Safety Tips - Botanicals

The Element Encyclopedia of Witchcraft: The Complete A-Z for the Entire Magical World - Judika Illes 2005

Safety Tips

Image Never use any botanicals without expert professional supervision. This extends to more than just standard internal administration. Even handling certain plants can be dangerous.

Image Do not wildcraft (i.e., don’t harvest from wild places), for two reasons:

1. This is the botanical equivalent of poaching animals; many botanicals are severely endangered in the wild.

2. Plants can be deceptive. It’s very, very easy to assume that one is picking one plant when one is, in fact, picking another. This is particularly true with mushrooms, who bear reputations as tricksters, sometimes deadly ones. The classic example occurred in Northern California. Japanese mushroom experts, visiting the area, brought their harvest home and prepared them for dinner and were promptly poisoned, some fatally. They were genuinely experts: what they picked was absolutely identical to mushrooms that were safe in Japan, except that the Californian variant was lethal.

Botanicals have local and folk names; these are the names they’ve been called in a specific language or region. Many of these folk names are very revealing; they tell you something about the plant’s nature and uses. However, many folk names are shared. Half a dozen plants are known as motherwort; the only thing they may have in common is that they’re beneficial in some aspect of maternity, whether conception, birth, or nursing. If you ask for motherwort, you may receive any one of these half dozen plants, at least one of which is also a powerful cardiac stimulant. However, each and every plant has only one Latin designation. That Latin designation is used internationally to describe only one single plant. Latin designations are the lingua franca, the common language of the worldwide botanical community. For safety’s sake, because otherwise you may have no idea what plant you’re working with and many plants have profound and sometimes dangerous physical effect, always use the plants’ Latin classification.

Corn, rye, and other grains, as well as ergot fungus, are discussed in ERGOT. Fly agaric mushrooms (Amanita muscaria) are discussed below.