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Having your home apothecary well stocked with herbs and tools, is a must for folks wanting to work with herbs to support their health. The last thing you need is to be in the middle of an illness and NOT have things to create your remedies (ideally, the remedies will already be created, too!).
It can be pretty overwhelming to figure out what in the world to have on hand, but I got you, friend! From herbs to utensils to kitchen equipment-I will help you figure out what is the best thing for you, your budget and your lifestyle.
You might feel like you could end spending a ton of money here-and you could-but I am part of the frugal folk and don’t like to spend money unnecessarily.
Tea Kettle. These are a dime a dozen at thrift shop (really, most everything in this category you can find second hand!). You can either get a stove top kettle or an electric one. An electric kettle heats up water much faster, but depending on your taste (because, aesthetics are also important don’t ever let anyone tell you otherwise) you may be drawn to a stove top one. I have both. I actually have multiple stove top kettles because even though I am frugal, I am a collector. This is an integral part of being an herbalist, because tea!
Slow Cooker. I’ve always picked mine up at thrift stores. They are usually between $5-10. They are great for making salves, infusing oils, and making bone broths.
Double boiler. Now, this isn’t 100% important-you can easily fashion one out of two pots, or a large glass measuring cup and a pot (this is my method). This is very important for making salves, body butters, and infused honeys because you don’t want direct heat.
Glass Everything. I have so many glass things. Bowls, measuring cups, jars, bottles. Again, thrift these items. If you are less folk herbalist, and more scientific, then investing in a set of glass beakers is wise. I love these for blending tinctures. Jars are going to be very versatile. You’ll use them for storing dried herbs, infusing herbs, and finished bulk product.
Funnels. Investing in a good set of various sized funnels will help you keep your sanity. I am a messy herbalist even with using funnels. But it really does help keep the messes to a minimum while filling your smaller bottles. Also, a wide mouthed canning funnel is great for filling jars!
Pour-over Coffee Dripper. Hear me out. This coffee dripper fits perfectly on wide mouthed canning jars. Line it with cheese cloth and easily strain your tinctures or infused oils!
Straining Fabric. I prefer to use more reusable items here such as flour sack cloths or loose weave muslin. But, for oils, getting some cheesecloth is really a low mess way to go. Seriously, the worst part of working with herbs, is clean up after oily things. I go through a lot of paper towels when I am making infused oils and salves.
Utensils. While I love the aesthetics of wooden spoons, they are too porous for most work so I save them for mixing herbs for tea. I mainly use stainless whisks and spoons.
LABELS. This is probably the most important thing to get aside from herbs! I promise you, you will not remember what you have going on in a jar. Don’t even get started with this bad habit. LABEL EVERYTHING. Name, ingredients, date.
Journal. Get a journal to document everything! It’s amazing to look back and see how you’ve changed, what was going on the day you made Saint John’s Wort oil in July, what formulas worked, what didn’t. You won’t regret it.
I prefer to use Mountain Rose Herbs for any supplies or herbs that I cannot purchase or grow locally, if you need a resource.
Oils. I like to get a variety of different types of oils for different applications. But, that can get expensive. So start off with a high quality organic olive oil. This is totally versatile and you can use it for most things.
Apple Cider Vinegar. If you don’t already know, herbal infused vinegars are AMAZING. Gallons of apple cider vinegar are a staple in my apothecary. Not only does it extract the nutritive properties of herbs, it has many wonderful gut and immune healing qualities.
Raw Honey. This is something you’ll need to do some local research on. Finding a good local source of honey is key. Honey is used in herbal syrups, oxymels, and other fun concoctions like electuaries. The more local the better. *remember, no honey under 1-2 years old.
Wax. I prefer beeswax but there are other types of wax you can use. Wax is used to solidify herbal oils to make salves, lotions, and body butters.
Butters. This isn’t a must have, but I love having a variety of butters on hand to make lotions and body butters and creams. Cocoa and shea are my favorite, but there are so many to choose from. Read up on their properties and decide what works best for you. **If you have a latex allergy, shea butter may be off limits.
Alcohol. Alcohol is used in tincture making. I prefer organic grain free alcohol, but that gets pricy and hard to come by. You’ll want to make sure that the alcohol content is at or above 50% for preservation properties. If you cannot use alcohol for lifestyle or religious reasons, vinegar or glycerin tinctures are acceptable substitutes; however, the dosage will need to be increased to be effective.
