When you want a remedial herb to provide as much of its magical energies as possible, you can’t just cut or pick it whenever you like. You will need to follow magical (and practical) rules that will ensure the given herb will retain as many remedial properties as possible, thus maximizing the beneficial effect.
So, what are these rules?
It could be said that everyone who picks herbs prepares for the act differently and in their own way, but the basic rules are the same. It is always necessary to attune yourself first – a Native American shaman does this by means of a sauna-like ritual and chanting; a Central European herbalist prays fervently to God and focuses on what signs were sent to them in a dream or through omens.
THE PICKER MUST PREPARE AND ATTUNE MENTALLY
In East Asia, the medicinal plant gatherer prepares themselves through long-term asceticism, where they abstain from eating meat or do not eat at all, maintain a state of vigilance and do not sleep, or maintain celibacy. Others reinforce their connection with the spirits of plants by consuming psychotropic substances; Amazonian Indians use ayahuasca and Central American Indians use psychotropic mushrooms, while in Asia and many other places in the world this purpose is served by cannabis.
In some areas, even experienced shamans use these aids, while in other cultural areas only the newly initiated (neophytes) help themselves to aids until they have gained enough experience to do without them, and are then able to reach the spiritual planes with their own strength.
Why is it necessary to attune in this manner? Because one must see plants as living beings that have healing powers that they can provide when appropriately requested. In our time and setting, it is probably ideal if we treat ourselves to a little moment of relaxation or meditation in which we clear our heads and focus on what and why we are going to collect.
So when you are in the right mood and know exactly which herb you wish to collect, it is appropriate to follow several practical rules.
- ONLY PICK HERBS YOU REALLY KNOW
This is a crucial rule which, if discarded, may mean that you bring home a completely different plant, leading to health complications rather than beneficial effects. That is why you should first ensure that you really know and recognize your herbs to be certain that you have found what you were looking for. It is best practice to consult a more experienced herbalist or herbarium (online or printed), and pick the herb without first trying it, taking your time to identify it properly when you get home.
- PICK CLEAN HERBS IN CLEAN PLACES
It is important that the collected herbs are both mechanically and chemically intact – that means without dust, of vivid colors, ideally grown in a meadow or garden. Never pick herbs on roadsides or in regularly fertilized fields. A plant full of chemicals or dust will be of little use during herbal treatments.
- PICK DRY HERBS DURING GOOD WEATHER
That is the only way in which you can prevent the herbs from rotting or letting water condense on them at home. Hence you should never pick herbs after rainfall – they will be soaked, and many will even clamp up. Another important reason is that on a sunny day, blossoming herbs in particular will contain the highest volume of aromatic oils, meaning they will be more effective. The ideal time is before midday (after the evaporation of dew) until around 4 pm.
Herbs should be gathered in a basket where they can be easily spread out, or into a textile bag, which will prevent water condensation. Never use plastic bags. The only exception to this rule is when collecting roots – these can be picked after rainfall. It will make collecting them easier, but you will need to dry them properly.
- PICK HERBS DEPENDING ON LUNAR PHASES
The powers of the moon have an influence on many events taking place around us, and the remedial effects of herbs are no exception. That is why you should keep the current moon phase in mind when picking herbs. If the moon is waxing (growing), the power of plants flows upwards, which is why it is best to pick stems, blooms and leaves. When the moon is waning (decreasing), plant energies are directed downwards, thus it is the best time to pick roots.
- PICK ONLY AS MANY HERBS AS YOU NEED
Remedial herbs are a gift of nature to be accepted with humility. A plant should be asked for help, and after it has been picked, it should receive gratitude. Never pick an entire plant; always remove only the part and amount that you really need. You shouldn’t pick all the specific plant species in an area either – leave some for local animals and other herbalists while ensuring the plant can remain in the area in the future.
WHEN TO PICK BLOOMS
Pick blooms when they start blooming or are already fully open, as they contain the highest volume of effective compounds at this time. Once the bloom starts drying and fading, this volume quickly decreases. You should also keep in mind they should be picked when the moon is waxing.
WHEN TO PICK LEAVES
Leaves are best picked at a time when the plant isn’t blooming, because during that time most of its powers are concentrated in the blooms. That is why leaves are best picked right before blossoming and afterwards. The waxing lunar phase is the ideal time for this.
WHEN TO PICK FRUITS
The fruits should be picked when ripe, which means during summer or fall. A waxing moon is the best time for fruits as well.
WHEN TO PICK ROOTS
Power concentrates in the roots to the greatest extent when a plant is in a phase of vegetative rest – when it isn’t concentrating its energy on the formation of leaves, blooms or seeds. This makes fall an ideal time, as plants calm down during this period, or early spring, when they are still gathering their energies and preparing to sprout.
Collect herbs with love for nature and humankind, and keep your heart and soul open. You will see that they will reward you with a magical power, helping you with any curing activities you invite them to partake in.