For the last year or so I've been doing some semi-serious research into herbal medicine, mostly to fortify my writing but a little bit out of practical reasons as well.
As I've gotten older I've developed some skin problems. I saw a dermatologist and he went the predictable route: gave me some samples for a VERY expensive topical cream (which made me very dry and uncomfortable) and wanted to put me on a testosterone inhibitor--without checking my hormone levels, and despite the fact that I had none of the other symptoms of high testosterone, just acne. I said no, thank you.
There's an herb called Vitex (chaste tree berry/chaste berry) that reputedly has hormone balancing properties; there have been a few clinical studies to indicate that it can alleviate PMS symptoms. It's also one of the two major ingredients in a commercially available "acne tea" which I have used before, with good results.
Problem is, the tea's expensive, and not available locally. So I could order it in bulk, and have lots of little stupid overpriced tea bags and steel canisters clogging my pantry (and recycling bins) or I could make my own. Luckily I have access to an amazing natural foods store that sells dried herbs in bulk.
The place looks like the aunts' conservatory in Practical Magic. They sell all kinds of stuff that even I, with my casual knowledge of herbal medicine, know to be potentially harmful. They stock at least three abortifacients, ready to scoop into little baggies for $1.49/oz.
I copied down the ingredients from the back of the commercial tea's packaging and went to the store. I started pulling down jars and lining them up in a row, checking them against my list: Vitex, burdock, chamomile, and a handful of florals for flavoring.
"Are you making a spell?" my husband said, in a delighted kind of way.
After a second's thought I said, "Yes, actually."
I will confess something now that will probably have my mother throwing Holy Water at me, if she ever hears of it: I've always wished I was a witch. Not a touchy-feely-new-age-mother-earth-gaia-goddess kind of witch, but somebody with real power, like in the fantasy stories. I have never tried to be one because I don't believe in magic or higher powers that mortals can harness to their benefit. Religious rituals are a waste of time, to my mind. Nevertheless, the last few weeks have been stressful and I've been writing about my characters doing magic, and complaining that it's a pity such powers don't exist, because I could use a bit of influence over the world right now.
But last night I made my tea, with the help of a food processor to chop some of the dried herbs (I tried using my mortar and pestle but those hibiscus flowers are tough, dude). And I was drinking it for breakfast--it had the familiar scent and flavor of the commercial stuff, but stronger--and I thought to myself, This is the kind of knowledge wise women used to have, before the Church decided they were a threat and declared them heretics. By researching and mixing these herbs I have successfully circumvented both the priests of pharmacology and the acolytes of marketing.
So I say what the hell: Blessed be.