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Herbalism for Beginners: 10 Herbs to Start Your Home Apothecary

Kailah T.

In this post, I’ll be sharing ten great plants to have on hand for developing your home apothecary. I’ve chosen these herbs based on the actions they take in the body. As this series expands, I will dedicate full posts to our different body systems and the different plants that support those systems. For now, this list is designed to introduce you to a variety of herbs you can become familiar with through smell, taste, and various practicing herbal preparations.



Nettle


Nettle, 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 an extract or topical treatment.


Chamomile


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.



Peppermint


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. Aside from it being an amazing herb on it’s own, it also pairs well with a number of other less-than-tasty herbs. For example,  I like to add peppermint to bitter bark and berry concoctions to help them go down a bit easier.


Ginger Root


Ginger root is commonly used for cooking, but this spicy root is a must-have for your home apothecary. Ginger root is my first line of defense for general digestive issues. I’ve found it particularly effective for gas relief, indigestion, and motion sickness. Ginger root can be prepared in a variety of ways including teas, vinegars, and tinctures.



Elderflower


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.



Yarrow


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


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 mugwort 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.


Cramp Bark


If you’ve followed me on social media for a while, you’ve likely heard me sing the praises of cramp bark. Cramp bark is most commonly known for relieving menstrual cramps, but can also be used to effectively relieve muscle spasms in other areas of the body. I personally experience released muscle tension throughout my entire body when drinking a cramp bark infusion or taking it as a tincture. I think that cramp bark great to have on hand, as many people carry nervous tension in their bodies and could use support in releasing that tension from their bodies. It’s also extremely effective for menstrual cramp relief and is a safer alternative to over the counter pain relievers. This will also give you an opportunity to experiment with making herbal preparations with dense materials like bark, which typically requires a little more work.



Dandelion


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.  



Overview

The first step in developing your home apothecary is becoming familiar with your herbs. This list is meant to provide you with a diverse set of herbs, flowers, roots, and barks for you to familiarize yourself with. Touching, smelling, and tasting the plants you use will help you to begin deciding what plants pair well with you.


I personally grow most of the herbs I use, and with Spring right around the corner, I would highly suggest researching which of these plants you could grow in your area. If you prefer to buy dried herbs instead, here are a few of my suggestions for high-quality, certified organic herbs online:


Mountain Rose Herbs: https://www.mountainroseherbs.com/


Frontier Co-Op: https://www.frontiercoop.com/


Star-West Botanicals: https://www.starwest-botanicals.com/



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






Resources:

Cohen M. M. (2014). Tulsi - Ocimum sanctum: A herb for all reasons. Journal of Ayurveda and integrative medicine, 5(4), 251-9.


Yi, S. S., Hwang, E., Baek, H. K., Kim, T. H., Lee, H. H., Jun, H. S., & Kim, S. J. (2015). Application of Bioactive Natural Materials-based Products on Five Women's Diseases. Journal of menopausal medicine, 21(3), 121-5.


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1 comment

  • Thank you, Kailah. 💚 Do you suggest growing these herbs in containers or directly in the ground?

    Lauren Lanay

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