What are Protective Herbs?

Protective herbs are the plant allies that offer us safeguarding in some form, be it on the physical, emotional, spiritual, or energetic plane. Inhabitants of this earth, animals and people alike, have used herbs for protection for millennia. Undeniably, in our modern society, it’s more important than ever to protect ourselves against the incessant onslaught of stimulation, pollution, toxic energy, and harsh environmental factors. In fact, herbs have such potent protective qualities because they themselves have adapted to survive in this world, directly connected to this earth. Herbs are our wise elders, providing us with our best medicine in the form of their selfless, healing incarnations.

Origin of Protective Herbs

Even just a few generations back, our ancestors lived a lot closer to the land. Their lives were often intimately connected to their local plants, which were their sources of food and medicine. Concurrently, life was generally less certain in these times, and defending oneself and one’s community from disease, ill fortune, and death was of paramount importance. Consequently, nearly every culture recognized that herbs offer us their benevolent magic, healing, and protection. Thus, herbs became woven into the tapestry of societies across the globe.

Historical Examples of Protective Herbs

For example, in ancient Mediterranean folk magic, Basil was often strewn on floors to protect a home and bless its inhabitants. Today, it’s still common to give a Basil plant as a housewarming gift. Hoodoo – a cultural amalgamation of spirituality and magic practiced by enslaved Africans in North America – became a tradition that often centered on protection due to its origins. As such, Hoodoo practitioners considered Pennyroyal a premier herb of protection, carried to ward off bad fortune and the “evil eye.” Similarly, the Druids in Europe regarded Mistletoe as a symbol of luck, fertility, and safety. They often hung it indoors (the origins of the Mistletoe at Christmas tradition) for added protection. Mistletoe was also thought to shield houses from a lightning strike. 1, 5

Magical Herbs for Protection

Countless herbs from many traditions may be used for protection! The following protective herbs are ones I use in my clinical practice.

Agrimony

Agrimony is one of my go-to herbs for protection; I regularly use it in protective sachets, spell work, smoke blends, and medicine bags. I find that Agrimony encompasses us with a calming energetic shield and reverses negative forces and happenings. It’s a wonderful herb to use for children, helping to protect against night terrors (especially those accompanied by bedwetting), monsters in the closet, etc. In certain Indigenous traditions, Agrimony is considered Wolf medicine – good for strengthening boundaries. 5

Angelica

Angelica is one of those warm, protective plants that feel like an herbal hug. I use Angelica for folks going through times of big transition who feel alone in the world; this herb allows us to feel protection and guidance from benevolent spirits and ancestors. On both a physical and spiritual level, Angelica helps us to digest – to assimilate nutrients and release that which no longer serves us. Angelica can also be used to remove hexes and dispel negative thought patterns or “demons”; it was historically used during exorcisms in Europe. 3

Cedar

Trees have a special kind of protective essence, and Cedar is perhaps the most protective of the trees. Cedar is naturally resistant to mold and decay and provides shelter, fuel for a fire, and ancient knowledge. Cedar is often used in rituals of purification, protection, and healing, especially important to many Indigenous American peoples. Cedar medicine brings wisdom, strength and helps us to see beyond societal “norms” and imposed perceptions of reality. Cedar medicine is potently anti-microbial, protecting the body from bacterial, viral, and fungal infection. 4

St. John’s Wort

I consider St. John’s Wort to be an herb of both practical and magical protection. So did the ancient Greeks and medieval Europeans, who believed St. John’s Wort warded off evil and protected against disease and fire. Indeed, St. John’s Wort is anti-viral, and immune-boosting helps heal wounds and burns, can correct nerve disorders, and is widely known to alleviate depression and ‘ill humor.’ Taken internally, St. John’s Wort can cause photosensitivity but applied topically; it’s been shown to protect skin against sun damage and UV rays. 2

Yarrow

So much has been said about Yarrow and boundaries, but this herb is so wonderfully protective, it’s worth mentioning again! Yarrow is another Wolf medicine herb, which helps us shore up boundaries and guard against negative energy while still allowing us to remain open-hearted and socially engaged. Yarrow’s protective action extends to its physical properties as well; a styptic and vulnerary herb, it staunches bleeding, heals wounds, and fights infection.

Where can I source or buy Herbs for Protection?

All of the herbs mentioned are easy to grow, abundant, and readily available in most herbal marketplaces. Try growing these herbs yourself or sourcing your herbs from local farms with organic growing practices or small herb shops. The Alchemist’s Kitchen has a wide variety of herbal products with protective herbs from small-batch makers. My favorites include this Solar Eclipse CBD Zinc Sun Shield with St. John’s Wort, by Plant Alchemy, and this City Skin Potion Oil with Yarrow Flower Essence, by Monk Oil.

Sources

  1. Hazzard-Donald, Katrina. “MOJO WORKIN’: The Old African American Hoodoo System” – Link
  2. Hobbes, Christopher. “St. John’s Wort: Ancient Herbal Protector” – Link
  3. Moore, Michael. “Medicinal Plants of the Mountain West.” – Link
  4. Salvatoriello, Gina. “Magickal Properties of Wood.” – Link
  5. Tanner, Sydney J. “Greenspace: Sacred Herbs” – Link

Micaela Foley

Micaela Foley is a practicing herbalist and writer currently living in Providence, Rhode Island. She attended both ArborVitae School of Traditional Herbalism in New York City and Blue Otter School of Herbal Medicine in Northern California. Her herbal work is focused on accessibility, community healing, and issues of social justice. Her writing aims to be holistic, an attempt to interweave the scientific, political, spiritual, poetic, ancestral and contemporary. Follow her on IG @mickfoley_official and @quintessence_herbs.

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