Scary Spice: A Helpful Little Guide To Halloween Herbs

So, it’s Halloween today. How much candy will be doled out to trick-or-treaters? The answer is $2.3 billion worth, according to the National Confectioners Association, up about 1% from last year.

Know what’s even scarier? The average child, according to the L.A. Times, consumes about 3500 calories’ worth of candy on Halloween night. So don’t feel too badly if you snuck down after they went to bed and helped yourself to a piece or two.

But I digress. It must be all those “Fun Size” Three Musketeers bars talking.

While AllSpice is strictly a culinary spice shop, many of the herbs and spices we sell have a long, rich tradition of being used to protect against “ghoulies, ghosties, and long-legged beasties.”  So, while taking into account that these remedies may not be any more effective as Scooby Snacks or proton guns [remember not to cross the streams!], these are some common ingredients from your pantry that were, in the olden days, thought to thwart the supernatural:

  • Basil:  it was believed that basil bred scorpions. According to one recipe ” three crushed leaves are put under a clay pot. After a few days a tiny scorpion will be born.” With the help of basil one could also summon scorpions. Pliny claimed that a handful of basil pounded with 10 sea crabs would do the trick.
  • Caraway offered protection from the evil eye. In addition, it prevented mischievous spirits and thieves from entering the house.
  • Dill weed protected people from witchcraft. In addition, if one placed dill seed in one’s shoe before entering the court room, one would win the case.
  • Fennel, hung over the door, prevented witches from entering the house.
  • Juniper was believed prevent faeries from stealing infants and also thought to have a power to repel evil spirits.
  • Mint prevented drunkenness and protected people from the evil eye.
  • Oregano was quite a powerful plant, because a person who carried it with him was believed to be protected from the witches, water sprites, demons and venomous animals. It was also believed that the smoke of burning oregano prevented the devil from helping his servants.
  • Rosemary, like juniper, prevented faeries from stealing infants.
  • Thyme protected medieval people from witchcraft, and enabled people to see faeries.

And, of course, garlic protected people from various kinds of evil forces. (e.g. plague, witchcraft, vampires, scorpions and snakes). Like many other magical plants it was also an aphrodisiac (if taken with coriander and wine). On a related note: it was also believed to increase courage.

Remember, these are just archaic folkloric uses for culinary herbs. If you are genuinely worried about protection from witches, ghosts, vampires, baby-stealing fairies, and other things-that-go-bump-in-the-night, you may want to seek professional help.

Or just whip up some dinner using one of these herbs from your spice shelf, and see what happens. If you do, and no evil befalls you tonight, who are we to say that it *didn’t* work?

::cue scary background music here::

Happy Halloween!

Photo credit: The Powerhouse Museum collection on Flickr.