With the holidays coming up, many herbalists are compiling lists of gifts for themselves and for their friends and families.
Maybe you want to give herbally oriented gift to someone who likes herbal medicine, or maybe you’re just getting started on your path as an herbalist and want to share some gift ideas with a loved one! Or perhaps you’re setting up a registry and want to share some ideas with family members and friends. Or even better, maybe you just want to buy yourself something special!
I’ve put together this post to compile a resource guide that will be good for all herbalists to have on hand, from wildcrafting gear to medicine-making equipment to essential books, things to set up your apothecary and get your hands on some materials that can be super helpful to have on hand.
- Notebooks & index cards for notes, ideas and recipes – we have to record everything we do!
- Jars We all need lots of jars, especially jars for preparing herbal medicine in. Depending on your amounts, the very smallest size you want is quart jars; going up from there, half-gallon jars, and if you really want to go for it, gallon jars. You can use those jars for all of your macerations, for tinctures, for vinegars, for oils, for honeys, for all other kinds of medicine preparations.
- Amber Bottles for putting the final product in. All of these bottles should be amber glass to protect your medicine from any sun exposure or light. If you’re making topical products, you’ll want some salve jars, and for administering your tinctures to clients and people, you’ll need some one-ounce bottles with droppers, and some two-ounce bottles with droppers. Specialty bottle has lots of options.
- Bottle brush for cleaning out those bottles with small necks!
- Labels. You should always label everything! So it’s always good to have a good pack of labels on hand. And a Label-maker is also really helpful if you want to get a little fancier.
- Menstruums. A mentruum is the vessel or carrier that you use to make your medicine out of, these would include (but definitely not limited to):
- Alcohol 95% alcohol which is sold here in North America as Everclear or organic cane or grain alcohol. You can get an account and order from the Organic Alcohol Company out of Ashland, Oregon, who make really great organic alcohol. But having 95% alcohol on hand is super helpful to make tinctures with as you can dilute it down (using a formula) to whatever % alcohol would be advantageous for the herb that you’re working with.
- Olive Oil or some kind of other carrier oil for salves and medicinal oils. Sunflower oil is a bit lighter than olive, coconut oil, castor oil are all but just a few you can use.
- Beeswax Having beeswax on hand is good for making salves. You can do infused oils, you can do creams, you can do salves, you can do vinegars.
- Apple cider vinegar A big jug of good apple cider vinegar is nice so that you can make your vinegar extracts.
- Honey Good-quality unpasteurized raw honey allows you to do herbal-infused honeys. And then you can combine those herbal-infused vinegars you make with a medicinal honeys and make what’s called an oxymel!
- Glycerin handy to have for making glycerite tinctures instead of alcohol based tinctures which is great for children (it tastes really sweet!) and also good for those folks who don’t drink alcohol.
- Glass Cylinders or Beakers are super handy for measuring menstruums, measuring cups work okay – but they’re not accurate at all, so having some scientific glass is useful. Pallet lab sells these.
- Funnels for pouring your freshly pressed tinctures into bottles.
- Tincture press. One piece of equipment that is indispensable for home medicine-making is a decent-quality tincture press. For anyone who’s serious about making their own herbal medicine, it’s 100% worth it to get a tincture press – either home make one or get one that is ssually built with some kind of bottle jack. These are super handy to have as you’re able to pour your macerated herb in it’s mentruum into a container and jack it up against a press plate with a whole bunch of pressure to squeeze every last drop of menstruum out of the herb that you’ve prepared. Basically letting any herbalist to press and yield so much more medicine, making it an indispensable piece of equipment! Some of the can get pretty pricey, so it’s an investment, but here in the US, you can get one from Strictly Medicinals or Press Herbs (who used to go by the name of Longevity Herb Company) who makes a smaller-sized one that’s more home-herbalists size which is great. Pallet lab is yet another one who makes a tincture press but also carries lots of other useful lab equipment for home medicine makers like graduated cylinders and funnels. Some other ones can get really big and probably larger than necessary for the home medicine-maker. And if you don’t have the extra doe to spend, you can also make your own at home like this one here! There’s lots of DIY tincture presses on youtube, so I encourage you to get creative too.
- Distiller. Now if you really wanted to get fancy, you could get a small distiller. This may not be a beginner’s piece of equipment, but they are fun to have, and they also give you the ability to get your started preparing spagyrics. You can distill your own water, distill your own alcohol and also distill your own essential oils. They’re not as expensive as a lot of people would think. You can get a good, simple home still for under $300—a lot of people think they’re thousands and thousands of dollars, but you can get a real simple setup for not too expensive. I always send people to Gary Stadler at heartmagic.com. He’s got some really simple home still setups that you can use for a very good price.
