The Herbs, Roots, and Bark Library

Herbs beginning with the letter S

Sage in bloom A close up of the bloom
Sage (Salvia Officinalis, also known as Garden Sage, Meadow Sage, Scarlet Sage, and Red Sage) has enjoyed a high reputation as a health giver ever since antiquity. Its Latin name, Salvia, comes from a word meaning "healthy". It should be pointed out that the Sage growing wild in North America is not the Salvia of the western herbal pharmacopoeia. Native Sages are Artemisias, but when used for spiritual purposes the two are treated by most people as relatively interchangeable. Traditionally associated with longevity, (Salvia) Sage has a reputation for restoring failing memory in the elderly. Since days of old Sage has been planted on the graves of loved ones.

Magickal Uses:

Sage is an herb of purification and immortality. Sage offers the herbal virtues of strength, mental health and wisdom, and it banishes all evil. It helps keep one's mind strong and clear, and it is good to rid one's mind of negative thought patterns. Use it as a healing herb to promote mental and emotional well being. It can help one deal with grieving and loss, both through healing and by helping one see beyond the immediate loss. Old folklore recommends eating fresh Sage leaves nine mornings in a row, timed with either a new or Full Moon. (It is suggested not to take to much Sage at a time because of the constituent thujone) Sage is considered sacred to both Zeus and Jupiter. It is an excellent herb to use when consecrating a thurible. In some traditions Sage is the herb for the Autumn Equinox and/or for Hallow's Eve. It is also reported some like to use it at Yule, to help them and their kindred remain bright when the days are at their shortest.

Medicinal and Other Uses:

Red Sage is the classic remedy for inflammations of the mouth, gums, tongue, throat, and tonsils. Sage is used for amenorrhea, dysmenorraghia, and menorrhagia. It is also used as an emmenagogue, as a tonic, and as an antioxidant, astringent, and for estrogenic activity. Present day herbalists recommend Sage as a tea for excessive sweating, nervous disorders, to reduce a nursing mother's milk flow while she is weaning her baby, and as a carminative (a substance that relieves gas pains). It is also specified as an external lotion for wounds. When used as a gargle Sage helps laryngitis, pharyngitis, and quinsy. **WC** Caution: avoid Red Sage during pregnancy because it stimulates the muscles of the Uterus.

Saint John's Wort-
Saint John's Wort Growing Wild A Close Up of the Flower
Saint John's Wort (Hypericum Perforatum, also known as Amber Touch-and-Heal, Goatweed, Klamath Weed, and Rosin Rose) is a hot item right now. The media has created a frenzy of activity about the herb: Newsweek wrote an article about it, and the ABC news show "20-20" did a lengthy broadcast story concerning Saint John's Wort. The plant is commonly known as St. John's Wort for St. John the Baptist. (It supposedly blooms on his birthday) Wort is the Olde English word for plant. Grieve states in "A Modern Herbal, "Its name 'Hyperieum' is derived from the Greek and means 'over an apparition,' a reference to the belief that the herb was so obnoxious to evil spirits that a whiff of it would cause them to fly."

Magickal Uses:
A Close Up of the Flower With Dew
Saint John's Wort is an herb of fertility, protection, and purification ruled by the Sun. Today a connection is often found between Saint John's Wort and Midsummer, and by proxy, with the element of fire. Believed to protect the home against lightening, fires, and severe storms, a common custom is to burn Saint John's Wort in the fireplace, or toss it in the cauldron and let it's smoke permeate all the rooms. Many believe the herb is more powerful if gathered at Midsummer. Saint John's Wort will also protect you against all types of negative forces. In olden days Saint John's Wort was used for exorcism. Bundle dried Saint John's Wort and hang it in the home for further protection. Some wear the herb when doing battle of any kind. It assists in strengthening the will.

