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I’ve had a substantial interest in natural remedies for most of my life. Growing up, I was exposed to many different “fixes” for the various problems most kids come across. Whether it be bumps and bruises, head tension, seasonal discomfort, tummy trouble, or a simple paper cut, I had a family member ready to offer me a solution. As I’ve grown into an adult with children of my own, my interest has increased as well.
I’ve been using natural remedies for years, mainly in the use of essential oils and teas. When my eldest was born, I started delving more into herbalism and holistic health and was blown away by how much there was to explore. I have been working with and educating myself on herbs for two years now, and I still have so much to learn. With that being said, I am so impressed with how much creating my home apothecary has improved our home.
In today’s world, it is so easy to access information and misinformation, that it can be overwhelming to know where to begin and what to believe. To save you some time and effort, I want to share with you some tips and resources to get you started on your herbal journey.
Research + Education
The best way to learn about something, and figure out if it is for you, is to do your research. Not only will you need to study the plants you will be working with, but it is essential to have an understanding of ailments and the human body as well. The remedies you create with assist your body in doing what it is already supposed to do. Understanding the various properties of the plant and how they work with different parts of the body are essential when choosing the plants you want to use and how they should be used.
Remember that just because it is natural, doesn’t mean it is safe. There are many plants out there that are highly poisonous or have poisonous parts, and some that are dangerous if not prepared correctly. Some plants are also dangerous for certain people to work with, depending on the state and condition of their body.
You will also want to decide if you will be growing your herbs, wildcrafting, or buying them from an herb shop, which will help you figure out what information you need to supply yourself with. Do you need to learn growing techniques and zoning? Where is a plant found, and how do you properly harvest it? Does the herb shop follow sustainable practices? Are the plants grown organically? Before you start working with herbs, you will need the knowledge to use them safely, and that knowledge will come from lots of self-led research.
Is it reliable information?
When doing your research make sure you are checking your sources and taking in reliable information. Check for relevant certifications and education. Scientific journals and publications are a great place to start. If you are reading an article or blog post make sure the sources are cited and that you verify the information across multiple sources. If you have access to a library I urge to utilize it, much of my study has been done from the books at the library.
Some Books to Check out:
- Rosemary Gladstar’s Medicinal Herbs
- Rosemary Gladstar’s Herbal Recipes For Vibrant Health
- Alchemy Of Herbs
- Medicinal Plants At Home
- Body Into Balance
- The Complete Book of Essential Oils and Aromatherapy
- Plant Powered Beauty
- The Herbal Apothecary
- Herbs For Children’s Health
- Attainable Sustainable (you can check out my review of the book, here)
Expand Your learning
Your education doesn’t have to be done in solitude. Reach out to local herbalists to learn more about the craft or talk to people at the Farmer’s Market. Facebook is a great way to find teaching events and workshops going on in your area.
If you can’t get to someone locally, utilize your online resources. There are so many online educational institutions and bloggers that specialize in herbs and holistic health. I’ve listed some of my favorites below. I recommend giving each one a look and see which ones would work best for you.
- The Herbal Academy This is the institution I went through when I first started studying herbs and continue to learn from. They offer a variety of programs so you can pick the curriculum that best fits your education level. The courses vary in price, but I found each one very affordable, especially with the payment plan they offer. When you enroll in the course, you will get immediate access to the student dashboard. You can start your coursework immediately or postpone your start to a date that better meets your needs. With your enrollment, you will also receive access to the Facebook student community, a certificate upon completion, and discounts to many different herbal businesses.
- Eclectic School Of Herbal Medicine This school offers a 600-hour self-paced clinical herbalism course the is broken up into three tiers. If you are working to obtain a certificate in clinical herbalism, this is worth taking a look at. I do want to point out that while the course is online, the final exam must be taken in-person at the school in Lowgap, North Carolina. You can check out some of their free courses, here.
- Heart Of Herbs This institution has been around since 1998. When you enroll, you get personal mentoring from your instructor and the option to join the student group. They offer a few different certifications including, Certified Herbalist, Certified Aromatherapist, and flower Essence Certification.
- HerbMentor This is an online learning companion meant for anyone to use with the purchase of a membership. With your membership, you get access to on-demand courses, the online community where you can ask questions and discuss with like-minded individuals, and the digital library full of herbal information.
- Little Green Dot
- Fern & Fungi
- Gather Victoria
- Chestnut Herbs
- The Herbal Academy
- Home Spun Seasonal Living
- Attainable Sustainable
- Heart Of Herbs
- Growing Up Herbal
Creating Your Home Apothecary
One of the most enjoyable parts of working with herbs is preparing herbal preparations. When setting up your home apothecary, there are some supplies you will want to have on hand.
Supplies & Tools
Glass Canning Jars
Glass canning jars, or mason jars, are so useful when working with herbs. They come in many sizes, are sturdy, and easy to clean. These jars are perfect for maxing herbal infusions, tinctures, and elixirs. They are also convenient for storing herbs, as long as they are in a dark space to protect them from the light. These are easily found at the grocery store, craft stores, and online. Make sure to grab some extra air-tight, reusable lids as well.
Glass Jugs & Bottles
These bottles are ideal for storing and dispensing liquid herbal preparations. They come with many different options for caps, such as droppers, simple caps, and spray tops, so you can choose which top would work best for the liquid it is carrying. They come in a variety of sizes are known to hold things like tinctures, syrups, essential oils, etc.
Fine Mesh Strainer
Having one of these on hand makes straining teas and infused oils so much easier. They come in a few sizes, but I found the medium and small sizes to be the most useful for my home.
Metal tins are an excellent option for storing salves, balms, herbal teas and spice blends. They come in sizes ranging from .25 ounces up to 16 ounces and are typically made of steel. 1 oz, 4 oz, and 8 oz tins tend to be the most popular sizes.
Cheesecloth + Muslin Bags
Cheesecloth is extremely helpful when straining and bottling your herbal preparations. Muslin bags are great because they can also be used be to strain your herbal preparations and are easily washed and reusable. You can also use them for things like herbal baths and foot soaks.
A kitchen scale is great to have on hand for weighing herbs when you need precise measurements.
Mortar and Pestle + Spice Grinder
Essential oils are the naturally occurring volatile aromatic compounds found in plants. I love adding different essential oils to my herbal preparations.
Solvents are used to make a variety of herbal preparations, such tinctures, infused oils, and syrups. Good solvents to have on hand include:
Wax and Butters
If you plan on making topical preparations, like salves, creams, and butters, these will be important ingredients:
Labels are necessary to have so you know what you have in each storage container. I have labels on everything, including herbs, tinctures, syrups, essential oils, etc. Here are some cute options to give you an idea of what to look for.
I like to keep a designated notebook to write down recipes and herbal information. Target and Amazon are great places to find simple notebooks. If you are looking for something more personal, check out Etsy. You can also check The Herbal Academy for recipes cards and a materia medica journal.
Herbs are going to take center stage in your herbal apothecary, and the herbs you choose to keep on hand are going to vary based on your needs. Local herbal stores, spice shops, and tea shops are a good place to look for herbs in your area. You can also order online from sites like Mountain Rose Herbs and Frontier Co-op.