Herbalism for Beginners: Starting Your Home Apothecary
In this post, I’ll be sharing ten great plants to have on hand for developing your home apothecary. This list is designed to introduce you to a variety of herbs you can become familiar with through smell, taste, and practicing different herbal preparations.
Nettles, also known as stinging nettle, is a nutrient-dense plant packed full of vitamin C, vitamin A, and potassium. Aside from being a great source of vitamins, nettle can be used as a an anti-inflammatory and as means of removing toxins from the body. It’s potential to treat the body both externally and internally makes it a great herb for beginners, as it can be prepared as tea, ticture, or topical treatment.
Beloved chamomile is likely a flower you are already familiar with as a herb enthusiast. Chamomile is most commonly known for being a mild sedative and supporting healthy sleep hygiene. However, chamomile also contains volatile oils that gives the plant anti-inflammatory properties, making it ideal for both internal and external herbal preparations.
Tulsi (Holy Basil)
Tulsi is one of my all time favorite herbs to work with. This herb is highly revered in Ayurveda as a remedy for physical, mental, metabolic and stress, as well as for fighting infection internally and externally (are you detecting a pattern here yet?). Holy Basil tea has quickly become by favorite meditation-time tea. I personally use holy basil for stress adaptation in my daily life, but it has endless beneficial properties and can be prepared in a number of ways. Western herbalists are slowly starting to incorporate tulsi into their practices, as more people in the west are beginning to acknowledge the validity of the mind-body connection.
A ton of people ask me about using peppermint as a headache remedy, but I’ve personally found peppermint to be most useful to me as a digestive health aide, especially if your stomach is too sensitive for ginger root. Peppermint has consistently been useful to me for combating nausea related to migraines. However you choose to use it, I believe everyone should have peppermint on hand in their home apothecary. There are many medicinal plants in the mint family, and peppermint is a familiar favorite that can help you to familiarize yourself with growing, identifying, and harvesting herbs in this family.
Ginger root is commonly used for cooking, but this spicy root is a must-have for your home apothecary. Ginger root can be used to activate the digestive system, and has antiviral properties that make it a phenomenal addition to immunity elixirs. Ginger root is fairly easy to find, and can be prepared in a variety of ways including teas, vinegars, and tinctures.
Elder flowers from the black elderberry plant are essential to have on hand for cold and flu season. Elderflower protects against viruses, relieves cold symptoms, and induces sweating to break fevers. While elderberries are more popular for their preventative properties, elderflower is great to have on hand for quick preparations in the event of illness.
You simply can’t say enough good things about yarrow. Yarrow is another plant that is useful to have on hand for fighting both internal and external infections. Yarrow is also a notable ally for supporting reproductive health, as it can help to remove uterine congestion and relieve pain during menstruation. However, it is important to note that yarrow is a uterine stimulant, and is potentially dangerous for individuals who are be pregnant. You will find that yarrow is easy to work with, and can easily be adapted into a variety of preparations.
Motherwort is a well-known and incredibly supportive herb for the female reproductive system. Motherwort has been used traditionally to increase blood flow to the reproductive organs when periods are delayed, and as a remedy for cramp relief and balancing hormones. Additionally, my favorite thing about motherwort is that it is also a nervine, and has a sedative effect on the central nervous system. Motherwort is literally everything you need during your menstrual cycle; relaxation, pain relief, and balanced hormones. It’s hormone balancing properties also make this herb ideal for people who are menopausal and need help combating night sweats and hot flashes.
Elderberries are deeply loved by many for preventing illness and strengthening the immune system. Elderberries are essential to have on hand, as they make powerful preventative medicine for flu season. They are most commonly prepeared as syurps, but can also be used to infuse vinegars or prepared as an alcohol based tincture.
Dandelion is a common weed that most people either mow over or stop being impressed by after their childhood years. However, dandelion roots and flowers are powerful medicine. Dandelions are rich in vitamin A, are supportive to the digestive system by detoxifying the liver, and are anti-inflammatory. I added dandelions to this list because they are easy to identify and forage. Once Spring rolls around you’ll be able to go outside and get familiar with these beauties, as you can find them growing just about everywhere.
The first step in developing your home apothecary is becoming familiar with your plants. This list is meant to provide you with a diverse set of herbs, flowers, roots, to familiarize yourself with. Touching, smelling, and tasting the plants you use will help you to begin deciding what plants belong in your home apothecary. If you're looking to explore even further, here are a few places I suggest for stocking your apothecary with dried herbs Most offer certified organic options:
Frontier Co-Op: https://www.frontiercoop.com/
Star-West Botanicals: https://www.starwest-botanicals.com/
Rebecca's Herbal Apothecary & Supply: https://www.rebeccasherbs.com/
Mountain Rose Herbs: https://www.mountainroseherbs.com/
*Iwilla Remedy: https://iwillaremedy.com/
Oshala Farm: https://oshalafarm.com/
Living Earth Herbs: https://livingearthherbs.com/
*Ancestral Herbiary: https://ancestralherbiary.com/
Pacific Botanicals: https://www.pacificbotanicals.com/
*Sacred Vibes Apothecary: http://www.sacredvibeshealing.com/
Jean's Greens: http://www.jeansgreens.com/index.htm
note: * indicates Black-owned Apothecaries
In the next post, we will begin exploring extraction methods, starting with our reliable friend water! I will be providing all the details on how I formulate herbal tea blends and how you can use water create a quick cup of tea, decoction, or infusion. Check it out here: https://bloomcoshop.com/blogs/bloom-co-blog/herbalism-for-beginners-water-based-preparations