  • Riches
  • True Prosperity

Substitutions: Roses can often be used as a substitute for Camellia

Growing Camellia Plants

Camellia Plant - A tall camellia tree
A Camellia Tree

Camellias are long-lived trees and shrubs that provide year-round glossy-green foliage and cool season flowers.  There are 100 – 300 describes species with perhaps thousands of different hybrids.  Ranging in colors from pure white, to pink, to red, purple and yellow, these easy to grow plants are a favorite with gardeners everywhere.

Planting Tips:

  • Camellias need to be planted a little high, so that the top of the root ball is level with the surface of the soil. This helps water drain away from the trunk.
  • Camellia roots are shallow, so avoid planting them under shallow-rooted shade trees such as birch and maple. They are often grown in the light shade of tall, deep-rooted pine trees.
  • Smaller varieties can be grown in containers. Use a potting mix designed for camellias, azaleas, or rhododendrons for best results.

Timing is critical when planting your camellias. Gardeners in warm areas (zones 8-10) can plant in the fall, winter and spring. If you are in zones 6 and 7 you’ll need to plant in springs so the plants will have a chance to establish its root system before cold weather sets in.

Camellia plant - White Camellia flower
White Camellia

Medicinal Uses for Camellia

The information provided below is for educational purposes only and is not to be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Additional information

  • Antioxidant
  • Antimicrobial
  • Antihaemorrhagic
  • Astringent

The flowers of the Camellia plant are astringent, antihaemorrhagic, and haemostatic.

Because they are an antioxidant and antimicrobial they are excellent for salves and tonics. When mixed with sesame oil they are used in the treatment of burns and scalds.

Camellias can be a rich source of Omega-9, squalene and multiple vitamins and minerals.

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Dill- Herb of the Month

Dill is a semi-hardy annual with erect, freely branching annual herb with finely dissected, lacy, blue-green foliage. Dill is best known for its use in the making of pickles but can be used both as a culinary and medicinal herb. Magickly, Dill – our herb of the month, is a powerful and potent plant ally.

Dill - Herb of the Month
Lacy green leaves in a bunch
Dill – Our Herb of Month

Plant: Dill

Latin Name: Anethum graveolens

Family:  Apeacia (a member of the parsley family)

Folk/Secret Names: Dilly, Dill Weed, Garden Dill, Meeting House Seed, Hairs of a Hamadryas Baboon, Semen of Hermes

Gender: Masculine

Elements: Fire

Planet: Mercury

Astrological Signs: Gemini

Deities: Anubis, Hermes, Janus, Khensu, Mercury

Magickal Uses of Dill

Parts Used: Leaves, flowers, and seeds

  • Attracting Money – Place dill seeds and leaves in a spell bag then place in your wallet or purse to attract money.
  • Attracting Romance – Add dill seed to a sachet and hang it on your showerhead or place in a bath to make you irresistible to your lover.
  • Breaking Jinxes (leaves)
  • Dispelling bad dreams – create a sachet and place under your bed or pillow.
  • Emotional and Mental Balance
  • Good Fortune in Court (seeds)
  • Good Fortune in love affairs (seeds)
  • Love
  • Luck
  • Lust
  • Protection -Hang dill in doorways to promote protection. Place a sprig of dill in a child’s crib for safety and peaceful sleep.

Substitutions: You can substitute Fennel in your spell work if you are out of Dill as it has similar correspondences.

Growing Dill

Dill, our herb of the month, does not transplant well, so sowing the seeds is recommended. Plant 12 to 15 inches apart in a weed-free, semi-rich, slightly acidic, well-drained soil in a sheltered sunny position. It takes well to pots and containers, just be sure that they drain well.

Plants may grow to 2 or 3 feet in height. Pinch off the flowers if you wish to increase the leaf production.

As soon as the plant has four to five leaves, you can start harvesting. Pinch off the leaves or cut them off with scissors.

Leaves can be used fresh or dried. Dry your harvested leaves by either hanging them upside down in bunches or spread on a mesh screen or muslin. Place in a warm – not hot – area out of the direct sunlight.  You may also dry in a dehydrator.

When growing for the seed try growing more than one plant, one or two for the leaves and one or two for the seed. Do not plant Dill next to Fennel as the plants will cross-pollinate. Keep them away from Carrot as well as the carrots will not grow well with Dill around.

Dill seeds in the late summer or early autumn. Flower can take up to 25 days for the seeds to germinate. The seeds should be collected when they are light brown and fully formed. Place a paper bag over the seed heads and cut, leaving a bit of the stem sticking out of the bag.  Tie the stems together and hang to dry for a 10 to 15 days. You will know that they are ready when you shake the bag and you hear the seeds fall.

Warning:  Mature dill seeds are toxic to birds! Harvest all seeds before they drop.

Culinary Uses of Dill

Dill -Herb of the Month
Dill seeds on a butcher block counter
Dill Seeds

Add Dill – our Herb of the Month – to potatoes for a tangy treat.

Create a Dill infused vinegar for use on salads by adding Dill to white wine vinegar and infuse for 2 weeks.

Add some dill to scrambled eggs, omelets and frittatas for some zest.

A pinch of dill creamed into butter with some added garlic makes a great spread for toast, bread and biscuits.

