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Book Review: “Plants of Love: The History of Aphrodisiacs, and A Guide to Their Identification and Uses

NON-FICTION :Plants of Love: The History of Aphrodisiacs, and A Guide to Their Identification and Use“, by Christian Ratsch, 1997 10 Speed Press, ISBN 089815-928-8 $19.95 (US)

CONTENT: Christian Ratsch has done it again with his wonderfully illustrated guide to yet another aspect of all things herbal. He pulls together the appropriate amounts of history, monographs including pictures that would help someone identify the plant in the wild. There are over a thousand plants that through history have been or are still being used as aphrodisiacs, and Ratsch rarely shies away from the frank discussion of any of them. He presents the information both interesting and shares enough knowledge to be of interest to the layperson, the Witch, as well as the scholar or the practising herbalist.

As far as books on the topic of Aphrodisiacs and their uses, Ratsch does the best job of any that I have seen. Far too many either get into debunking as to why these plants have been or are still useful, or they throw alot of urban legend into the mix without qualifying the information. Such practices cause plants (and even some animals) to be used in the process of trying to induce an erotic state or increase virility or fertility; some to the point of endangerment. Thankfully Ratsch is very conscious of this problem.

There are recipes for infusions, ointments, incenses and brews that are sure to entice. I was disappointed that Nymphaea caerulea or Blue “Lotus” (which is actually a blue water lily) was not included. I have tinctured and worked with this plant extensively and was very surprised, especially with its symbology and history that there was no discussion of it. There is a small bit of information about Nelumbo nucifera or ‘true’ Lotus, which is native to India and Asia that was very inclusive – as were most of all of the other entries.

RATING: B+ My only disappointment is that there is not even more in this book. There is a frank and extended discussion of even more plants in his latest book, including the ones that I was disappointed not seeing in this one, “Psychoactive Plants” which I am currently reading and will most probably be reviewing next. I definitely recommend “Plants of Love” as a great addition to any herbal library, however.

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Agrimony (Agrimonia eupatoria)

Agrimonia eupatoria (Rosaceae)

Common Names: Agrimony, Church Steeples, Liverwort, Sticklewort, Stickwort, Cockleburr, Warlock’s Bane,Philanthropos, Garclive
Planetary Influence: Jupiter
Element: Air
Gender: Masculine
Tarot Correspondence: The Wheel of Fortune

Description: Gray-green cinquefoil leaves, yellow flowers shaped of stars, the scent of apricots and seeds or burrs that stick to your garments as you pass by.

Medicinal Use: Steep fresh leaves in water to make infusion, used as an external astringent to stop bleeding and for treating wounds. Use the more delicate parts of plants. 3 cups of water to 1 ounce dry herb or 1½ ounce of fresh herbs; pour the freshly boiled water over herbs in a pot, cover the pot and let the herbs steep for at least 10 minutes. Strain. This herb is also used to treat jaundice, as it is tonifying for the liver and assists in making this organ of the body more efficient. (Remember the doctrine of signatures). Agrimony is an astringent and is used to staunch the flow of blood within wounds. It is also been used since antiquity for the healing of the eyes. Not commonly known, Agrimony is used to stop loss of the hair in both men and women. A tincture extracted in 80-100 proof vodka, macerated over 2 weeks to 1 month or one moon cycle is very effective in this way.

Magical Uses: Agrimony is used interchangeably with Cinquefoil which is also known as Five Finger Grass. This herb is protective and should very easily find its place in absolutely any and every protection spell and formula. Agrimony protects against all negative magic and energies, and indeed will not only thwart such workings but will reflect them right back to the sender. Agrimony can be used to quell the nerves of those who feel that they are under such magical and psychic attacks. If placed under the head, it can cause a very deep sleep. This should be used with caution, as it has been warned by many that such sleep cannot be broken until the herb is removed from under the pillow of the sleeper.Agrimony is also used as protection against goblins and poison.

Beyerl, Paul “A Compendium of Herbal Magick”1998 Phoenix Publishing
Cunningham, Scott “Cunningham’s Encyclopedia of Magical Herbs, 1985 Llewllyn Publishing
Wood, Matthew, “The Book of Herbal Wisdom”, North Atlantic Books

And this Wytch’s own considerable notes and experiences about this herb.

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Archillea millefolium

Archillea millefolium

Common Names: Achi Uea, Achilles Wort, Achilles Herb, Arrowroot, Bad Man’s Plaything, Carpenter’s weed, Death Flower, Devil’s Nettle, Eerie, Field ops, Gearwe, Green Arrow, Herba Muilitaris, Hundred Leaved Grass, Knights Milfoil, Knyten, Milfoil, Militaris, Military Herb, Millefolium, Noble Yarrow, Nosebleed, Old Man’s Mustard, Old Man’s Pepper, Sanguinary, Seven Year’s Love, Squirrel Tail, Snake Grass, Soldier’s Woundwort, Stanch Grass, Stanch Griss, Stanch Weed, Tansy, Thousand seal, Wound Wort, Yaroway, Yerw

Astrological: Primary: Libra, Taurus, Cancer, Secondary, Pisces and Scorpio

Associated Deities: Heru-Wer (Horus the Elder), Eros, Eleggua, Sekhmet, Obatala, Oshun

Medicinal: Antihemorrahagic, Antiperiodic, Antispasmodic, Astringent, Carminative, Diaphoretic, Febrifuge, Nervine, Stimulant (aromatic), Tonic, Vulnerary

Parts Used: Flowers, young leaves, Secondary leaves, root, (stalks for divining sticks – China) Best gathered in August when in full bloom.

Yarrow has been used since antiquity for the healing of wounds. Wounds that are deep, even cuts to the bone are benefitted by Yarrow. Yarrow offers also mild relief from pain including headaches. It works to the third level of cuts and wounds, and addresses the fevers associated with cuts and deeper wounds. Yarrow it is said is dedicated to the “Evil One”, hence some of the names such as Devil’s Nettle, Devil’s Plaything, Bad Man’s Plaything. Yarrow was used for divination in spells and the stalks used in Divination sticks for the I Ching in China. In the Highlands of Scotland there is an ointment that is made from fresh herb. This is good for piles, and is also used against the scab in sheep. Fresh leaves are used to help stop toothache.

Yarrow has been used as the basis for a beer and is found to be more intoxicating than that which is made with hops.

Magickal Uses: Yarrow can be used in a magical bag or sachet as well as incense to bring courage. It is excellent in bringing back long lost family and friends. Infusions of Yarrow can be sued to banish all sorts of malevolent spirits from both person and home. It is used as a scent in essential oils to enhance friendships and mutual respect between people. Yarrow encourages intuition in all of its forms and helps instill common sense and good negotiations on all sides.

Beyerl, Paul V. “Master Book of Herbalism”
Grieve, Maud A. A Modern Herbal, Dover Publications
Wood, Matthew, “The Book of Herbal Wisdom: Using Plants as Medicines”, 1997, North Atlantic Books
And this Wytch’s own considerable notes and experiences about this herb.

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