Medicinal and Other Uses:

Medicinally, St. Johns Wort has been used for over 2,000 years as an antiseptic and calming agent. Saint John's Wort has been used as an herbal remedy for mild to moderate depression, anxiety, and sleep disorders. St. Johns Wort helps support levels of "seratonin", a brain chemical involved in the function which helps maintain a "happy feeling". Its also used as a digestive aid, pain killer, and to reduce chronic tension headaches. Since 1985, the anti-viral action of St. John's Wort has been widely studied, with proven anti-viral effects being demonstrated against vesicular stomatitis, influenza virus, herpes simplex types I and II, and retrovirus infections, such as HIV and Friend leukemia virus. **WC** Warning: Saint John's Wort is considered dangerous, has been known to cause dermatitis, photosensitivity and other toxic reactions. Gardeners often complain of a rash when working with the plant. St. John's Wort may also cause an increase in blood pressure, so keep that in mind if you are on medication or pregnant.

A Young Sandalwood A Close Up of the Flowers
Sandalwood (Santalum Album) is one of the oldest known perfume materials, dating back about 4,000 years. It's oil was extensively used as an embalming oil, and it's bactericidal properties helping to preserve the embalmed body. It is considered to be especially sacred, and is used to build temples in India. Sandalwood grows almost exclusively in the forests of Karnataka, India, followed by Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Andhra Pradesh, and the Timor Islands of Indonesia. The Sandalwood tree is never cut down, but uprooted during the rainy season, when the roots are richer in the precious essential oil. Then the entire tree is distilled. Sadly, The Indian Sandalwood tree has become endangered in recent years, and in an attempt to curb its possible extinction the Indian government is trying to limit the exportation of Sandalwood. The tree is already government controlled, and removal is prohibited whether on private or temple grounds until the tree is thirty years old. This has not stopped many poachers from cutting trees down as soon as authorities are not watching. Smuggling of Sandalwood has created socio-economic and law and order problems in areas bordering the state of Tamil Nadu.

Magickal Uses:

Sandalwood is an herb of consecration, immortality, a funeral herb, and a visionary herb. Sandalwood is often used as an as an aphrodisiac. Sandalwood's invocatory is Venus. It is used to assist with meditation, trance work, and all forms of divination. It calms the mind and helps one become spiritually focused. Sandalwood is recommended for use when consecrating altar cloths, and it is said to be associated with Hod on the Tree of Life. Sandalwood is used to increase opportunities and achieving success. Burn Sandalwood as a purifying incense. Sandalwood is also used in making healing oils and incenses.

Medicinal and Other Uses:

Sandalwood is a mainstay in Ayurvedic medicine. Sandalwood has been used through the centuries for aromatherapy, and to soothe and soften the skin, and it's antiseptic properties assist keeping it blemish free. In the East its used as an antidepressant, antiphilogistic, antiseptic (urinary and pulmonary), antispasmodic, aphrodisiac, astringent, bactericidal, carminative, cicatrisant, diuretic, expectorant, fungicidal, insecticidal, sedative, and tonic. Sandalwood is also very good for keeping moths out of clothing.

Greater Scullcap A Close Up of the Flower
Scullcap (Scutellaria Galericulata and Scutellaria Laterifolia, also called Blue Pimpernel, Helmetflower, Hoodwort, Mad-dog Skullcap, and Madweed) was publicized as a cure for rabies in 1773, and this earned this plant it's common names of Mad-dog and Madweed. Everyone knows there is no cure for rabies, but the reason this herb may have gained attention back then was due to it's sedative and antispasmodic attributes. It is very difficult for this herb to shake the mistaken lore that it's name is derived from being shaped like a human skull. The proper spelling is Scullcap, not Skullcap. In "A Modern Herbal" Grieve maintains it's name comes from the Latin "Scutella", which means "little dish", a form the lid of the calyx of it's flower is shaped like.

Magickal Uses:

Scullcap is an herb of love ruled by Pluto and Saturn. Scullcap is used to bind oaths and consecrate vows and commitments. It may be used in Handfastings, where both parties wish to make their vows to each other binding, or in rituals of initiation. For this purpose Scullcap may be worn, burned as incense, or used as an oil.

