Tending to Depression & Anxiety in the Witches’ New Year
It is no secret how powerful herbs can be in both medicine and magick work; almost all of the practices and disciplines created in both fields are focused on the healing properties of nature, her cycles, her gifts, etc.
There are many ways to approach working with herbs in your spiritual and/or health regiments, which can be overwhelming, especially when you are attempting to heal or navigate mental health issues such as anxiety and depression.
How does a practitioner of magick effectively use herbs as elements for health in both the physical and spiritual realms, specifically when tending to anxiety or depression? What herbs should they turn to, and how can these herbs be incorporated in ritual, ceremony, or daily meditations?
In seeking the answer to these questions, I turned to Sara Truitt, Vitalist Herbalist, Educator, and Flower Essence Practitioner, for guidance on the medicinal properties of herbs that can help with those suffering from these mental ailments. Sara has been practicing for 7 years, and believes that adding herbs to a person's daily health care regimen is an amazing way to support people with anxiety and depression. This not only because herbalism focuses on healing holistically and communally, but also because it “creates greater connection to the land. Nature cure is one of the oldest and simplest forms of healing…. Working with plant medicine can be an amazing way to bring nature cure into our modern life. It can be a way not only to heal ourselves, but to be part of the healing for this planet.
When we build relationships, we will work to protect those relationships and encourage them to thrive. This is true to our relationship to the Earth.”
The following is a list of three herbs that Sara recommends to be used to help quell some of the effects of anxiety and depression. In addition to the medicinal information Sara provided, I have added suggestions for spiritual or magickal use based off of the traditions and history of these herbs.
Hypericum Perforatum (St. John’s Wort.)
This is a very famous herb for depression. Peter Holmes, who wrote The Energetics of Western Herbs, describes it as “an herb that restores the nerves, lifts the mind and relieves depression and anxiety.” The flower of St. John’s Wort looks like a burst of sunshine. The flowers are the part used to make tinctures, herbal infusions, or topical oils. The most important consideration is that St. John’s Wort is contraindicated if the person is already taking anti-depressant medication.
St. John’s Wort, as the name entails, has been long connected with Christianity, specifically around exorcisms and stigmata. It is said to have spiritual properties that banish evil, negativity, and some say, the Devil himself. Traditionally, the flower is most potent when cut on Midsummer’s Eve and cleansed through the smoke of the night’s celebratory fire. It can be worn around the neck, burned in incense (specifically with Frankincense), or hung in the home as protection from unwanted or dangerous energies.
St. John’s Wort can be used in any protection spell or ritual, or during winter months for hope, guidance, and light. As Steph Zabel, Herbalist, Ethnobotanist and Educator, writes:
In my experience it is indeed very useful when one feels melancholic, especially in the deep winter months. It seems fitting that such bright yellow flowers would be uplifting in darker days, especially Hypericum flowers which bloom right at the peak of summer, when the days are longest. If you sometimes suffer from seasonal melancholy or from “the blues,” you might consider bringing this joyful, light-filled herb into your life.
This might be particularly helpful if you experience seasonal depression, or feel as though your depression/anxiety is set off by negative energies, spirits, or environmental factors.
Scutellaria laterifloria (Skullcap)
This is one of my favorite herbs to work with when a client is presenting with an agitated nervous system and anxiety. Skullcap has a systemic relaxant effect that can help to relieve nervous tension. It can be especially beneficial for those who cannot sleep due to their anxiety.
Skullcap is a member of the mint family, and has been used in traditional Hoodoo folk magick in two major ways: 1) for fidelity spells and 2) for attraction magick. The fidelity spells where often to keep husbands faithful to their wives, and the attraction rituals were used to attract particular objects of desire, money, or security. While these traditions might be a little pointed or outdated in some regards, when navigating mental health, Skullcap can be used in abundance ritual or spell making, asking to attract positivity, gentleness, and self-awareness while understanding and working with mental disorders. It can also be used to stop nightmares or negative psychic blocks in your subconscious.
Matricaria recutita (Chamomile)
This herb is a mild remedy with a strong effect. When working with a person who is suffering with mental health it is important to consider using gentle herbs to start so that the person does not experience extreme disruptions to their systems. Chamomile is a great herb in that it can provide healing to an inflamed system while gently calming the mind. It is also well known so it can be a great “gateway” herb to introduce someone to herbal medicine. An easy start would be to take therapeutic doses by tripling the amount of tea bags when making chamomile tea.
Chamomile has been used in magick and healing practices since the time of the Ancient Egyptians. It is associated with masculine energy and water, but was dedicated to the sun god, Ra. I believe this mix of masculinity, light, and soothing water is what makes this herb so special and diverse in ritual and practice. It can be planted by windows and doors to keep out negative energy, crushed and put into black candles for banishing spells, or put into teas, salves, or oils to soothe the spirit during meditation. It can also be placed in a bag under your pillow to promote psychic connection and prevent nightmares.
Please remember that you should consult a professional herbalist and/or medical professional (especially if you are taking pharmaceuticals) before adding herbalism into your treatment of anxiety and depression. As Sara writes, “Herbs work in synergy with each other and need to be formulated for the individual’s needs. The above list is a starting point for formulation and provides a variety of the actions needed to support the healing of an individual with depression and anxiety.” (Mental) health is never a one-size-fits-all regiment, and when working with both physical and spiritual healing, it is important to collaborate with experts and community for support and knowledge.
For more herbalism and healing magick, make sure to check out or Healing Magick issue of Witchology Magazine!
In this issue, we cover healing magick, releasing bad or toxic relationships, working with emotions and intent in magick, lucid dreaming, healing crystals, and much more!
Interview, Sara Truitt, October 2018