Let’s not forget the pickles! Dill – our Herb of the Month- is essential in making a crisp and crunchy dill pickle.  Check out this great dill pickle recipe here

Medicinal Uses of Dill

The information provided below is for educational purposes only and is not to be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. More information on these disclaimers can be found here.

  • Antimicrobial
  • Bacteriostatic
  • Carminative
  • Digestive aid
  • Flatulence reducer
  • Helps to soothe colic in infants
  • Sleep Aid
  • Soothes a gassy stomach
  • Stimulant
  • Stress reliever
  • Dill helps relieve flatulence and a gassy stomach when taken as a tea or by chewing the seeds.
  • Use Dill to assist in relieving infant colic.
  • German health authorities have approved dill as a treatment for intestinal complaints related to bacteria.
  • Chew on the seeds of the Dill plant to dispel bad breath (Halitosis)
  • Taken as “dillwater” it aids in promoting the secretion of milk and, when taken regularly by nursing mothers, is said to help avoid colic in their babies.

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Tarragon – Herb of the Month

Tarragon is a perennial plant with long, light green leaves. It is not a plant that is normally found in the American garden as it is used sparsely for culinary purposed here. However, tarragon, our herb of the month, is a must have for every magickal herb cabinet.

Plant: Tarragon, French Tarragon

Latin Name: Artemisia dracunculus, Artemisia dracunculus var. sativa

Folk Names: Estragon, Little Dragon, Dragon’s Herb, Dragon’s Mugwort,Wyrmwort

 Close up on the leaves of French Tarragon
French Tarragon
Ready for Harvest

Gender: Feminine

Elements: Fire

Planet: Mars

Astrological Signs: Aries

Deities: Artemis, Venus

Magickal Uses of Tarragon:

Parts Used: Leaves – fresh or dried

  • Detoxification
  • Protection
  • Banish Negative Energies
  • Exorcism
  • Confidence
  • Courage
  • Keeping secrets
  • Sprinkling tarragon upon the windowsills and doorways is said to protect the home from thieves.
  • Often used by Hedge Witches for its soothing and calming effects.
  • Cultivates warmth and feelings of comfort
  • Used as a “fixing herb” in hoodoo and voodoo.
  • Attract Love
  • Luck
  • Aids in personal growth
  • To Elicit desire

Substitutions: Anise can be substituted for tarragon in most spells and vise versa.

Growing Tarragon

French Tarragon growing in the garden
Grow Tarragon in your Witches Garden to have fresh herbs in your magickal herbal cabinet.

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Tarragon, our herb of the month, cannot be started from seeds, only cuttings. Transplant Tarragon in the early spring.  Plant your cuttings in well-drained soil about 2 – 3 feet apart in a sunny area. Tarragon does not care for wet conditions as this may cause the plant to become straggly and die off.

Plants may grow to 2 or 3 feet in height. Prune your plant regularly to prevent flowers and to keep at a height of about 2 feet as any taller and the plant tends to droop.  Every 3 or 4 years divide up your plant in the spring or fall, freeing up space to keep the plant healthy.

In the fall remove any leaves and debris that falls on the plant as it will kill the foliage. Tarragon will die back to the ground during the winter months but will reemerge quickly in the spring.

Culinary Uses

Cut Tarragon laying on a wood cutting board
Fresh cut Tarragon leaves

The French Tarragon variety is the plant most used in cooking.  Tarragon adds flavor to eggs, fish, cheese and poultry.  It is a main ingredient in French Bernaise sauce for Eggs Benedict. Tarragon butter can be used over green beans, asparagus, peas, carrots. Add tarragon to mayonnaise to serve with cold seafood or fish.

Create a Tarragon infused vinegar for use on salads by adding tarragon to white wine vinegar and infuse for 2 weeks.

Medicinal Uses

The information provided below is for educational purposes only and is not to be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Additional information

  • Antiseptic
  • Mild anesthetic
  • Emmenagogue
  • Laxative (in large amounts)
  • Cardioprotective
  • Anti-hyperglycaemic
  • Tarragon stimulates the digestive system and also enhances appetite. It helps regulate metabolism by promoting the secretion of digestive juices and activates the co-enzymes that assist digestion.
  • Tarragon herb helps relieve flatulence, constipation, hiccups and dyspepsia.
  • Tarragon is a rich source of Vitamin C, which helps boost the immune system of the body. It helps prevent strain on the immune system, preventing a variety of infections and ailments.
  • Another health benefit of tarragon is its ability to cure oral problems like loosening of teeth, cavities and fragility of gums.
  • Chew Tarragon to relieve the pain of toothache and sore gums.
  • A fine paste made of fresh Tarragon leaves placed on abrasions, ulcers, boils and cuts will assist in preventing infection and facilitate the quick healing of the wound.
  • A handful of fresh tarragon leaves placed into a pot of boiling water will create a fragrant and healing vapor. Place your face carefully over the pot and inhale the fumes to clear sinuses, relieve headaches and migraine pain.
  • Warnings: Do not consume Tarragon while pregnant as it may be harmful in large quantities and to avoid risk of complications and accidental abortions.

Notes: Tarragon is a member of the Asteraceae family. If you are sensitive or allergic to other plants in this family such as ragweed, daisy or marigold you should take caution when adding tarragon to your diet either as a culinary herb or medicinally.