Medicinal and Other Uses:

Scullcap is an anti-inflammatory, antispasmodic, slightly astringent, febrifuge, nervine and strongly tonic. Scullcap is used as a nervine relaxant in the treatment of shingles, or herpes zoster. Its also used for the treatment of chronic cystic mastitis, endometriosis, dysmenorrhea, hyperthyroidism, psoriasis, eczema, dermatitis, and insomnia. An infusion of the plant has been used to promote suppressed menstruation. **WC** Scullcap should not be used by pregnant women since it can induce a miscarriage.

Sedge (Sweet)-
Sweet Sedge A Close Up of the Flower
Sedge (Acorus Calamus, also called Sweet Flag, Calamus, Sweet Cane, Flag Root, Grass Myrtle, Sweet Cinnamon, Sweet Myrtle, and Sweet Root) is a shallow water aquatic plant. It's name, "Acorus", comes from the Latin for "sweet flag", and "Calamus", from the Greek, "Kalamos", which means "reed". The common name, "Sweet Flag" comes from the sweet fragrance of the bruised leaves (and their similarity to the leaves of Iris, also known as Blue Flag). Early settlers scattered the sweet smelling leaves on the floors of their homes to mask the stench of poor sanitation. Sedge's roots have been used medicinally and ritually by the Algonquins, Cree, and other Northeast tribes for eons.

Magickal Uses:

Sweet Sedge is an herb of consecration ruled by Mercury. Sedge can be used to bless any space. It may be used as a strewing herb, but may also be added to incense or used in a variety of ways. Some use this herb for calling spirits. It has been used as a mind-altering drug, but this use can be dangerous (See my notes below). This plant is related to Calamus Draco, a variety which is one source of Dragon's Blood.

Medicinal and Other Uses:

Sedge was used as a anthelmintic, antiasthmatic, antidyspeptic, antidysenteric, antirheumatic, antispasmodic, aperitive, astringent, carminative, cordial, emetic, emmenagogue, expectorant, haemaostatic, nauseant, sedative, stimulant, tonic, and nervine. The USFDA has classified this plant as "Unsafe" now. Sedge leaves were used as a substitute flavoring for vanilla pods. They can also be cut up and stored in dry foods to prevent infestation by weevils. **WC** Look for Sedge growing in wet areas in marshes and ditches (It is often partly immersed in water). The swordlike leaves of the Sweetflag resemble those of other flags so much that the plant is difficult to distinguish except when it is in flower, so take caution you are sure of the identification!! You can be poisoned by the rootstock of the Blueflag or Poison Flag through mistaking that plant for the Sweetflag. Caution: Sedge can act as a hallucinogen if taken in large quantities.

A Variety of Snapdragon Colors A Close Up of the Flowers
Snapdragon (Antirrhinum Magus) has a recorded history dating back to the Greeks and Romans. The botanical name, Antirrhinum, is Greek for "Anti" meaning "like", and "Rhin" meaning "nose', which refers to the snout-like form of the flower (the plant's bilabiate flower is compared to the mouth of a dragon; pressed to open, the lower part of the flower and the upper part shut with a snap when released). Children love to pinch the tiny individual blossoms and make the "dragon mouth" open and close. One species is even known as "dragon's-mouth". Snapdragon has a wide range of flower colors.

Magickal Uses:

Snapdragon is an herb of protection ruled by Mars. Snapdragons can provide a loving protection for one's family and friends when given in bouquets or growing them in the garden. Despite the bigotry once promoted against Magickal people, as an herb of protection, the many hued Snapdragon will actually help preserve the good witches in your life. Snapdragons were also believed to protect their beholders from deceit, negativity, and curses.

Medicinal and Other Uses:

In olden days a decoction was made from the roots of Snapdragon, and was used against gonorrhea and Blight's disease. I know of no modern usage for Snapdragon other than beauty. **WC** Snapdragons are somewhat toxic. **GT** Remove old florets for best flowering. When it gets too hot Snapdragons will stop blooming, look ragged, then in September they will start growing don't be too hasty to yank them up. Snapdragon is a good flower for attracting hummingbirds and butterflies.