Glycerin. Glycerin is used primarily in children’s tincture formulas, but as I mentioned above, you can use it if you are avoiding alcohol.
The main attraction! As far as sourcing your herbs, there is sort of an order of operations that I like to follow.
- Forage from your backyard/neighborhood.
- Ethically forage from surrounding areas.
- Grow your own!
- Purchase from small local growers.
- Purchase from small herb farms in your country (the closer to you the better).
- Purchase from larger herbal supply companies such as Frontier Co-Op (if you have a local health food store, chances are this is what they stock, you can also find them on Amazon) or Mountain Rose Herbs.
It’s so hard to tell someone or even really decide for myself what are the best herbs to keep on hand. If you are like me, you already likely have a ton already on hand for cooking. You can make amazing medicine out of your culinary herbs and spices. In fact, I encourage you to use a wide variety liberally in your cooking. I highly recommended snagging a copy of The Herbal Kitchen by Kami McBride. There are over 250 recipes that will imbue your cooking with herbal magic.
So, for herbs to keep on hand, I will give you a few ideas to start.
Stinging Nettle (Urtica dioica). This is one of my main allies. I make teas, use it in cooking, and do daily overnight nourishing herbal infusions. Nettles are rich in vitamins and minerals, are great for the blood, and are a natural anti-histamine. I also make sure to have an abundance of nettles on hand.
Elderberry/flower (Sambucus spp.). If you work with herbs, chances are you know what elderberry is. But do you know the flower? I much prefer working with the flower these days. Wonderful immune support, it also is an ally for the respiratory system. Use caution if you have autoimmune issues. Elderberry syrup, infused honies, jellies, wines, tinctures. It is quite versatile.
Linden flower (Tillia spp.). This may be my current favorite plant. This summer I found a grove of linden trees. It was a magical liminal space. As I got closer to the trees, I could smell the fragrance and hear the bees dancing about. Once under the boughs, I felt like I was transported to another world. I dry the freshly picked flowers and use them in teas and infused honey. Linden is calming to the nervous system and the heart space. While there is nothing like experience fresh linden flowers, you are perfectly fine to purchase them in bulk.
Tulsi/Holy Basil (Ocimum tenuiflorum). Another herb that you have to experience growing. It grows very easily in a container. I love tulsi for its stress relief and nervous system properties. I can literally go outside, dance my hands across the plant, smell it, and instantly calm. Tulsi is beautiful in tea and tincture form.
Echinacea root (Echinacea purpurea). I use echinacea as an immune stimulant and herbal antibiotic. I have yet to meet an ear infection or strep throat that I couldn’t knock down with a high dose of echinacea tincture. Though again, if you have autoimmune issues, proceed with caution.
Mullein (Verbascum thapsus). Mullein leaf is a wonderful respiratory ally. Great for getting a stubborn cough unstuck. I pair it with sage in a tea to help lungs recover after bronchitis or an asthma episode. You can infuse the flowers in oil to create an ear oil, and I’ve heard stories about the root being used to help with spinal issues, but I have no personal experience with that.
Chamomile (Matricaria chamomilla). Chamomile is likely the most well known medicinal herb. So gentle and sweet. Safe for children and elderly folks. It is so soothing and calming. Great for digestive issues and well as helping an over stimulated child settle in for the evening. Create a family ritual of a cup of chamomile tea before bed.
I’m going to have to stop the list here because I seriously could just go on and on and on. I do think that this is a good starting point, along with your culinary herbs that you may already have on hand such as thyme, garlic, ginger, cinnamon, cloves, sage, and oregano. All of those can be utilized in a pinch. In fact, one of my favorite go tos for the start of a cold is a cup of lemon, ginger, sage, and cinnamon tea. It’s warming and stimulating and really helps open up the airways.
If you are interested in learning more about herbalism, I have a great course called The Birthright of Plant Medicine that is currently open. For only $27 you will receive:
- Lessons on
- Connecting and sharing gratitude through Altars
- Reclaiming your Ancestral Birthright
- Safe and Ethical Wildcrafting
- Virtual Guided Plant Walk
- Video Flower Essence Tutorial
- Beginner’s Guide to Bioregional Herbalism
- Foraging Planner
- Flower Essence Info Sheet
- Private Facebook Group