Building Your Own Herbal Apothecary
Our herbalists here at Traditional Medicinals will tell you that all healing must start with the individual. Herbalists and doctors can help in countless ways, but unless we commit to being active participants in our own daily self-care, we may not experience the long-term health and wellbeing we seek. Starting to listen to your body and understanding what it needs can be the catalyst you need to incorporate herbs into your daily life, and choosing the right herbs can quickly make you master of your own wellness regimen.
Thanks to Traditional Medicinals for partnering with us to make this guide.
Building an herbal apothecary is a great way to have the herbs you’re most likely to use at your fingertips when you need them. Stocking your cabinets with herbal tinctures, salves, capsules, dried herbs, essential oils and our teas can make it easy to include herbs in your everyday routines. If you’re new to herbalism, it’s always smart to have a few herbal books on hand for guidance. For beginners, Rosemary Gladstar’s Medicinal Herbs: A Beginner’s Guide and David Hoffmann’s The Complete Herbs Sourcebook are two approachable references to get you on the right track. When researching an herb, it’s important to read about its contraindications, so be sure to consult a health professional before taking anything if you have a medical condition or any safety concerns.
When stocking your herbal medicine cabinet, or “apothecary,” consider your most frequent needs:
• Do you need help getting a good night’s sleep?
• Do you need help relaxing after a tough day?
• Does your digestion need support?
• Do you need extra immune support during the winter months?
• Would you like to ease your monthly cycle or support pregnancy?
• Are you looking for an everyday herb to keep you healthy and vibrant?
Once you’ve identified your everyday herbal needs, consider purchasing herbs that meet this mindful ethos: When taking any herb, we prefer organic, Fair Trade and FairWild-certified plants whenever possible. Not only are organic herbs better for your body, but they are also better for the planet, and fair-certified herbs make working conditions better for herb collectors. Here are the key herbs we recommend to get you started on your road to herbal education and personal healing.
Relaxation, Sleep & Stress Management:
«Chamomile: This dainty but powerful member of the daisy family soothes digestion and calms the nerves, thanks to azulene, a beneficial compound found in its essential oils and an important marker of quality in medicinal chamomile. A great herb for many occasions, chamomile is available loose and dried, in teas, and in essential oils. A staple of every apothecary.
«Lavender: From self-care products and candles to herbal teas and essential oils, lavender leaves its mark everywhere these days. Used medicinally for over 2,500 years, this indispensable medicinal herb is the ultimate in relieving stress, settling the nervous system and relaxing the digestive system.
«Tulsi: Named for the Hindu goddess of good fortune and regarded as “holy basil,” tulsi is something of a blessing in our modern world’s hectic pace. Its role as an adaptogen helps enhance the body’s natural protective functions, helps the body adapt to stress and promotes general wellness. Try it in teas and tinctures.
Heart Health & Circulation:
«Hawthorn: Native to Europe and Asia, hawthorn has been well-loved and widely used for centuries, especially for its ability to tone the heart. As hardy as it is hearty, it supports cardiovascular health and is even believed to help soothe a broken heart. It’s best consumed as a syrup, tincture or tea.
«Hibiscus: This elegant flower grows in the tropics, where herbalists use it as a diuretic and to help promote healthy circulation. Its tart and tangy taste makes it a wonderfully refreshing tea, whether you want to serve it hot or over ice. Available dried and in teas, or enjoyed as delicious syrups and jams.
«Moringa: Known as the “wonder tree” and “miracle tree” for its wide array of benefits, this leafy superfood makes a smart addition to your everyday wellness regimen. Try it in a tincture or herbal tea for when you’re on the go, or enjoy it in powder form to add to your morning smoothie.
«Mountain Tea: With epic nicknames such as “ironwort” and “tea of the titans,” mountain tea can’t help but evoke a feeling of heroism against the odds. Celebrated by wise Greek grandmas as an all-purpose home remedy, this member of the mint family works best when prepared traditionally as a tea.
«Raspberry Leaf: European and Native American women have used this leaf for thousands of years for menstrual support, menstrual cramps and during pregnancy as a healthy tonic to help prepare the womb for childbirth. Available in a variety of forms, it makes a particularly tasty black tea-like infusion, but without the caffeine. Needless to say, raspberry leaf is a girl’s best friend!
«Echinacea: Also known as coneflower, this bold purple and orange bloom is packed with beneficial compounds like polysaccharides, glycoproteins and alkylamides that help boost your immune system when you need it. We recommend taking it as a tea or tincture at the first sign your resistance is low.
«Licorice: Celebrated in the East for thousands of years, this sweet root works wonders for promoting respiratory health and for soothing the throat and digestive tract. Skip the candied version and look to capsules, teas and tinctures for real herbal support.
Joint Health & Inflammation Associated with Exercise:
«Nettle: Appearances can be deceiving—just take it from the stinging nettle plant. Traditional European herbalists have long celebrated this prickly plant as a spring tonic to flush the system and promote joint health. Wear gloves and blanch it if you eat it fresh; if not, try it dried in supplements of all kinds.
«Turmeric: This hardy orange rhizome is a favorite of Ayurvedic healers for its ability to target inflammation associated with an active lifestyle. Whether fresh or dried, turmeric makes a tasty ingredient in curries and stews, but for a lifestyle on the go, look for it in capsules, tinctures and teas.
«Dandelion: Often mistaken for a pesky weed, this bitter and resilient member of the daisy family gently stimulates the liver, promotes the body’s natural detoxification processes and fosters healthy digestion. While easy to find in tinctures and teas, dandelion’s bitter leaves taste great fresh in salads and pestos.
«Ginger: Ayurvedic healers have used this warming rhizome for thousands of years to soothe stomach upset, digestive cramping and prevent motion sickness. Not only is it available in tinctures, teas, lozenges, candies and chews, but ginger is also widely available fresh in your local grocery store.
«Senna: Harvested mainly in India, the mighty senna leaf gently stimulates your intestines to help relieve occasional constipation. Best taken at bedtime in capsule or tea form, senna can be powerful, so make sure to use as instructed.
Whether you take your herbs as tinctures or teas, or use them fresh or dried in your cooking, they can be powerful tools to help bring your body back into balance. For teas, we use our own herbalist-crafted, organic infusions here at Traditional Medicinals; for tinctures, we love the blends and bitters from Urban Moonshine; and for loose dried herbs, we go to the folks at Mountain Rose Herbs. Enjoy the process of discovering what herbs most resonate with you and your body. Before long, you’ll be teaching others how easy it is to add herbs to your health routine.