Home Apothecary Start Up Tips

What is an Apothecary?

A short answer is, “The word ‘apothecary’ is derived from apotheca, meaning a place where wine, spices and herbs were stored. During the thirteenth century, it came to describe a person who kept a stock of these commodities, which he sold from his shop or street stall. 

However, over the course of modern history, the term Apothecary has evolved to be relatively intertwined with other terms like, herb shop, pharmacy store/pharmacist, herbalist, as well as to be a formal segment of our legacy western health-care system including Physician + Surgeon + Apothecary (the formulator of remedies). 

We could go back as far as 2600 b.c. in ancient Babylon to find what is believed to be the first stone tablet with written records describing the apothecary-like practice of humans observing ailments, then formulating and using botanical solutions to address a wide variety of conditions.  

And, since plants and humans have co-existed together at least 300,000 years, it’s probably safe to say that humans have been using plant-based solutions for health, wellness, and as medicinal applications long before documented history came along.

We have a well-established plant+human history. 

Why build your own home apothecary?

My answer:  Why not?  If you have any interest in natural solutions that can harmonize with our minds, bodies, and souls, then why not build your own home Apothecary and become knowledgeable in plant-based solutions?  

Well, frankly, it’s intimidating!  There are so many plants, forms, preparations and blends with indications, contra-indications, potentiation and even more complex human conditions and ailments to address that it can be overwhelming when you start researching!  

So, first thing – take a BIG breath and exhale slowly ?

As with any other worthwhile exercise, you are allowed to start slow, learn and grow.  Even if you just start by building a basic apothecary in a cabinet or on a shelf at home with some common plant partners, that’s great!   We encourage everyone to do their own plant research and move forward with what they feel is best for them and their loved ones.  As you become more experienced and gain more knowledge, you can branch out and become more confident.

Start-Up Considerations

Where to start? I’ve built about a half-dozen home apothecary spaces over the last few decades so from my personal perspective, these are some basic things to consider.   I’m more of a planner type of personality though so feel free to mix it up however you might best approach a project like this.

1. Storing Herb Products (Dried Herbs, Extracts, etc.) 

a. Herb Storage

  1. Herb Jars
    1. Dried Herbs do best in glass jars
    2. I like easy on/off lids that seal tightly
    3. If the lid is aluminum or other metal that is unlined, I coat it with melted beeswax to protect the botanical in case it touches it
    4. I like stackable jars in different sizes as you can make good use of limited space for herbs that you need a lot of versus herbs you don’t need as much of
  2. Bottles (Extracts, Tinctures)
    1. Prepared Extracts and Tinctures do best in glass, amber or cobalt bottles, that are meant to reduce damaging UV light exposure
    2. Droppers are useful for measuring dosages
    3. Child Proof caps are also useful if you have need as regularly, formulas are not child-safe
  3. Capsules and Blate Papes
    1. For easy-to-take, powder supplement use, packing capsules may be a great option for those who dislike the more earthy tastes
      1. Size 0 capsules are 3 caps per gram of powder and size 00 capsules are 2 caps per gram so consider capsule size and count per dosage
      2. I recommend a small (24 capsule) or medium (100 capsule) semi-automatic capsule machine if you can afford it.  It is so much easier and quicker than hand packing
    2. There is also a new product available to help with taking powders and like capsules, it eliminates the taste; Blate Papes (we love this!!)
      1. Vegan, dissolving gel “packets” that hold up to 4 grams of most powders
      2. Put powder into little cone, fold flap and give a quick lick to seal, then place packet into mouth and take a chug of your drink.  The gel packet slides right down and no nasty taste!

Find them here! Blate Papes Cones – 120

b. Cabinets and Shelving

  1. Safety
    1. Number 1 consideration for storage location is if there are small children around.  Please, Please, Please make sure that herbs and solutions are out of reach if needed.  It seems like common sense but accidents do happen… I used to babysit a climber kiddo and boy, did I have to re-think my idea of “out of reach”!
  2. Dried Herbs do best in 
    1. Dry climates
    2. Darker climates, especially if the jars are clear glass
  3. Cabinets and armoires, which have doors, are great but can be more expensive
  4. Drawers can also be a great solution, especially for smaller jars and bottles
  5. Shelves are fine if they’re in an appropriate dry/darkish place (like a pantry or closet, or a little-used room)
  6. Shelf space
    1. Measure the shelf or drawer height and depth to make sure how large of jars will fit them 
      1. Tip: love FB Market Place, Offer Up, Let Go, Craigslist, etc. for this part! Reuse when possible ?
    2. Bottles take less space but need to be accessible, so look for smaller shelving for them that will still give enough room to organize them as you see fit. 
  7. Labeling and Organizing
    1. Labeling
      1. Every jar or bottle needs a legible label
      2. Masking tape and ball point pen will work and is most cost-effective
      3. Address labels work pretty well for smaller bottles (example:  Avery 5160 size)
      4. I also like to use re-writeable chalk tape, cut to fit the jar, and liquid chalk markers so that as my collection grows or shrinks, or if I want to re-purpose jars later, I can either re-write or just remove the tape altogether
      5. Write the purchase date or made date on the bottom of the jar or bottle so that I can review later for freshness 
    2. Placement
      1. For me, I use the herb’s Common Name that I am familiar with on the label and then just put them in alphabetical order; left to right, top to bottom
        1. Some folks like to group by plant properties or remedial application
        2. Some like to group by type/size of jar
        3. Others reference the latin/botanical name on the jar
        4. It’s really up to you!  The goal is to be able to easily find the herb/plant/solution when you need it

