Start Your Herbal Apothecary at Home with These 9 Herbs
Last week’s post was about the basics you need to start an herbal apothecary at home (if you missed it, start HERE).
This week, you’ve got the tools, now it’s time to stock up on herbs!
So here are my top NINE recommendations for herbs to start with - including what they are and how to work with them.
First, I want to mention herbal actions. They are the specific medicinal properties of herbs that we look at when deciding what herbs to work with for common ailments.
There are MANY more herbal actions than I’m defining here, and the ones I’m selecting are related to the common ailments most people ask about in the shop:
- ADAPTOGENS work to balance the endocrine system and help build resilience to manage stress
- ANTI-INFLAMMATORY reduces inflammation via many mechanisms, including anti-oxidants, circulatory stimulation, and relaxation
- ANTI-MICROBIAL inhibits growth of bacteria, fungi, amoebas and other pathogens
- CARMINATIVE promotes healthy digestion - relieves gas, bloat and reduces problems with GI tract
- NERVINES calms nervousness and nourishes/protects nerves
- NUTRITIVE contains vitamins, minerals and/or phytonutrients for good health
TRH’s Top 9 Herbs
- Chamomile (Matriarca recutita)
ANTI-MICROBIAL, CARMINATE, NERVINE
Ideal for bouts of anxiety, depression, indigestion, I love sipping tea before bed for relaxation, insomnia and stress.
Safe for babies and elders!
You can prepare as tea and drink as freely as needed (I adore it over ice!) and you can also infuse it in oil for topical application for calming skin irritation.
2. Calendula (Kul-end-you-lah!) (Calendula officinalis)
This is my go-to when it comes to digestive tract issues, and tea is the most effective and quickest way to deliver the herb to the tissue that needs it!
Love infusing it in oil and blending with melted beeswax for a lovely healing salve and protecting the skin.
3. Nettles (Urtica dioica)
OH my nettles how I love thee!
If you’re lacking in minerals, this herb is beneficial not just as nourishment but also has a positive impact on kidney health and support (and through them, the endocrine system).
Nettles can also stimulate antihistamine production in the liver and makes an amazing seasonal allergy support.
Long-infuse into a tea (let it steep for 20 or so minutes) or add to soups and stews (fresh nettles in the spring/early summer makes fantastic pesto - but wear gloves when harvesting to avoid nettel’s tiny hairs which can “sting” can cause a rash*).
* That rash is also medicine - it causes the skin to flush (stimulating circulation) and relieves arthritis pain!
4. Ginger (Zingiber officinale)
The list of applications for this versatile root herb is pretty long.
Not only is it a tasty culinary ingredient, it can be candied, made into tea, transformed into a tincture, and blended into elixirs as a zingy (yet effective) remedy for things like:
I adore a combination of ginger and chamomile tea during the winter when I feel the cold in my bones.
I even add a pinch of ginger to my summer iced teas for a zippy little zing! (Just a note-it does have a blood thinning effect so consult your doctor if on blood thinners!)
5. Garlic (Allum sativum)
ANTI-INFLAMMATORY, ANTI-MICROBIAL, CARMINATIVE
Yes, THAT garlic.
It’s not just a fantastic flavor in your favorite culinary dishes, it’s truly medicinal!
Obviously, you can prepare it in your food (it’s a GREAT delivery system!) or try it pickled in vinegar, infused in honey, added to broth, in garlic soup - or as tea (if you’re brave!!!)
Garlic is useful in managing respiratory infection. Think of it this way…some of garlic’s most antimicrobial actions are expelled through the lungs (hello garlic breath!)
On the way out, those antimicrobials destroy microbes and fungi while stimulating an immune response against viruses in the mucous membrane.
One of my favorite ways to get extra garlic in me is to infuse a cup of two of honey with fresh garlic cloves and pop it into the fridge for at least a couple of weeks.
If your cloves turn a funky green/blue, it’s NOT mold. It’s a chemical reaction that’s completely normal!
When I start feeling like I’m coming down with something or getting a little stuffy, I take a teaspoon or two and it knocks whatever I’m feeling right out!
(Note: raw garlic can be irritating to the skin and digestive tract - and like ginger can also be blood-thinning).
6. Tulsi/Holy Basil (Ocimum sanctum, tenuflorum)
ANTIMICROBIAL, ADAPTOGEN, NERVINE
This is my go-to herb when my emotions are stuck due to depression, fatigue, PTSD, anxiety, stress or seasonal affective disorder.
Tulsi is an adaptogen, helping to keep hormones in check, and while applicable to reproductive hormones, it goes way beyond those and help regulate hormones that impact sleep, blood sugar, and menopause.
This is a tasty, aromatic member of the mint family (but doesn’t have that minty smell or taste!)
Blends well with others, and is also densely nutritive.
Enjoy as many cups a day as you’d like, although do monitor blood glucose levels because it can impact the hormones that regulate blood sugar!
7. Peppermint (Mentha piperita)
ANTI-INFLAMMATORY, ANTIMICROBIAL, CARMINATIVE
Peppermint is effective at providing a relasing effect ont he whole body, but in particular is wonderful at settling an upset stomach (now you know why most restaurants offer free mints after a meal!)
Peppermint, applied topically via infused oil or essential oil is effective at relieving muscle soreness.
And it’s jam-packed with nutrients and minerals!
Great as tea (hot or iced)
Addresses issues like arthritis, indigestion/leaky gut, IBS/IBD, nausea and muscle aches.
8. Yarrow (Archillea millefolium)
This one has so many applications! (I could write an entire blog about the actions of yarrow alone.)
But in your home apothecary, this one is essential for wound care.
A wash, compress, soak, etc. of yarrow is effective for cleaning wounds as well as staunching the flow of blood. It’s suitable for bites and stings, rashes and abscesses, too.
It tastes terrible because of its bitter constituents (which actually make it helpful in relieving leaky gut and stomach ulcers), but it’s also really effective for gingivitis and receding gums.
I recommend blending it with a better tasting herb if you’re going to make it into a tea.
There’s so much more this humble little plant can teach us - maybe it WILL get it’s own blog soon!
If you just can’t abide by the flavor, tincture is fine.
9. Elderberries (Sambucas nigra, S canadensis)
Probably best known for its ability to prevent viruses from replicating (especially influenza viruses), it makes it easier for our immune systems to combat pathogens.
These tiny little black berries do well made into tasty syrups, jams, honey infusions, teas and tinctures. Heck, you can even make jam or jelly out of them!
When I feel a cold coming on, I will take a tablespoon of syrup 3-4 times a day, until I feel like myself. It doesn’t necessarily cure a cold or flu, but shortens the duration!
Do be cautious though because elderbnerries can have laxative effect if you ingest too much!
So, this is my list of 9 essential and basic herbs for your home apothecary!
If you have questions or want to learn more about adding to your herbal knowledge please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Disclaimer: This post regarding herbs and herbal infusions, tincture, teas is strictly for educational purposes. Always check with your physician and pharmacists before using any herbal supplements and any herbal treatments. This information is not to diagnose or treat any illnesses.