Metaphysical elements in writing – essential oils and herbs

Greetings, SE’ers! It’s Jan again with another post about metaphysical elements, which can add an extra dimension to fiction writing.

Today, I’m going to talk about essential oils and herbs. I could make two posts out of this, but I decided to combine the two as they are closely related. In fact, a lot of essential oils are taken from herbs.

Image by mitchf1 from Pixabay

I first became aware of essential oils in the seventies, but at that time, the selection was limited. Sandalwood and Patchouli could always be found in head shops, but nothing like the mainstream variety we have available today. I loved the scent of both oils but favored Patchouli, and I still do. In my latest book, my female character wore Patchouli, and it helped define her persona.

The use of botanicals as healing agents has been a long-standing practice throughout human history. In fact, essential oils have been used in wellness practices as far back as 5,000 years ago. However, it wasn’t until the late 1980s that America touted the use of essential oils as part of daily living, and we saw companies like Young Living and Doterra explode.

So, how can essential oils add to fiction writing?

As I said, the female character in my latest novel wore Patchouli. That signature scent helped establish her character as a New Age thinker and practitioner.

But there is a myriad of ways that adding essential oils can enhance any fiction story.

Oils can be used in healing a variety of ailments. For instance, a dab of Peppermint oil to the temples can banish a headache, while Lavender oil soothes and relaxes. So, let’s say you have a character who is not open to any holistic form of medicine and another character who is. In a scene where there is a medical need for relief, the character who is resistant can be an instant convert when his/her headache immediately vanishes with the use of Peppermint oil. That tells us a lot about the two characters without having actually tell.

In a book that contains magical elements, essential oils can be a great asset. Everything vibrates to a certain frequency. That isn’t a metaphysical supposition but a scientifically proven fact. Rose oil is the highest vibrational oil on the planet, with Frankincense coming in second, followed by Peppermint, then Lavender and Tea Tree Oil.

For that reason, any one of these oils could be used in rituals or ceremonies you might find in fantasy (or realistic) stories. Dystopian novels are ripe for the use of oils when traditional medical assistance is non-existent.

Pure essential oils can be added to water and ingested. The most common way to dispense essential oils is through a diffuser or by rubbing the oil directly onto the skin.

Rose Oil is a stress reliever and has anti-depressive effects on the mental health of the user. Frankincense and Tea Tree oil are great for healing skin issues. I’ve already mentioned Peppermint oil for relief from headaches, but it is also excellent at relieving joint pains and treating coughs and colds. Tea Tree Oil can kill nail fungus and is effective in treating skin ailments like eczema.

The list could go on and on. If you want to include essential oils in your story, it’s best to google the medical symptoms or potential usage and see which oil fits, then go wild!

Can you see the potential here for adding essential oils to your stories?


Image by Susann Mielke from Pixabay

Recently, Story Empire contributor, D. Wallace Peach, released The Necromancer’s Daughter. I was so impressed with her knowledge of herbs and their usages I wanted to do a short Q&A with her for this segment of the post. I hope you will glean some ideas for your stories from her answers.

Q: Prior to writing The Necromancer’s Daughter, did you have a basic prior knowledge of using certain herbs for healing, potions, and poisons? For instance, sage—is not only used in cooking, but when burning, it cleanses the mind, body, and physical area. 

A: The answer to this question speaks a bit to the old writing advice “write what you know.”  I’ve been interested in wild foods, herbal curatives, and the powerful spirit of nature since I was a teen.  Most of my books take place in pre-tech worlds where plant lore was necessary to survival and the key to healing what ails you. I make my own teas, and I forage for wild mushrooms, flowers, fruits, and greens. And yes, I’ve used sage for smudging the air and cleansing the energy in my home. 

Q: Where did you go to do your research, and did you find mixed information across the board, or was it pretty much consistent?

A: Some of the things I write into my stories I already know, including a variety of plants and how to prepare them. But there’s a lot I don’t fool around with – like poisons. Even the ones with curative properties are best avoided. I use the internet extensively for research, but I’ve also taken “wild foods” classes. There’s tons of information out there, and if I can’t “write what I know,” I look it up!  I take liberties in my fantasy books, of course. For example, there aren’t any plants that will reanimate a dead body. But if I’m going to try something myself, like acorns, I’m careful to make sure my research is broad and precise. 