If you’re harvesting your own plants or if you’re buying herbs in bulk—fresh especially—you’ll want materials to process those herbs down.
- Clippers. At the very least, you want a solid set of clippers. My good friend Chelsea shared with me the other day some awesome little clippers, because we were processing a bunch of herbs down and I got wicked blisters all over my hands. She showed me these really sweet clippers that, when you squeeze them, they roll—the handle kind of rotates and rolls in your hand to prevent you from getting blisters.
- A good pair of loppers.
- Baskets, Harvest bags and apple-picking bags are really awesome. Especially the apple-picking bags, you can strap them over your shoulders and you’ve got a bag in front of you to pick right into. Those are helpful for wildcrafting. And of course good old paper bags work great for drying your herbs too.
- Hori Hori knife really great for getting those roots out of the ground!
- Harvesting knife usually a small to medium sized sharp knife will do.
- Cobrahead Weeder/Cultivator also great to getting those roots out of the ground.
- Shovel for loosening the soil around those bigger roots in the ground
- Mortar and petal a classic
- Cuisinart or a food processor. These are good, simple things for processing herbs. Not everything will work well in a food processor. It’s usually better for light leaves and flowers and things like that.
- Hammer mill. If you are processing denser plant parts, or if you really want to go top-notch, the best thing for that is a hammer mill. Those are expensive though. Some people use flour mills.
- Vitamix, this can be a really useful tool to have. If you can get your hands on one of the older models that have a steel canister, those are great to bust up really tough hard roots too and won’t break your plastic vitamix, which can happen FYI. But one of these can be a valuable way of reducing your plants down to a smaller size.
- Coffee grinders If you want to make a good smooth powder, coffee grinders can work well. Obviously they’re usually small, so you can’t do huge amounts. But that can be a really great way of rendering some herbs down to powders.
- Dehydrator good for drying herbs to preserve efficiently and effectively so they don’t mold!
- Stainless steel bowls for chopping your fresh herbs into
- Cheese cloth or cotton pillow cases are always helpful for squeezing and straining out oils and tinctures
- Strainers also a must have for straining out oils and tinctures
- Kitchen Scale If you’re into measuring your herbs and calculating ratios, then a scale is a must. This could be an old antique from grandma or just a simple modern digital scale, but for any serious medicine maker, a scale is an essential.
Herbs & Seeds
Obviously you’ll need some plants to actually make into those medicines. For that, maybe a gift certificate to a bulk herb supplier would be nice:
For bulk herbs, a few companies I trust and recommend here in the US are: Pacific Botanicals, Oshala Farm, Mountain Rose Herbs, and for you folks in Canada there’s Harmonic Arts. And specifically for seeds, I’d recommend: Strictly Medicinals, and also in Canada we love Ravensong Seeds & Herbals, and Salt Spring Seeds.
These are books for someone who wants to start making their own home herbal medicine. The first two are books that I highly recommend and think are must-haves for the home medicine-maker.
- The Herbal Medicine-Maker’s Handbook by James Green is simply indispensable. Every herbalist needs this book.
- Herbal Medicine from the Heart of the Earth by Sharol Marie Tilgner. I use this one a lot. In the back, she’s got all of your preparations, your teas, making your tinctures, making herbal baths and hydrotherapy, making glycerides, how to make capsules, compresses, fomentations, collecting, drawing, storing. She’s also got a really great chart that tells you what the best percentage alcohol is to use for various herbs.
- Making Plant Medicine, Richo Cech, 4th edition considered to be the most entertaining, level-headed and trustworthy reference available for learning to make standard herbal tinctures, teas, syrups, oils, salves and poultices.
- Evolutionary Herbalism. Not really a medicine making book per say, but I’m biased and think everyone should have a copy of my book Evolutionary Herbalism! I’m only kind of joking, but this book has everything that’s in my head and right now we’re offering 30% off! (promotion ends Dec 18th, 2020) just enter the discount code HERBALISM on the North Atlantic Book website here.
What are your favourite medicine making gifts!? I’d be curious to hear from you what materials and equipment you find useful – everything that I’ve posted is basically sourced here in the US, so please share your recourses in the comments section below and share your favourites with the greater EH community!