What to Stock In A Home Apothecary


* This article contains affiliate links. For more information, please read my Affiliate Disclosure.

 

Home apothecaries are making a comeback as more people take an interest in herbal medicine. Learn what you need to get started stocking your home apothecary today!Having a home apothecary full of medicinal herbs, tinctures and infusions of all kinds is many a homesteader’s dream! In fact, as far as goals and dreams go, it’s up there with having a pantry brimming with jars of home-canned food!

But for most homesteaders, herbal medicine and building a home apothecary tend to come later in the game, and it can be a bit confusing knowing just what you need to get started (and what you should be adding and stocking up on as you go).

To help make building and stocking your home apothecary or natural medicine cabinet a little easier, I compiled a list of all the ingredients I like to keep on hand for making my own medicinal preparations, as well as a suggested list of herbs to start growing or stocking up on and some other fantastic resources to help you get started preparing and using your own herbal medicine at home.

 

What is a home apothecary?

Before we get started, let me quickly explain what a home apothecary actually is for anyone who doesn’t know…

The term “apothecary” traditionally means “pharmacy,” or rather “pharmacist.” You see, long ago before modern day drug stores and pharmacies existed, herbal apothecaries were the place to go to get medicines, teas, tinctures, lotions and potions of all kinds.

The apothecary (which is also the term for the person who ran the shop), would not just dispense medicine, but would actually blend the herbs, mix the tonics and prepare the medicine on site.

Similarly, just like most people have medicine cabinets full of name-brand pharmaceuticals, creams and cosmetics today, people used to store their own medicines and personal care products at home too, but instead of synthetic drugs, pills and pharmaceuticals, they stored jars of dried herbs, medicinal salves and bottles of herbal tonics, tinctures, elixirs and infusions, many (or most) of which they mixed at home themselves. 

But home apothecaries are seeing a comeback as more and more people become interested in herbal and natural medicine and look to lessen their dependence on pharmaceuticals.

A modern day home apothecary can be as simple or elaborate as you like; From storing a few bottles and Mason jars on a shelf or in your existing medicine cabinet, to purchasing or building a custom home apothecary cabinet. Have fun with it!

 

*** For a printable version of this list, click here to access my Free Resource Library and download my full apothecary checklist from the “Home Pharmacy Resources” section. ***

 

A quick disclaimer

Every time I share anything about herbal medicine I’m obliged to share the following disclaimer, which is that I am not a doctor, a certified herbalist or a medical professional of any kind, and for safety reasons I always recommend speaking with your family doctor or primary health care provider before using herbal medicine.

Remember that just because something is natural doesn’t automatically mean that it’s safe. 

Some herbs can interfere with other drugs or medical conditions or may not be recommended for use by people of all ages, by women who are pregnant or nursing, etc. So, as always, use common sense and speak to your doctor about any health concerns you have. 

Alright, let’s get into it…

 

What to stock in a home apothecary

Stocking a home apothecary is very similar to stocking a home pantry: since you’ll be making many of your own herbal remedies from scratch, I recommend stocking up on a variety of versatile staple items that can be used to create a wide variety of homemade medicines and cosmetics.

Here’s a list of items you might want to consider purchasing or gathering for your home apothecary:

 

Dried herbs, flowers, spices and teas

You can’t make your own herbal medicine without herbs! While the list of medicinal herbs to keep in your home apothecary could very well be endless, here are a few herbs and spices you might want to consider stocking (and possibly even growing) at home:

  • Astragalus
  • Basil
  • Calendula
  • Cannabis* (beware of the laws in your area)
  • Catnip
  • Chamomile
  • Cinnamon
  • Cloves
  • Comfrey
  • Dandelion (dried flowers and roots)
  • Dried chilli peppers/flakes
  • Dried citrus peels or slices (lemon, lime, orange, etc.)
  • Echinacea 
  • Elderberries
  • Ginger
  • Herbal teas/tea blends (store-bought or make your own with the dried herbs listed here) 
  • Lavender
  • Lemon Balm
  • Oregano
  • Peppermint
  • Red raspberry leaves
  • Rosehips
  • Rosemary
  • Sage
  • Stinging nettles
  • Tea (black & green)
  • Thyme
  • Tulsi (aka. Holy Basil)
  • Turmeric
  • Yarrow

