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Halloween Haunts: Bane Herbs in Fiction by Heddy Johannesen


Do you want to write about bane herbs in your stories? Let me navigate that dangerous territory with you. I will discuss how you can write about bane herbs in your novellas and horror novels accurately. This post tells how to have your character using these herbs, if that character is a witch, warlock or one of the cunning folk, you can portray your character using these herbs the right way if you read this.

Bane herbs mean poisonous or toxic herbs. The most beautiful plants are often the deadliest. The plants listed below certainly fall in that category. That is the illusion they cast. Never ingest the plants listed below in any shape or form. The symptoms of poisoning include nausea, vomiting, faintness or difficulty breathing, even death. Surprisingly, most of the following herbs also contain medicinal qualities.

If you have a character possibly using one or more of these plants and think that character won’t be affected, whether they’re fighting off a horde of werewolves or zombies, you’re wrong. Just in case a savvy reader calls you out on your error, that is why I am here. Don’t let this scare you. Again, never ingest the plants on this list. Use caution and common sense. The plants listed below all have varying degrees of toxicity.

*Flying ointments don’t make a person fly. It is an ointment prepared with the intention to make a person feel like they are flying, usually applied to a person’s skin while performing a meditation. It’s not advised that said person doing the meditation operate heavy machinery afterwards.


Nw, grab a coffee and your herbal basket and stroll with me.


Belladonna (atropa belladonna)

Belladonna is known for Atropos, one of the three Fates who cut the threads of life with her shears. Indeed, this plant lives up to its reputation as it provides a deadly poison which causes hallucinations. Belladonna contains the alkaloids tropane, hyoscine, hyoscyamine and atropine.

The berries are sweet but deadly. The symptoms include difficulty in swallowing and speaking, vomiting, drowsiness, slurred speech, hallucinations, confusion, and agitation. The root has the highest concentration of toxins but the berries are most potent.

Magical properties and uses: inducing visions; aiding astral projection incense; oils; flying ointment


Datura (datura stramonium)

Datura is known as thorn apple. The tropane alkaloids are similar to deadly nightshade and henbane. They can cause confusion, delirium, and hallucinations, drowsiness, coma and pupil dilation.

Magical properties and uses: reversing hexes; protection; astral travel; invisibility; enchantment; and magical power


Elder (sambucus nigra)

Respect your elders! Elder is a large shrub to treat with respect due to its’ dual natures to heal and poison you. The berries contain cyanide yet this plant can boost your immune system. Elder contains cyanide inducing glycosides. Once cooked or used in a dehydrated form, the sweet purple berries can be made into jams, syrups and tinctures. Yet it is advised to treat Elder with caution.

Magical properties and uses: banishing; exorcisms; protection; healing; prosperity; peace; beauty; love


Foxglove (digitalis spp)

Foxglove is a stately plant. It can be deadly even in small amounts. Foxglove contains cardiac glycosides called digitoxin, digitalin,  digitonin, digitalosmin which produce aglyconen and a sugar. The aglycones affect heart muscles. It causes slowing of the heart, and/ or massive heart attack as the heart tries to get enough oxygen to the brain. Foxglove is an emetic herb.

Magical properties and uses: protection; communion with the Underworld; faery connection; courage; heart healing


Mandrake (mandragora officinarum)

Mandrake is a magical plant. It is a stemless perennial with a coveted fleshy taproot. Witches love growing mandrake in their witchy gardens. The root is notorious for having special powers. Lore says that the root emits a terrible scream when it is uprooted. The lore also tells that a dog was tied to the plant, the dog was offered a bone then the dog would uproot the root to get to the bone. The root would be removed from the soil and the poor dog suffered the terrible maddening scream and possibly be driven mad. The root has aphrodisiacal powers and is reputed to be shaped like a man.

Mandrake belongs to the nightshade family of plants. It contains the constituents of tropane alkaloids, hyoscine and atropine. The effects of those compounds are hallucinogenic, narcotic, emetic and purgative. The effects are similar to deadly nightshade and henbane.

Magickal powers and uses: protection; prosperity; fertility; exorcising evil; love; health


Rue (ruta graveolens)

Rue is known as an herb o grace. Rue is grown in many gardens as an ornamental plant and as a medicinal herb. Rue contains the rutine constituent, a glycoside that has furocoumarins alkaloids, tannins and essential oils. If one rubs it on their skin, they can contract dermatitis. Rue can cause vomiting, diarrhea, acute gastroenteritis, and liver failure.

Rue is used in folklore to guard the home and prevent evil spirits from entering the home. It was worn on a belt to keep witches away.

Magical properties and uses: health and mental powers; encourages peaceful vibrations; reverses hexes; guarding the home


Wolfsbane (aconitum napullus)

We now come to the most beautiful, oldest and deadliest of all the bane plants. Wolfsbane’s principal alkaloids are aconite and aconitine, aconitine being the most toxic compound found in the plant. Even accidental ingestion can result in severe gastrointestinal upset and slowing of the heart rate. Wolfsbane has an unpleasant bitter taste. The entire plant is poisonous.

Magical properties and uses: protection from evil and werewolves; predators; invisibility


I hope you enjoyed reading about these ‘notorious’ herbs, their many properties and uses. Maybe this will inspire you to conjure a witch or warlock character for a story. Just don’t forget to read the warning labels!!!!

Reference books for Research

  1. By Wolfsbane & Mandrake Root: The shadow world of plants and their poisons. Draco, Melusine. Alfresford, Hants, Moon Books, 2017.
  2. The Witching Herbs: 13 Essential Plants and Herbs for your Magickal Garden. Roth, Harold. Newburyport, MA, Weiser Books, 2017.

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