Home Apothecary Starter Kit
I felt inspired to create a resource for anyone who is looking to start laying with herbs. I tried to include medicines that are simple and fairly easy to acquire. I hope this list finds its way to those who are excited and budding plant medicine enthusiasts!
*Disclaimer* The trick to herbal medicine is looking at your body and its ailments from a holistic perspective. If you are battling something like a headache or trouble sleeping, look at your daily needs. Are you drinking enough water? Are you eating a balanced diet high in whole foods and low in processed foods/refined sugar? Are you going to bed early enough to get the regenerative hours you need (minimum 8.5 hrs. especially 10pm-2am)? While using herbs to treat health issues, it is recommended to take immaculate care of yourself in order to really get the most out of the remedies.
-Calendula salve and Calendula oil: Calendula is primarily known as a vulnerary, meaning it has wound healing properties. A salve is helpful because it contains beeswax and will therefore “seal” an open wound from outside contamination. The sealing nature of the beeswax also means that if you are to apply to an *open wound, it needs to be thoroughly cleaned before applying. Never apply salve to an already infected wound. If infection is suspected, clean and use Calendula (oil) instead. Calendula can be reapplied as frequently as possible. Other properties include emollient and anti-inflammatory.
-Echinacea tincture: Echinacea is a powerful antimicrobial plant. Extracted into alcohol, it becomes the perfect disinfectant solution. Apply to any area in need of sterilization. It can also be taken to treat a myriad of colds, infections and viruses… in doses of 4 droppers full-equivalent to 4 mL, 6 times a day for the first day, and 4 droppers full 4 times a day following until symptoms begin to resolve. Scale back to 1 or 2 times a day as needed.
-Yarrow dry herb: Extremely effective at clotting profuse bleeding. Put dry-powdered (or fresh if available) plant material directly into open bleeding site. Adding Yarrow to a bath via strong decoction, sock or muslin bag of some kind, is a great method for breaking a fever. Follow-up with lots of fluids. Yarrow also contains numbing, antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties.
-Skullcap tincture or dry herb: Take 1 dropper full of tincture every hour to treat a boggy headache. If the pain worsens, stop immediately. (Some people have a reverse reaction to the general relaxant effect of Skullcap). A tea can also be taken instead of tincture, as a powerful sleep aid. Fill a quart mason jar 1/3 full of dry herb and pour boiled water on top. Lid the jar and shake. Let steep for 4-12 hours, strain and drink before bed.
-Chamomile, Mint and Fennel seed (Master Digestive Trio): A great combination for many types of digestive upset. These herbs can each be taken on their own, but will work best as a trio. Taken as a tea, powdered in honey or in a tincture blend, will relieve nausea, stimulate appetite, disperse trapped gas, extinguish heartburn and aid digestion. Pour hot water over herbs, steep, strain and enjoy.
-Passionflower tincture: Wonderful for insomnia OR anxiety. Passionflower is renowned for its light sedative and nervine properties. Take 1-2 droppers full every hour for either issue until desired effects are felt. This herb is gentle enough for the young and elderly as well in a tea. For babies, add the tea to a bath to soothe irritability and teething symptoms.
-Motherwort tincture: This herb is specific for anxiety, grief, heartache and courage! This plant has an affinity for matters of the heart. It is extremely soothing/healing to the emotional and spiritual bodies. It can also be used to relive menstrual complaints, though use with caution or avoid use if you tend towards a heavy flow.
-Goldenseal+Myrrh tincture: For infection in the sinuses, add 5 drops of each to a daily neti-pot treatment -or- get a nasal spray bottle (can be found in most drug stores with saline solution), dump contents and add 15 drops of each tincture, a tablespoon of vegetable glycerine and the rest with filtered water. Spray into each nostril up to 4 times a day until symptoms improve. Scale back to as needed from there.
-Plantain fresh leaves or salve, Plantago spp. (not the tropical fruit): Ideal for bug bites, plant rashes, burns or any skin ailment. Commonly found in many parts of the world, especially Europe and the US. If you stumble upon fresh plantain, make a poultice by picking some, chewing it up and placing mash onto scrape/bite/rash. Saliva helps activate the drawing and healing properties of the plant. Plantain salve will also work in a pinch ;).
-Holy Basil (Tulsi): Gently adaptogenic, meaning it supports us in coping with stress in an easeful way. Unlike some other adaptogens, this herb will not create secondary adrenal fatigue. It is lovely as a mood balancer and evokes major joy!
NOTE: I could go on and on but I believe I covered the most common daily ailments and the herbal allies to remedy them. I mentioned mostly tinctures because they last forever practically, and are easy to acquire and travel with. That being said, as an herbalist, my personal philosophy is that whole plant medicine is always better. By whole plant medicine I am referring to infusions or decoctions of the plant that is then consumed in therapeutic potency. These methods take a bit more time and effort than using a tincture and aren't always possible when traveling, working etc. Not to worry though! I use tinctures quite a bit myself and am ever thankful for the accessibility of such medicine. Salves and oils can be made at home with a quick google search for instructions and recipes. They can also be found for sale by many herbalists online (myself included).
*Salve- an herbal infused oil combined with beeswax to achieve a thicker consistency
*Tincture- herbs extracted with an alcohol/water mixture, should be consumed in a glass of water for palatability
*Nervine- soothes the nervous system
*Antimicrobial- antibacterial, antifungal and antiviral
*Poultice- herbs mixed with liquid to form a paste, placed directly onto problem area
*Decoction- herbs boiled for 20+ minutes, strained and drank as a tea
*Infusion- herbs steeped in boiled water, strained and drank as a tea
*Adaptogen- medicine that helps one adapt to situations of high stress, works to protect the nervous system from exhaustion and over-stimulation