While you may already be growing some of these herbs, spices and plants at home, you can also purchase dried medicinal herbs. I don’t recommend using dried herbs from your local grocery store for medicinal purposes, however. For starters, you don’t know how long those herbs have been sitting there, and often they’re ground up quite fine. Both of these factors lead to them losing their potency and making their medicinal properties a lot weaker. Not to mention, store-bought culinary herbs aren’t always guaranteed organic, and you definitely want to be using organically grown herbs for medicinal purposes.

One of my favourite places to source dried medicinal herbs is Starwest Botanicals. They’ve got just about every herb under the sun, including bulk herbs and spices, bulk herbal teas, herbal extracts and capsules and a bunch of other herbal products and accessories. 

Another great source for dried herbs, medicinal herb seeds and herbal teas is Farmhouse Teas. My friend CeAnne runs this incredible small business with her husband and children and makes her own herbal tea blends that are both delicious and full of medicinal properties.

She also sells a medicinal tea blending kit, which includes 10 packages of dried herbs so you can make your own herbal tea blends or medicinal preparations at home, seeds so you can start growing your medicinal herbs at home, and my personal favourite, her Dump & Go Mix Trio which includes 3 packages of pre-mixed herbs and spices to make your own Elderberry Syrup, Wild Cherry Bark Syrup and Fire Cider at home.

If you have a good, reasonably priced organic health food or bulk store in your area, this might also be a good place to source dried herbs and spices for your home apothecary.

Related: 4 Ways to Preserve Herbs At Home

 

Solvents

Aside from the herbs themselves, you’ll also want to store some basic ingredients for making medicinal preparations at home, including a variety of liquid solvents, which can be used to make herbal infusions like tinctures, liniments and elixirs. Here are a few to keep on hand. 

  • Alcohol (vodka and/or brandy)
  • Apple cider vinegar (store-bought or homemade)
  • Coconut oil
  • Distilled water
  • Glycerin
  • Honey (raw, local, unpasteurized is best)
  • Maple syrup
  • Olive oil/other liquid carrier oils
  • Rosewater
  • Witch Hazel

Tinctures are one of the most popular types of herbal medicinal preparations to make at home, and can make you feel like a real herbalist (or cottage witch!) To make a basic medicinal tincture, cover dried herbs with vodka or other 80 to 100 proof grain alcohol (or brandy) and let sit and infuse for several weeks. Then strain the herbs out and store the liquid extract (aka. tincture) for medicinal use. 

Tinctures are a great way to prepare and take medicinal herbs like yarrow, echinacea and holy basil, and they’ll last for years on your shelf due to the alcohol content. However if you’d prefer not to use alcohol, you can also make a glycerite, which is prepared the exact same way as a tincture except with vegetable glycerin as the solvent. This is a great option for kids.

Other types of medicinal preparations made with the above solvents include infused honey, infused oils, infused vinegars, oxymels (a mixture of infused herbal honey and vinegar), elixirs (herbs steeped in honey or maple syrup mixed with alcohol like brandy), topical astringents, liniments and compresses.

 

Essential oils

Essential oils are, well, an essential part of my own personal home medicine cabinet. Last I checked I had over 100, and I use them in one form or another pretty much every day. 

I not only diffuse oils daily, but I also use them to craft homemade cosmetics and cleaning products, candles and room sprays, salves, lotions and topical medications. 

While I’ve amassed my collection over the course of a few years, if you’re just starting your own collection, here are the essential oils I’d aim to stock up on first:

  • Lavender
  • Peppermint
  • Tea Tree (aka. Melaleuca)
  • Eucalyptus 
  • Lemon
  • Orange
  • Cinnamon
  • Rosemary
  • Pine or Spruce

I purchase all of my oils from Plant Therapy and find them incredibly affordable considering the high quality of their oils. They also offer some great sets, like the essentials gift set, which is a great way to start building your collection.  

