A few nights ago a lovely friend of mine started to tell me about her new goal to get into herbalism. This wasn’t surprising, due to her interest in plants, specifically the poisonous kind, beforehand. She told me she’d picked up a few books to get started with.
They were all witchcraft books on the matter.
Don’t get me wrong, that is a place to start, and probably the most accessible. But sticking to only witchcraft or spiritual books when it comes to using plants and medicine, in potions, tinctures, teas, and even spell work that will touch your skin in any way possible…is quite simply put: dangerous.
One of my favorite books on plants is Braiding Sweetgrass. But this book only goes into the symbolism and the culture behind plants, and are used to tell stories to better describe the author’s, Robin Wall Kimmerer, important life events. I’ve read many witchcraft books that go into the symbolism, associations, and legends behind plants.
Very few touch on what is literally the most important: dosages, interactions, and the actual compounds of the plant.
That is why picking up medical books written by herbalists or doctors without any hint of witchcraft and spirituality is so important.
The actual compounds within a plant are what give it its medicinal benefits and affects. They will tell you exactly how they affect the body, and where. These compounds will tell you a lot about the interactions a plant will have – that is, how they work or don’t work with other plant medicines, over the counter medicines like Advil, and even prescription medications (yes, that does include birth control if you are on it). And the dosage, or how much you give a person, is extremely important as well.
The only witchcraft book I have ever seen go into these extremely important details is the Poison Path Herbal by Coby Michael.
But please, for your safety and the safety of others, use more than just spiritual readings to teach you about plants. The internet is a wealth of information on what medical books to choose from, as told by professional self-taught herbalists, free scholarly articles on Google, and so much more.
We should all be supported to follow the direction we want to go in our paths and our practice, but I will always be an advocate for learning from the right sources so we can be safe.
If you’re interested in learning more about the safety of herbalism and working with plants, check out our blog post on carrier oils.