Solomon's Seal-
Polygonatum Multiflorum Polygonatum Biflorum
Solomon's Seal (Polygonatum Multiflorum, Polygonatum Commutatum, Polygonatum Biflorum, also called Fo-ti, True Solomon's Seal, Eurasian Solomon's Seal, Drop Berry, Sealwort, or Seal root) is an ancient herb. So strongly did medievil herbalists trust in the power of Solomon's Seal to heal wounds that they fancied that the deep scars along it's rootstock had been set there by the legendary magician King Solomon as a testimony to it's medicinal virtues. It's genus name comes from the Greek "Polys" meaning "many" and "Gonu" meaning "joint". This refers to the many jointed rhizome (root). Many theories exist on the origin of it's common name, all relate to the shape and characteristics of it's root and their relevance to King Solomon. The 16th-century herbalist John Gerard claimed it was a panacea for wounds and bruises of all sorts including those "gotten by falls or women's willfulness in stumbling on their hasty husbands' fists". We've come a long way, baby! False Solomon's Seal is in an entirely different plant family, so don't confuse the two.

Magickal Uses:

Solomon's Seal is an aphrodisiacal herb, an herb of consecration, and an herb of protection ruled by Saturn. Solomon's Seal is an excellent herb to use when consecrating a ritual room or space for the first time. As an herb of consecration it ranks among the best and may be used in preparing any ritual item for sacred use. It is used in ceremonial Magick to bind Magickal works, to make sacred oaths and promises, and to keep them ever binding. When used as an aphrodisiacal herb its function is to amplify the commitment between the partners and to make binding the connection created when their astral bodies merge during the ecstatic union of the Great Rite.

Medicinal and Other Uses:

Solomon's Seal contains a substance called allantoin which is used in modern medications for the external treatment of wounds and skin ulcers. In olden days the herb was used as a hemostatic and an antiemetic. **WC** You can estimate the plant's age by counting the scars along the root. Each year the root (rhizome) produces a new stem that withers in the summer, leaving one scar. To tell the main difference between Solomon's Seal and False Solomon's Seal: look at the flowers. The False Solomon's Seal has flowering plumes at the end of it's stems, while the real Solomon's Seal has bell-shaped flowers that dangle down along the stem. **GT** Solomon's Seal doesn't do well in hot or dry areas, and it prefers semi shade.

Young Southernwood
Southernwood (Artemisia Abrotanum, also called Oldman Wormwood, Garderobe, Garden Sagebrush, European Sage, and Lad's Love) was historically used as an air freshener or strewing herb. Artemisia was named for the Goddess Artemis. Southernwood was used under mattresses in Ancient Greece and Rome for its aphrodisiacal properties. Its common nickname, Lad's Love, refers to the habit of including a spray of the plant in country bouquets presented by lovers to their lasses in order to seduce them.

Magickal Uses:

Southernwood is an aphrodidiacal herb and an herb of love ruled by Mercury. This is a southern variety of wormwood which is associated with attractiveness and sexual appeal. It has been used by males to increase their virility, thus the nickname "Lad's Love". Southernwood may be used to represent a promise to be faithful to one's intended lover. It can be used in ritual baths in preparation for a Handfasting or ritual of union.

Medicinal and Other Uses:

Modern medicinal use is not recommended. Southernwood was used in folk medicine as an antiseptic, astringent, emmenagogue, febrifuge, stimulant, tonic, stomachic, and vermifuge. It has also been used against coughs, tumors, and cancers in some cultures. An infusion of the leaves can be used as a hair rinse to combat dandruff. Southernwood has an essential or volatile oil containing "absinthol" (the foliage is aromatic when rubbed or crushed). The pungent, scented leaves and flowers are sometimes used in herbal teas. Young shoots have been used to flavor pastries and puddings. Branches are used to produce a dye of deep yellow color for use with wool. Its also used as an insect and moth repellent. **WC** Gather the flowering stalks to infuse into water for medicinal usage. Caution: Avoid During Pregnancy.