Related: How to Get Started With Essential Oils

 

Fresh ingredients 

The following herbs and ingredients are best stored and used fresh rather than dried. These are great to keep on hand to use as medicine but you may want to keep them in your pantry: 

  • Garlic
  • Onions
  • Ginger
  • Horseradish 

 

Other apothecary ingredients 

There are so many ingredients you could potentially add to your home apothecary, but here are a few more you might want to keep on hand for making your own all-natural medicine and personal care products: 

  • Beeswax (for making salves & balms)
  • Bee pollen
  • Sea salt
  • Himalayan pink salt
  • Epsom salts
  • Sugar (for sugar scrubs & syrups)
  • Lye (for soap-making) 

 

Apothecary tools & equipment 

You’ll also want to stock up on a few basic tools and pieces of equipment. Here’s what I recommend keeping on hand:

  • Mortar & pestle 
  • Funnel
  • Measuring cup & spoons
  • Thermometer 
  • Kitchen scale
  • Scissors
  • Double boiler 
  • Assorted bottles, jars & containers
  • Labels and a pen

A good mortar & pestle is an essential tool for every home apothecary. It can be used to grind up spices, crush fresh and dried herbs and make poultices and pastes. I like this stoneware mortar & pestle from Roots & Harvest, but there are lots of different kinds, including marble ones and even molcajetes, which are Mexican mortars & pestles traditionally made of lava stone. I have one of each, and love and use them all.

A few basic kitchen tools and gadgets are also useful for a home apothecary, including a funnel, measuring cups and spoons, a meat or candy thermometer, a kitchen scale and some scissors (check out these 5-blade Herb Scissors that make quick work of cutting up fresh herbs!).

A double boiler is also handy for melting down salves and balms. I use this double boiler pouring pot for candle-making, as well as for making medicinal salves at home.

Finally, you’ll want to keep an assortment of glass jars, bottles and labels on hand for storing and labelling dried herbs and medicinal preparations. Mason jars are great for storing herbs, spices and teas. I also like to keep a variety of glass amber bottles for making sprays, tinctures, syrups, salves and rollerballs, among other things.

 

Books and journals

I also highly recommend keeping a few solid herbal reference books on hand, as well as a journal to record your own herbal mixes and recipes in. This type of journal is referred to as a “Materia Medica.”

While there are a number of great books on herbal and natural medicine, these are my favourite go-to reference books:

As for your Materia Medica, any type of journal or notebook will do, however I like and use this one.

 

How to organize your home apothecary 

How you choose to organize your home apothecary is completely up to you. You could simply use your medicine cabinet if you’ve got enough space. Otherwise you could use another larger cabinet, or you could splurge on an old-style apothecary cabinet or chest. There are some really beautiful ones out there if you’re willing to invest the money!

Of course you’ll want to keep everything tidy and organized so you know what you have and can easily access what you need, so try to keep like items together. You can use the different lists above to know how to organize and group things together.

The reality is that you might not have the space or set up to keep everything together. In our house, I store essential oils and some solvents, herbal preparations and cosmetics in our bathroom drawers and medicine cabinet, I store dried herbs, spices and tea, as well as most oils, vinegars, alcohols and honey in our pantry, and I keep my tools in my kitchen cupboards.

While it’s nice to fantasize about having a miniature version of an 18th century apothecary cabinet brimming with drawers full of dried herbs and curved bottles of potions lining the shelves, that’s not reality for most people, so make do with what you’ve got. 

 

Start building your home apothecary today! 

It’s really quite easy to start stocking your own natural home medicine cabinet, and you likely already have many of the above listed ingredients on hand! To help you take the next step, here are a few more helpful articles and recipes for herbal preparations and herbs you can gather to start building your home apothecary today:

If you’re interested in going deeper and learning even more about herbs and how to build your own apothecary at home, I highly recommend checking out the extensive collection of recipes, blog posts and online courses from The Herbal Academy; my affiliate partner and go-to source for information on all things herbal medicine.

