The Poison Garden's gate at Alnwick Gardens.

The Poison Garden’s gate at Alnwick Gardens.

Don’t Eat What You Can’t Name
*a Pagan morality tale from yours truly, originally posted @ Pagan Forum*

I once knew a talented fellow
That could weave a tale, fierce or mellow
But never did he ever learn
The leaf of tree, wildflower, or fern

So when one night, he deigned to gather
Parts of plants he thought would matter
And he boiled them in a brew to drink
Then promptly expired in a lather, I think.

Don’t Wipe With It, Either
*an alternative ending by Perzephone @ Pagan Forum*

I once knew a talented fellow
That could weave a tale, fierce or mellow
But never did he ever learn
The leaf of tree, wildflower, or fern

So when one night, he deigned to gather
Parts of plants he thought wouldn’t matter
Cleaning his regions most tender
A fearsome red rash he did render

Lately, I’ve seen and heard several DIY ideas and herbal recipes and concoctions on blog posts and FB statuses on different pages that have made me cringe. Please, please do plenty of research before you use any recipe or herb you see on the internet or outside of a reliable herbal guide*…especially if you are intending it for a child, a pregnant woman, or a furry friend.  In fact, I feel so strongly about this that even though I just posted it on the blog’s FB page, I’m posting it here as well as a second reminder (and, I know some of you aren’t FB users)!

I’ve been practicing herbalism for over a decade, and I still always ALWAYS double (and triple) check dosage, contraindications, interactions, and any new information that has come about about the safety** and efficacy of an herb before I use it in a manner that is not consistent with my personal normal use. ALWAYS. Because you never have the excuse of “well, I didn’t know” or “But so-and-so on the internet said its what they did” when it is someone else’s life and health at stake.  Please practice safe herbalism!


(this is by no means a definitive list)

  • NEVER assume that because a herbal remedy is “natural” that it is “safe”.
  • NEVER assume that because an herbal remedy works a certain way in an adult that it will work the same way in a child.
  • NEVER assume that because an herbal remedy is safe for us that it is safe for our pets.
  • NEVER assume that just because something is being used topically or for cosmetic purposes that it can’t be toxic.
  • NEVER assume that a magical herb should be used medicinally or cosmetically.
  • ALWAYS research all of the herbs (whether they are being used in an infusion, as an essential oil, etc) that you are using.
  • ALWAYS check their toxicity for whomever you are planning to use them on AND those that might come into contact with them accidentally–human or animal (or for that matter plant).
  • ALWAYS check for contraindications with medical conditions and medications and allergies.
  • ALWAYS double and triple check your dosages and measurements.
  • ALWAYS be 100% sure of your identification of a plant if you are foraging, AND that you are gathering it from a safe place–if you are not sure, DO NOT USE IT. Otherwise, be sure the company or individual you are getting your herbs from is reputable.


*I use the term “reliable herbal guide” fairly broadly–your “guide” to herbalism might be a professional herbalist or a really, really good herbal, or a combination of in person, in print and (accurate and reliable) internet sources.  Unless your cousin’s girl friend’s uncle’s tarot card reader is any of those things, they don’t qualify.  Nor, for that matter, do I.  I try to be as reliable, accurate, researched and multi-sourced as possible before I post anything, but I’m certainly not perfect.

**Also, if working with poisonous plants is a goal of yours, for whatever reason, that’s fine.  I’m not one to pass judgement, I work with a number of plants that aren’t entirely safe myself.  They have a valid spot in magical herbalism for those of us of the witchy persuasion.  But please, please, please be smart about it.  Keep both herbs and the tools used to process them out of the reach of children and pets.  Have a separate set of tools for those substances (don’t make smoothies in the blender you pulverize arnica in).  Get training from someone that knows what they are doing.  Respect the plant, and don’t push the limits of safety, use them properly and in the correct dosages.  Be wary of working with herbs that are addictive in nature, particularly if you have a history of addiction, or it runs in the family.