Spikenard, (Ploughman's)-
Spikenard A Close Up of the Flowers
Spikenard (Inula Conyza, also known as Cinnamon Root, Coniza, Great Fleabane, Ploughman's Spikenard, Indian Root, and Horse Heal) was very popular among various tribes of Native Americans for medicinal use. Grieve states: "Its specific name, Conyza, is derived from the Greek word for dust or powder, and refers to its power of killing noxious insects. The very smell of the plant was said to destroy fleas, and the leaves have been used, burnt, as an insecticide. Great Fleabane is one of its popular names". During ancient times, Spikenard was the most expensive perfume in the world. A pound was said to cost an entire year’s salary for the average worker. There are many plants claiming the title of Spikenard, among them is the Inula included here, and also Aralia Racemosa (American Spikenard), and Nardostachys Jatamansi.

Magickal Uses:

Spikenard is an herb of love ruled by Mars and Uranus. This is a wonderful herb for students, whether those of spiritual disiplines or those preparing themselves for a profession. Spikenard will help clear your mind so that you can focus on what you are studying and obtain greater retention. Spikenard has sometimes been associated with Hod on the Tree of Life. Some use Spikenard in love sachets and charms. Magickally Spikenard is also useful when training a horse; it helps establish an improved sense of communication between animal and human.

Medicinal and Other Uses:

Spikenard is not widely used medicinally today. In olden days it was used as an antiscrophulatic, emmenagogue, and vulnerary. The plant was considered to be a good wound herb and it was frequently taken in decoction for bruises, ruptures, internal wounds. It was applied externally to treat itchy skin. It can be used as an insecticide and parasiticide (especially against fleas).

Commercial Sunflower Fields Helianthus Annus
Sunflower (Helianthus Species) actually has three basic sub-families: 1. Helianthus Annus, which is the large-headed, edible Sunflower that was immortalized on canvas by Claude Monet and Vincent Van Gogh. 2. Helianthus Multiflorus, which is a perennial that is excellent for cut flowers. (It's a "cut and come again" flower, because it branches out from where it's cut and will provide flowers all summer long). and 3. Helianthus Tuberosus, or "Jerusalem Artichoke," which is a commercially-grown perennial. It's artichoke-flavored, tuberous roots, called "sun chokes," are harvested yearly and can be baked, stewed, or boiled, just like potatoes. The large, showy head of Helianthus Annus produces hundreds of edible seeds and is heliotropic (it moves with the sun). The flower head is actually composed of many smaller flowers called "florets." The wild Sunflower is native to North America, but heres a good one...commercialization of the plant first took place in Russia! Evidence shows that the Sunflower was cultivated by Native Americans in the Arizona/New Mexico area around 3000 B.C. This was oldest known date that they appeared on the fossil record.

Magickal Uses:

Sunflower is an herb of immortality and protection ruled by the Sun. Its invocatory can be Apollo or Demeter. Sunflower oil is an excellent fixative when using an oil extraction method for making ritual oils. Sunflower is said to have the virtue of increasing the sense of happiness in one's life. The flower petals may be gathered and used as a bathing herb. Sunflower is associated with many solar festivals, and they have a strong connection to Lammas. For those who are dealing with depression or sorrow, Sunflower can help fill the loneliness with light. Sunflower brings protection against negative energy. Oil of Sunflower may be used to consecrate ritual robes.

Medicinal and Other Uses:

Sunflowers are grown primarily for their seeds which are a good source of Protein (20-30%), Zinc, Phosphorous, Potassium, and Vitamin D. A by-product of the seeds is Sunflower seed oil which, when refined, is comparable to olive oil. Besides being utilized as cooking oil, Sunflower seed oil is used as an ingredient for many health and beauty industry products. The crude oil can be used to make candles and soap. **GT** Sunflower is an excellent butterfly and bird attractor, and it can feed a multitude of animals.