Q: Did you learn anything in your research that you will use in future stories or in your daily life? If so, what knowledge did you gain? 

A: I learned that acorns taste awful!  And they’re a lot of trouble to prepare. I suppose if I was stuck in the woods on the verge of starvation, I could choke them down. Ugh. I also learned that the best time to eat dandelion greens is just before they blossom. And I can eat lots of different well-known flowers, which look great in a salad. That last one is a fun detail for a story… in fact, I’m going to add it to my WIP right now. Lol.

Some common herbs you may want to consider using in your stories:

Sage, Goldenseal root, Black Cohosh, Chamomile, Garlic (Yes, that’s an herb), Ginger, Lavender, Peppermint, Rosemary…

This most certainly isn’t a complete list.

Okay. That’s it from me for now. I’d love to hear your thoughts about both of these metaphysical elements and how they can add to fiction stories.

If you missed previous posts in this series, here you go:

#1 – Intro –

#2 – Gemstones –

#3 – Tarot Cards and Oracle Cards –

72 thoughts on “Metaphysical elements in writing – essential oils and herbs

  1. Pingback: Metaphysical elements in writing – #Astrology | Story Empire

  2. Great post and happy you’re sharing this Jan. I use them in my work and they really help especially the great ones that aren’t adulterated. I love Elizabeth Van Buren and their high quality oils with medicinal usage and they’re all tested. 💗

    Liked by 1 person

  3. The MC in my historical novel, Jealousy of a Viking, is a healer. As it is set on Viking Britain, there is no modern medicine and she relies on herbs and some magical processes as well as rituals to the gods.
    I knew very little about herbal medicine when I began to write, but I did much research.
    I’ve also used gems in my Elemental World’s duo. They are the source of magic in those books.
    I’ve read your metaphysical posts with interest. I think I need to do something with tarot now since I’ve used herbs and gems! 🙃

    Liked by 1 person

    • That is fantastic. Viv! I love that you’ve included both herbs and gems in your fantasy stories. I am so glad you are enjoying these metaphysical posts. My goal is to show how metaphysical elements can easily be included in fiction writing, and it doesn’t have to be fantasy or medieval. I very much appreciate your comment!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I love this post, Jan. I am a fan of herbs and oils. Peppermint and rose always relax me. Although half of my family hates peppermint, and I can’t be around patchouli, which the half who doesn’t like peppermint enjoy. I can’t figure that one out but we all love sage:) Great to bring Diana’s knowledge into the post. Nature has so much to offer us and our stories.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. I love patchouli! It was my signature scent for years. Unfortunately, as I grew older, it started bothering my sinuses. I used to order many different oils from Doterra, but had to stop for the same reason. It sucks getting older, LOL

    Herbs have long fascinated me, too. The Q&A with Diana was a lot of fun (Note to self: don’t eat acorns unless stranded in the woods and starving).

    Another cool post in this series, Jan!

    Liked by 2 people

    • I am with you, Mae, about the acorns. I’m amazed that Diana had the courage to try them. I’m so sorry that the wonderful oil scents started bothering your sinuses, but hey, that could be useful in a story, too. In my last book, my hero sneezed when the protagonist burned sage. 🙂 So, there are many uses when it comes to oils and herbs. Thank you for stopping by!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Great post. I learned a lot from it. I’ve dabbled in these natural oils for years, but that’s about it.

    Question for you and Diana: In my upcoming book, I (finally) introduce a Shaman sort of individual. This is 75,000 years ago (Shamanism probably started 100kya), and I’d like to associate a scent or something like what you write about with him. Any ideas? Thank you for letting me pick your brains and no problem if this is too pre-tech for an answer–I know the feeling!

    Liked by 2 people

    • The first thing that comes to mind regarding Shamanism, Jacqui, is the practice of burning sage, preferably white sage. That is a practice that has been carried on for thousands of years. The other thing that comes to mind is the use of healing herbs like Sweetgrass. We tend to think of that more in terms of Native Americans, but it has been widely used for centuries. Hope that helps! Thank you for your comment and question! Diana may be able to add more to that.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Definitely helpful. Both of those are probably available in Eurasia (I’ll research that) and easily done. My people had mastered fire and tossing sage in a fire pit would be an interesting addition. Thank you!

