There seems to be so much goodness left in the stems of herbs after they've been processed and it can be hard to compost them or throw them away - so make these instead!
I find myself in a peculiar predicament when I’m preparing herbs for storage. As I stand at my counter and strip the dried leaves and flowers from the stems of oregano, rosemary, catnip, thyme, lavender, or other pungent herbs, a growing stack of dried stems builds up before me. It makes me sad to waste these pungently scented, twisted sticks once I’ve divested them from their more useful, ephemeral parts.
There are culinary uses for some herb stems. Thyme, rosemary, and oregano stems go into the storage bag that I save for ingredients to add to soup stocks but bitter herbs and more floral herbs don’t always make for good eating.
One of my favorite new techniques for putting these herb stems to use is to make tied bundles for hanging in the house or burning in sacred fires. They don’t really work well as incense bundles (like herb wands or saining bundles) since they don’t have leaves and the stems tend to sputter and spark, but they do make lovely kindling for a fire pit on a night out under the moon. They also work well for warding or adding blessings to your personal space.
Some of the herbs I’ve made bundles from and how they might be used:
Catnip: The pungent, square stems of catnip are excellent in any offering to cat-related deities and it simply smells wonderful. When catnip is burnt, direct inhalation of the smoke may encourage relaxation as it has a slight sedative effect. If you are handing the bundle in your home, make sure to hang it within reach of your kitty for extra fun. Here’s more about the herbal uses of catnip. Energetically, it attracts good energies and brightens up the space where it is used.
Wormwood: Oh, bitter, silver plant, dear Artemisia. You can place these bundles in your cabinets to repel moths and some other invasive insects. Wormwood can have a slight psychoactive effect if smoked or when burned in a place with limited airflow. Use wormwood to enhance psychic abilities, divination, astral work, and any rituals involving the spirit world.
Mint: There are many kinds of mint but all of them have the same clarifying and brightening effect on the mind. The icy scent of mint, bracing and sharp, is a cleansing light when added to the fire and burned. Bundles of mint hanging in small spaces will repel mice and some insects, although the twig bundles aren’t as effective at that task as whole plant mint or essential oil. Here’s a post about the herbal properties of mint.
Lavender: Sweet, pungent lavender has been equated with cleansing for centuries, both physical and spiritual. Hang a bundle of lavender stems to add a relaxing floral scent to a room without the cloying nature of the concentrated scent of lavender flowers or oil. (I live with someone whose sinus allergies are triggered by lavender so for us, less is better.) Burn bundles of lavender in the fire to ward off negative energies and to sharpen the mind and your resolutions. Learn more about lavender.
Rosemary: Sharp rosemary scent still lingers on the scratchy sticks after the tender green leaves have been removed. An intoxicating, potent ally, rosemary is known for its powers of purification, physically and spiritually, with a reputation for warding off illnesses, the evil eye, and when hung near cribs, the Good Neighbors who might want to borrow a baby.
How to make a Twig Bundle
- cotton string – I tend to use unbleached, natural string, but get creative and use colors that match the plant associations or the purpose of your working. Beware using fancy metallic or nylon threads if you intend to burn your twigs.
- scissors or strong kitchen shears
- stacks of dried herb stems broken up into roughly the same length. Use all of one herb or mix them up – this is all about working with what you have.
Making the bundles:
- Take a moment to connect with the energies of the plant and your purpose for making the bundle. Imagine the intended purpose and set that in your mind.
- Cut at least 30 inches of string, then double the string, leaving you with 15 inches to work with.
- Gather up some stems into a bundle, as thick as you like.
- Tie a tight knot at the bottom of the bundle.
- Twist each end of the string around the bundle, criss-crossing each other to make the diamond shapes as you move up the herbs.
- Once you’re done, tie the strings together as tightly as you did the first knot.
- Either trim the strings or tie them together to make a loop. This is particularly useful for hanging the herb bundles as wards or decor.
How to use your herb bundles:
Hanging in your home
You can find rosemary and lavender bundles hanging near the entrances of my home, since both have warding and protection properties. You can use mugwort and wormwood bundles near your bed to encourage lucid dreaming. I’ve also hung them outside in the trees or in our outbuildings.
We will set small bonfires in our yard whenever the mood strikes us, but when we do it on sacred days and for special occasions, I like to add these bundles to the kindling pile so that they form a core part of the fire’s blessing. We’ve taken herb bundles to add to fires at other events we’ve attended (with permission from the firetenders, of course).
The fire is a cleansing energy. If I’ve processed a large quantity of plants and have a lot of stems, I won’t always take the time to make them into bundles, but instead fill a paper bag with the dried stems and save it for the next fire. When it is added to the flames, it tends to go up quickly and contributes an amazing scent to the smoke!