* A version of this article originally appeared in the November 2019 issue of Modern Homesteading Magazine: The Herbal Medicine Issue. To read the full issue, as well as gain access to our entire library of current and past issues and get new issues delivered to your inbox, visit modernhomesteadingmagazine.com and subscribe for just $19.99/year!

 

 

 

 


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ABOUT ANNA
Hi! I’m Anna, and I’m a city girl turned modern homesteader who’s passionate about growing, cooking and preserving real food at home, creating my own herbal medicine and all-natural home and body care products, and working toward a simpler, more sustainable and self-sufficient life each and every day. 
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In the latest issue of Modern Homesteading Magazine, we’re highlighting some of the ways that we can keep entertained and productive and continue learning and adding new skills to our repertoire during the winter months while still taking time to slow down from our usual pace and celebrate all that we’ve achieved over the past year.

In this issue, you’ll find:
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in a cubicle. ⁣

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Cabin fever can start to set in by January or⁣
February and we may find ourselves restlessly⁣
waiting for spring.⁣

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find between boredom and busy-ness that, in⁣
many ways, only winter can offer us. Because⁣
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around us, even in the depths of winter.⁣

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And the best part is, until the end of December, all new subscribers to the magazine also get a FREE one-year subscription to gift to someone else, which makes a great holiday gift! ⁣

Click the link in my bio to subscribe or visit: https://modernhomesteadingmagazine.com/subscribe/
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It's also super quick and easy to make yourself.⁣

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Do you like to start celebrating Christmas as early as possible or do you prefer to wait until December like me?⁣

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I also asked YOU what emergency skills or supplies you recommend having in your back pocket “just in case,” and one of the responses I got was to have a bug out bag packed and ready to go.

This got me thinking it was high time to pull out my bug out bag and go through it because it’s been a couple years since I last did so. I decided to share it with you here and show you what I keep packed and ready to go and go through what needs updating and what I’m missing.

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Do you keep a bug out bag packed?

What do you keep in it?

What types of emergency situations are you preparing for in your area?

Let me know in the comments 👇

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Between growing nuclear tensions, the ongoing threat of pandemics, cyber attacks and a looming energy crisis, medical staff and supply shortages, and general “everyday” medical, financial and other miscellaneous emergencies, we’d all be wise to be prepared BEFORE the next emergency happens.

One of our neighbours passed away very suddenly last week (just 50 years old 😔) and it reminded me of just how quickly things can go sideways. As far as we know he suffered a heart attack, and while his wife did everything she could to save him, by the time the ambulance arrived it was too late. It was a wake up call for me, that not only do we need to be prepared with supplies on hand, but with knowledge and skills too. I’m definitely looking into booking a refresher First Aid course and highly recommend everyone reading this do the same if this is a skill you need to brush up on!

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I consider myself an optimistic realist: I hope for the best and I live fully and freely in the moment, but I prepare for the future accordingly based on what I can see unfolding in our world. And honestly, I find this “sweet spot” to be incredibly empowering.

This is why I do what I do and why I share it with you on a regular basis; I WANT TO EMPOWER YOU TOO!

That’s why I created The Society of Self-Reliance: A private membership that connects you with the resources, support and community you need to reclaim your independence and become more self-reliant in every aspect of your life.

From growing and preserving your own food to crafting and using herbal medicine to life skills like how to manage it all and stay calm in stressful situations, how to prepare for emergency situations and much more, if you’re ready to learn invaluable skills that will help you take control of your family’s food security, health and wellbeing, time, finances, and ultimately over your own future, The Society of Self-Reliance was created for you!

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All you need is some puréed pumpkin (I make mine with fresh pumpkins, but you can use canned), some brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, ground cloves, allspice and ginger, a splash of vanilla extract and some water.

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Grab the full recipe via the link in my bio @anna.sakawsky or go to https://thehouseandhomestead.com/homemade-pumpkin-spice-syrup/

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In the latest issue of Modern Homesteading Magazine, I sat down with Ann Accetta-Scott of @afarmgirlinthemaking to talk all about what people need to know about buying and selling a homestead property.

