Herbs and Resins

Atropa belladonna

Atropa belladonna

 
 

sustainability

Many of us work with herbs and spices when practicing for sachets, brews, salves, ointments, incense, charms, and many other ways! Sometimes these herbs can be homegrown or wildcrafted but sometimes they have to be purchased. The last thing we want to do, however, is to use ingredients in our practice that have harmed the Earth in any way but when herbs are not certified organic, the pesticides and herbicides used on them can result in polluted water streams, desertification, algal bloom, declining bee populations, and other types of environmental degradation, as well as ending up in our own bodies and of other vulnerable beings in Nature.

Sometimes, this is easy to find and sometimes not so much! And organic herbs are not the only thing to look for when purchasing- sustainability is another issue. Take the Lucky Hand root, for example, that was always found at the local New Age shop. Also known as Salep root, Lucky Hand root comes from an orchid in Turkey and Iran where it is more popularly used to make flour for beverages and desserts. It is so popular, in fact, that it is now near extinction and the Turkish government has banned its export. Or sandalwood that is now vulnerable to being endangered, or wild osha root that is endangered from over harvesting and from frequent wildfires in Colorado. So, if it’s a common herb, be sure to check whether or not it's organic or ask its merchant. And if it’s a unique herb, look online to see how endangered it is, and if so, ask the merchant to see if it was farmed specifically for export or if it was wild.


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Resins that are obtained from trees and other plants that are used for our dyes, ink, and incense have the exact same rule of thumb, as well, with sustainability. Dracaena, for example, is a tree family that produces true Dragon’s Blood resin, a common resin for Pagans, but many of these species are endangered from climate change, as well as from being over-harvested and from urban development (Dracaena draco and Dracaena cinnabari are the exception, but are classified as vulnerable, near endangered. This is not to be confused with the Dracaena species used as small house plants). Unfortunately, with Dragon’s Blood trees, there are no operating tree farms for resin extraction alone. In cases like this, always see if there’s a way to obtain alternatives to what you’re using it for, instead, whenever possible.

**We will soon be adding a regularly updated list of common herbs and resins used by Pagans that state whether it’s classified as vulnerable, threatened, or endangered in the wild. Kinda like a Pagan IUCN Red List, so stay tuned!!