Wild harvested eye of newt, toe of frog, wool of bat and tongue of dog are what you would expect to find in a standard witch's brew. However, for the modern Green Witch, such implements definitely require a bit of toil and trouble to find. Nowadays, keeping the stove-top cauldron bubbling with the most magical of potions is as easy as grabbing some weeds off the front lawn or the edge of a sidewalk.
Common weeds, like dandelions, nettle, elder berries and hawthorne grow in abundance in many regions of the country, and can be used for a variety of herbal remedies, that some claim work just as well as over-the-counter drugs. Did you know dandelions are fantastic in a salad and are a highly effective diuretic? Ginger counters nausea? Or, that feverfew is great for a tooth-ache?
Think it's all just a bunch of hocus pocus?
Well, the National Institute of Health (NIH), a subdivision of the Department of Health and Human Services, disagrees. Check out their site on Complementary and Alternative Medicine for the proper handling and specific effects of common herbs. Also check out the organic herb shop, Flower Power Herbs & Roots, where you can order more than three hundred freshly dried, organic herbs, seeds, roots and flowers that you might have missed on your daily walk around the neighborhood.
"If you can boil water, you can utilize the herbs all around you," says Lata Chettri–Kennedy, Flower Power owner and resident Greenwich Village Green Witch, a.k.a. herbalist extraordinaire. "Just drop the loose herbs in a mug, and enjoy. The most beneficial things grow in our backyards, so a plain green lawn is very depressing to me."
Kennedy says that it's more ecological to use locally grown herbs rather than pharmaceuticals. "When you cut and dry a plant, (your) taste(buds) immediately trigger the natural, medicinal effects," she says. "In pill form, so much energy has gone into irradiating and re-formulating the herbs that they've lost their essential essence to packaging." Not to mention, they lose their eco-friendly preparation and disposal.
Composting your used herbs or dropping them down the garbage disposal is an eco-friendly alternative to hazardous pharmaceutical waste disposal, whose toxicity moves from landfills and sewers into the local water supply.
To woo the object of your desire this Halloween, Kennedy recommends brewing up the following potion: 1/2 ounce damiana, 1/2 ounce Siberian ginseng, 1/2 ounce ashwagandha, 1/8 ounce licorice root and 1/12 ounce prickly ash bark combine to make the ultimate love potion/aphrodisiac.
Story by Nicole Zerillo. This article originally appeared in Plenty in October 2007. The story was added to MNN.com.