Chris Marano shares information on herbs for protection, starting in North American and moving to other locations around the world in this 3-part series
Herbs for protection is a very interesting topic. It’s an area of herbal lore that bridges many traditions, including the herbal medicinal world, the magical herbal world, as well as the folklore, traditional world, and even the homeopathic flower essence world.
Protective herbs find themselves into every area, whether you are leaning towards the very scientific or the very esoteric.
Understanding herbs for protection
What are we talking about protecting ourselves from? Well, this something that we are taking or wearing, or burning, or hanging, or placing around your home or property in order to protect oneself, one’s family, or one’s environment from negativity, from negative influences, or from evil influences, whether they are being directed at one maliciously as in somebody’s trying to put a hex on you, or helping to remove evil spirits from one.
These herbs for protection can also be seen to protect one’s health, whether from evil or pernicious influences from the invisible world — which in the old days may have been seen as spirits, but now we see them as microbes, bacteria, viruses, and such. Furthermore, some of these aren’t living organisms, like protection from electromagnetic field radiation or nuclear fallout and other toxins that are now in the environment that were placed here by us. There are herbs that are protective on that level as well.
There are many, many protection herbs that fall into different fields of study that we were talking about. Garlic for instance, has legendary protection properties all the way to the world of legend and mythology, like protection against vampires, werewolves and other evil spirits. People would hang it on their door to keep spirits and thieves away. Others would wear a clove around their neck or in an amulet bag for such protection. To this day, there are gold versions that are worn as amulets of protection, power and also lust, because garlic has that going for it as well. We know how amazingly antimicrobial garlic is for protecting us from bacteria and viruses and other illnesses, so it’s a common thread running through a protecting plant that makes it protecting on many levels, whether for the body and physiology, or for the mind and heart, or the psyche and spirit, or the environment – your home, your land, or your loved ones.
I’d like to speak to a few of these herbs for protection, knowing that I’m only gonna be naming a handful in comparison to what’s out there. There are some famous ones from both sides of the hemisphere and for going back through antiquity that are used as incense or smudge for burning. These not only produce an amazing aroma that most people find uplifting, spirit heartening and courage-inducing perhaps, but also negativity dispelling. That’s what they were mostly used for.
Herbs for protection from the First Nations: Sage and Ced
In North America, the First Nations people used Sage and Cedar, in most of these traditions as two of their four sacred medicines. They were used for creating safe space by deflecting negativity, negative energy, or toxicity in the environment. This includes negativity from others, whether just there in general or directed maliciously and pre-meditatively towards you, or even negativity rising within you.
Sage: There is common sage, Salvia officinalis or culinary sage, which oftentimes is wrapped into bundles and allowed to dry like a smudge stick and burned. We also have the very famous white sage from the west coast of North America. It’s a super famous smudge burning medicine. Now, it’s legitimately controversial, both because it was very much a sacred part of this section of the continent and was once passed around in a very sacred manner from one nation to another and traded for other such objects, but now it’s a commodity. It also only grows in one area, so there is big pressure being put on the species population. Nonetheless, what it does is amazing.
Sage is also used as a misnomer to cover the wide genus of Artemisia, which is oftentimes used in the same way. The aromatic bundles of the flowering tops and some of the leaves are tied together, allowed to dry, and then burned as a smudge in order to purify and deflect negativity. Wormwood, mugwort, sweet annie and many others are artemisias. Sage has been used in this part of the world long before the European colonization, and the same goes for cedar.
Cedar is another one of the four sacred medicines in the northern part of North America, Canada, and the northern United States. White cedar (Thuja occidentalis) is the one that’s used most. Again, these herbs are burned. The needles and twigs are burned once they’re dried in order to create protection to not so much dispel negativity as a repulsion or a deflector like sage, but more to the point of absorbing it, taking it in and converting into something neutral. It’s like taking negative light and turning it into white light. In the Southern part and central part of North America, red cedar or juniper was used more because it grew there more and it was used in a similar fashion.
There you have two of the four sacred medicines, along with sweet grass and tobacco, are considered as sacred as they get. In this next article we continue discussing herbs for protection and we head to Eurasia for frankincense and myrrh.
Want to learn herbalism in greater depth? Check out the online herbalist course: Foundations of Western Herbalism now.