A Good Example of How Large the Sycamore Can Get A Close Up of the Beautiful Leaf
Sycamore (Platanus Occidentalis, also called Buttonwood and Plane-tree) is one of the largest hardwood trees in North America. At maturity it can attain a height of 140 to 170 feet and a trunk diameter of 10 to 11 feet. It grows wide as well as tall, it is the widest North American hardwood, especially at the base. The American Sycamore is a long lived tree, for it can reach 500 years of age. "The hollowness of Sycamores can reach truly stunning proportions. Colonial record-makers crammed into Sycamore trunks like Guinness-bound fraternity brothers packing into telephone booths. In Ohio there were specimens that could hold fifteen men on horseback or forty men off. The numerous stories of handy Sycamores serving as temporary homes for colonial families led the Victorians to choose the Sycamore to symbolize shelter in their language of flowers." (Rupp, 1992) Platanus is the Ancient Greek word for "broad" which describes the leaves, and Platanus is also Latin for "maple leaf", which refers to the resemblance of the leaves to those of maples. The Persian King Xerxes (519-465 B.C.) found this tree "so beautiful that he presented it with golden ornaments and assigned it a personal bodyguard. He had a gold medal engraved with the image of this tree, which he wore ever after as an amulet." (Rupp, 1990). Several types of trees appeared in Egyptian mythology. The Sycamore was particularily important. Two of them, called the "Sycamores of Turquoise" stood at the eastern gate of heaven from which the Sun emerged each morning. These Sycamores were especially associated with the goddesses Nut, Hathor and Isis, each of whom were called "Lady of the Sycamore". Nut and Hathor were often shown to reach out from the tree to offer the deceased food and water. Sometimes the tree was anthropomorphized, having arms itself which offer the sustinence to the dead. I chose a Sycamore to plant as a "marker" to the driveway entrance of my 50 acres up in Georgia, for I knew it would one day be visible at great distances.

Magickal Uses:
A Close Up of the Seed Pod
Sycamore is a funeral herb ruled by Venus. Its invocatory can be Hathor, Nut or Isis, Egyptian goddesses of the dead. They were sometimes called "Lady of the Sycamores". The dried, powdered bark of the Sycamore may be used in incense mixtures for rituals associated with death and dying. Some include Sycamore seeds in offerings placed into the coffin. Sycamore is a wonderful tree to plant at a gravesite, but make sure you allow for the size it will attain at maturity when you are choosing where to place it. The base of a Sycamore would be a lovely setting for the burying of one's ashes. This tree is an excellent choice to use as a guardian spirit for the beloved.

Medicinal and Other Uses:

Sycamore wood is used for furniture, millwork, flooring, butcher blocks, and musical instruments. With little resistance to decay, the wood is hard, tough and almost impossible to split. The pioneers cut trunks of great dimension into cross-sections which they then bored through the center, to make primitive solid wheels for ox carts. Sycamore wood was also used to make wooden barber poles, wooden washing machines and wooden stereoscopes. **WC** Sycamore is a readily noticeable tree at a distance, because of it's size and height, and the upper half of the tree is pure white. Please, please take great care not to gouge too deeply if you are gathering as not to leave the tree open to intrusion by disease or insects. Always honor these graceful giants and nature will reward you.

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A Compendium of Herbal Magick by Paul Beyerl

A Modern Herbal by Maud Grieve (Vol 1 & 2)

Magickal Herbalism by Scott Cunningham

Edible Wild Plants by Thomas S. Elias & Peter A. Dykeman

Indian Herbalogy by Alma R. Hutchens

Sacred Plant Medicine by Stephen Harrod Buhner

Coyote Medicine by Lewis Mehl-Madrona, M.D.

Identifying and Harvesting Edible and Medicinal Plants by "Wildman" Steve Brill

The Complete Illustrated Holistic Herbal by David Hoffman

The Complete Medicinal Herbal by Penelope Ody

Cunningham's Encyclopedia of Magical Herbs by Scott Cunningham

Magic and Medicine of Plants by Inge N. Dobelis

The White Goddess by Robert Graves

Information given on this site is not intended to be taken as a replacement for medical advice. Any person with a condition requiring medical attention should consult a medical doctor. This information is given as reference only.