Ann and her husband Justin recently moved from their two-acre homestead outside of Seattle, Washington to a 40-acre homestead in rural Tennessee. Ann and I sat down to talk about the realities of buying and selling a homestead, moving across the country to pursue your homesteading dream, what to look for when you’re searching for your next property, pitfalls to avoid (if you can!), and what you can do if you’re not ready or in a position to make your move just yet.

Whether you’re looking to purchase your first homestead or trying to sell an existing homestead and upgrade to a bigger property, Ann had some great insights to share that can save you time, stress and money when you’re ready to make your move.

Check out the full interview in the fall issue of Modern Homesteading Magazine: link in bio @anna.sakawsky or visit www.modernhomesteadingmagazine.com to subscribe, login to the library (if you’re already a subscriber) or view a sample of the current issue!

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This is why people don’t trust our medical system!!!

I very rarely go on a rant about current events but this has me feeling really fired up…

My husband and I each got an Amber Alert on our phones the other night along with millions of other British Columbians, informing us of a child abduction in Vancouver. It made the suspect sound like a dangerous kidnapper and said “do not approach. Call 911.”

As it turns out, it was the mother of the child (a 3-year-old boy), who had refused medical treatment without getting a second opinion and follow up blood tests, so the Ministry of Child and Family Services was called, she was arrested and her son was taken from her and was administered medical treatment in the hospital without consent and without a guardian present.

There’s a lot more to this story than I’m able to share in this video or this caption, so I’ll post some links below where you can hear directly from the mom what happened, and check out other IG accounts that have been in direct contact with her and the father. But the point is this was a GROSS misuse of our Amber Alert system, a GROSS abuse of power (turns out the boy wasn’t sick in the end anyway), and has now traumatized this family for life.

Doctors are not gods and as mothers we do not co-parent with the government!!!

This hits close to home for me because I too have been through the medical system and had my concerns dismissed, was misdiagnosed and given wrong information, and was treated with obvious contempt when I got a second opinion.

In this day and age of rampant medical coercion and the erosion of bodily autonomy over our own bodies and over those of our children, this story highlights the dangers of the very slippery slope we’re on.

As parents who only have the best interests of our children at heart, this could happen to any one of us. We can’t let this be normalized. Remember “first they came for (fill in the blank), and I said nothing. Then they came for me and there was no one left to speak for me.”

Check out my stories for the full video that the mom, Wiloh made explaining the details of what happened or check out the comments for links to learn more & support this family.
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I’ve hesitated about posting this reel over and over because I know I’ll probably get backlash, hate and vitriol from some people in return. But I wouldn’t be being true to myself if I didn’t speak the truth that’s on my heart and mind…

If you haven’t noticed, there are currently thousands of Canadians sharing their stories and using the hashtag #trudeaumustgo on their social media posts right now in response to the divisive rhetoric and actions of our prime minister over the past few months. But our media has downplayed the issue and has attributed most of the hashtags to “bot” accounts and foreigners trying to influence our politics.

In response, real Canadians are making videos and sharing their stories to show that we are not bots, but real people who have been negatively affected by the words and actions of our leaders, particularly our leader at the top.

I used to consider myself a lifelong leftist and have supported the liberal government and Trudeau over the years, but after what I’ve witnessed over the past few months; After how he has spoken about Canadians who have made a different medical choice or who have protested mandates (which have done nothing to stop the spread of you-know-what anyway); After the hate and division that has trickled down from the top and infiltrated our communities, I can no longer stand silently by.

While I am 💉, a few months ago when I voiced my support for those who stood up against mandates and against the division being pushed on us by our leadership, I suddenly found myself among what our prime minister called the “small fringe minority” of citizens with “unacceptable views.”

I lost followers, friends and even a couple family members. I was told I’d been “radicalized,” although my views have never changed.

So today I’m adding my voice to the chorus of real, everyday Canadians who are taking a stand against tyranny and division in this country. As the saying goes, if we do not stand for something, we’ll fall for anything. I stand for freedom & autonomy, and against division & tyranny.

#trudeaumustgo

(Special thanks to fellow 🇨🇦 homesteader @meggarlandd for inspiring me & giving me the courage to post this:)
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