My occult mystery novel, Murderous Requiem, features many different types of magick and divination, so I thought I’d talk briefly today about one that has some grounding in medical science—herbalism.
Jeremy and Boywn’s friend Alex is an herbalist who keeps them all supplied with herbal teas and tinctures.
She was based upon several people I’ve known over the course of my life, including women who owned “New Age” stores specializing in herbs. For much of my time in college, I studied herbalism myself.
One of the big misconceptions about herbs is that, because they’re natural, they’re safe. They aren’t necessarily. Many are, in fact, quite dangerous. The pennyroyal tea/tincture that appears in Murderous Requiem is traditionally used as an abortifacient and has been responsible for killing women who take too much. Herbs like Foxglove are extremely potent and can be dangerous if handled without gloves. Less dire, but still a concern, are possible allergies. Chamomile, for example, causes an allergic reaction in some people, though it’s perfectly safe for most of us.
Still for anyone interested in herbal remedies, here are some simple ones that I’ve used over the years and can recommend as both effective (as in, they actually have a noticeable effect) and safe. Remember that everybody is different, so if a particular herb doesn’t sit well with you, discontinue its use. All of these herbs can be found in herbal supply shops.
- Peppermint and other mints, such as Spearmint and Catnip, are generally good for the digestion. A tea brewed with a teaspoon or two of the dried leaves can be used to settle the stomach and relieve indigestion. Mints are also great as flavoring agents in other herbal infusions, since they are strong enough to mask the unpleasant tastes of other herbs.
- Clove, especially Clove Oil, is a wonderful local anesthetic. I use just a dab on my finger or a Q-tip to relieve the pain of a toothache or a canker sore. Don’t swallow a lot of Clove, because it can also be used to induce vomiting, when taken in large amounts (although I’ve never had a problem). Some people may also be allergic to Clove.
- Nutmeg works well for relieving gas and bloating. I just sprinkle a little in a glass of milk—maybe half a teaspoon. This isn’t good for people who are lactose intolerant, of course. But it can be sprinkled in other drinks, if you don’t mind the taste. In extremely large doses, Nutmeg is purportedly hallucinogenic, but from everything I’ve heard, it will make you seriously ill long before the hallucinogenic properties kick in. Needless to say, I haven’t bothered to experiment with that.
- White Willow Bark contains salicylic acid, which is the active ingredient in aspirin. A tea made with one or two teaspoons of White Willow Bark is a good mild pain killer. However, the same warnings apply to this that also apply to aspirin: it may cause stomach upset and should be avoided with children and young people suffering from viral infections, due to the risk of Reyes syndrome.
- Dandelion Leaf tea is a great diuretic. This may not sound particularly useful, but it’s been found to be effective in lowering blood pressure. Some people can have an allergic reaction to Dandelion, but that’s generally from eating the flowers and pollen.
- Valerian Root tea is an effective sedative, good for relaxation and for curing insomnia. I also find it effective against a headache—even a mild migraine (i.e., in which the headache is focused on one side of the head or around one eye, a classic migraine, but not necessarily so strong I can’t function)—though it only kills the pain for an hour or so. I probably wouldn’t recommend drinking more than two or three cups in a day, and like any other sedative, it’s probably unwise to drink it on top of alcohol, strong painkillers or sleeping pills. Personally, I think Valerian smells like old socks doesn’t taste much better, so I generally mix with a teaspoon or so of mint.
- Jewelweed (aka Touch-Me-Not) is a plant with orange and red flowers and seed pods that children always find entertaining, because they explode upon contact, tossing the seeds in all directions. More useful are the translucent stems, which can be crushed and applied to rashes on the skin caused by poison ivy or stinging nettle. The juice is immediately soothing and has antihistamine properties.
About the Author:
Jamie Fessenden set out to be a writer in junior high school. He published a couple short pieces in his high school's literary magazine and had another story place in the top 100 in a national contest, but it wasn't until he met his partner, Erich, almost twenty years later, that he began writing again in earnest. With Erich alternately inspiring and goading him, Jamie wrote several screenplays and directed a few of them as micro-budget independent films. His latest completed work premiered at the Indie Fest 2009 in Los Angeles and also played at the Austin Gay and Lesbian International Film Festival two weeks later.
After nine years together, Jamie and Erich have married and purchased a house together in the wilds of Raymond, New Hampshire, where there are no street lights, turkeys and deer wander through their yard, and coyotes serenade them on a nightly basis. Jamie currently works as technical support for a computer company in Portsmouth, NH, but fantasizes about someday quitting his day job to be a full-time writer.
Visit Jamie at http://jamiefessenden.wordpress.com/\
Jeremy Spencer never imagined the occult order he and his boyfriend, Bowyn, started as a joke in college would become an international organization with hundreds of followers. Now a professor with expertise in Renaissance music, Jeremy finds himself drawn back into the world of free love and ceremonial magick he’d left behind, and the old jealousies and hurt that separated him from Bowyn eight years ago seem almost insignificant.
Then Jeremy begins to wonder if the centuries-old score he’s been asked to transcribe hides something sinister. With each stanza, local birds flock to the old mansion, a mysterious fog descends upon the grounds, and bats swarm the temple dome. During a séance, the group receives a cryptic warning from the spirit realm. And as the music’s performance draws nearer, Jeremy realizes it may hold the key to incredible power—power somebody is willing to kill for.