        Liked by 1 person

    • Hi, Jacqui. Jan had some great suggestions. I’d also (if it fits with your climate constrictions) include things like mint, wintergreen, or fennel, some of the strong scents that have a lot of uses for relieving congestion (and stomach ailments, etc.). These are all winter-hardy too (as is sage). As I recall, your story is going to have some cold weather. Use the internet to learn specifics about what they were used for. I think the list of uses is extensive!

      Liked by 2 people

      • My folks start in Siberia and end up in the furthest extremes of Europe. I’ll find out where those plants are. I would guess because my people are crossing so many geographic areas, they will come across them. Thank you!

        Liked by 2 people

      • You have some work ahead of you! My guess is that mint grows widely since there are hundreds of varieties. If the Shaman uses scents to identify plants, you might look up “arromatic herbs.” That will give you about a dozen familiar ones that you can narrow down.

        Liked by 1 person

  7. Anytime I can use an element or devise to reveal character, I’m excited. It’s so much better than telling a reader who our protagonists and villains are. Excellent post, and I loved the Q&A with you and Diana. (I agree; The Necromancer’s Daughter was a masterpiece.) Thanks, Jan.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. A long time ago, I wrote a story about witches and wanted to use herbs for some of their magic, so I found Country Scrapbook, All About Country Lore and Life by Jerry Mack Johnson. It gave me a lot of ideas, and it was fun including the herbs in the spells, etc.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Very interesting, Jan. I did you oils as a scent in one of my works. I can see where this has purpose in our writing. There is so much that can be gleaned from a character that doesn’t need to hit you over the head, but rather be part of his/her persona.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I love the smell of patchouli. My grandmother, who was about as far from anything new age as one could get, had a small bottle of patchouli oil on her dresser. I was young and didn’t even know what it was. Years later, I immediately recognized the smell as what my grandmother had when I bought my first patchouli oil.

    I’ve long been interested in home remedies and naturopathic medicine. I’ve considered including a character who uses natural remedies, but I didn’t feel I knew enough. Diana’s interview helps!

    Great post, Jan.

    Liked by 2 people

  11. That was a fun post, Jan. I use essential oils in a salve I make for my husband’s arthritis including oils: Peppermint, eucalyptus, pepper, and pine. We add the oils to a stew of magnesium oil and bee’s wax, along with dried camomile leaves and willow bark. The concoction is fragrant and it makes my nose run. Lol. But we’ve been using it for years with good luck. Thanks so much for including my book and thoughts in the post. I noticed that I veered more into foods than herbs, but I hope it worked okay. A great post, and it was fun reading through the comments!

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Patchouli is my absolute favorite, Jan. Loved this post! Since I now exclusively write Native American metaphysical thrillers, I include herbs for spiritual and physical healing.

    Peppermint oil helps with joint pain? I’m gonna try it. Thanks, Jan! It’s also great on a cotton ball to repel mice.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hmmm, never thought about using peppermint oil to repel rodents, Sue. 🙂 I love that you have turned toward Native American metaphysical thrillers! I know I am going to enjoy your stories, and your latest is waiting in the wings for me. Thank you for stopping by and leaving a comment. I’m always happy to find another Patchouli lover!

      Liked by 1 person

    • Oh, I love the idea of peppermint oil through the diffuser when you are working. I like to use a combination of peppermint and basil. That is my daily go-to. Such great energy! Thank you for stopping by and sharing today, Jill!

      Liked by 1 person

  13. Wonderful post, Jan. I use essential oils daily – especially Frankincense, Sandalwood, and Myrrh (mixed with a carrier oil). Their healing qualities, research-driven, are undeniable. And I regularly use a diffuser and alternate the oils. It’s fun if nothing else. I’ve yet to add oils to my stories, but your ideas prompt some of my own. 😊 Thank you for sharing as you have!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m so glad you enjoyed the post, Gwen. I still remember the beautiful bottle of oil you gifted to me when I met you. And you are right that the healing qualities of these high vibrational oils are proven. I’m glad you got some new ideas for your stories. I look forward to whatever you come up with! Thank you for your support!

      Liked by 1 person

  14. Pingback: Metaphysical elements in writing – essential oils and herbs | Legends of Windemere

We'd love to know what you think. Comment below.

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s