2. Curating Your Herbal Collection

a. Herb Quality and Certifications

  1. In the United States, farms can independently obtain and then annually maintain a USDA Organic certification, Kosher Certification, Non-Irradiated Certification, etc.
    1. Overseas farms can also get USDA certifications with a domestic sponsor business partner
    2. Note: smaller farms may find the certification price point too much of a burden even if their product is 100% Organically Grown and Sustainably farmed
  2. “Wildcrafted” is a bit of a wild card… could be harvested from deep within the stoic, dark forest or from out in the sunny meadow far from civilization – or – from the ditch on the side of the road, full of chemicals 
  3. Best suggestion is researching to understand exactly where the product is sourced from and then decide if it’s best for your personal use and your comfort level

b. Herbs to stock at Home

  1. Based on your home life environment, family needs, or any special needs, this can be a very flexible list and there are tons of books and articles out there that have a variety of suggestions  
  2. Finding a good starter recipe book, such as Rosemary Gladstar’s “Herbal Recipes for Vibrant Health”2, can be super helpful in learning about some basic ailments/conditions and great suggestions for remedies including herbal applications and other things like dietary adjustments
  3. As far as a good, basic selection of herbs to start with, these are my personal top 10 picks but I suggest doing some research and curating your home apothecary to suit your personal situation
Herb Name Notes

German chamomile has a long history of being a relaxing and calming herbal blend ingredient and makes for a lovely for a cup or two before bedtime.  It has also been used to treats wounds, inflammation of the gums, diaper rash and other skin conditions like eczema and psoriasis.  Roman chamomile is wonderful for insomnia, stomach upset and menstrual cramps, and has a more predominant aroma, which makes it the ideal candidate as a therapeutic essential oil.

Rose Petals

In addition to their fragrant, uplifting and heart healing aroma, Rose Petals are known to have antidepressant, antispasmodic, aphrodisiac, astringent, antibacterial, antiviral, antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties.  Rich in vitamins A and C, Rose Petals are a good addition to herbal blends and when used topically in salves and infused oils.


Well known for its healing properties that can benefit the skin, help with inflammation, muscle spasms, healing of wounds, supporting oral health, and having both antiviral and antimicrobial actions, Calendula is a popular ingredient in topical infused oils and salves.

Lavender Flowers

As well has having an amazing fragrance that can be both calming and uplifting, Lavender Flowers are also used to help relieve insomnia, stress and depression, and they are well revered for their antibacterial, antimicrobial, antiseptic, analgesic and expectorant properties. 

ArnicaArnica has been traditionally used to temporarily relieve muscle pain and stiffness caused by minor injuries, overexertion and helps address swelling and discoloration from bruises.  This makes it a great ingredient in infused oils and salves for topical application.
Dandelion Root

Dandelion’s Root is best known as a supportive herb for generally stimulating the body, and as a natural laxative, diuretic and hepatic. It is popular as a detoxifying ingredient to enhance kidney and liver functions and increase the frequency of urination.


Rosemary is a great reviver. Its aroma is known to stimulate energy and optimism and sharpen memory and concentration by bringing more oxygen to your brain when used in an herbal blend. It can be a nice, stimulating alternative to caffeine.


Mullein’s soothing properties may help mitigate bronchial respiratory infections and help make a cough more productive.  Knows as a “lung herb” this herb is a popular addition to cough formulas and herbal blends.  Mullein and Garlic infused oils have been used to help with ear infections.


Peppermint has a popular use for soothing an upset stomach and to help with digestion.  It has both antimicrobial and antioxidant qualities that can help with immunity and cold fighting. Used in herbal blends, peppermint can help respiratory issues like congestion, coughing and difficulty breathing.


Elderberries have been used to treat a wide variety of ailments from colds, coughs, and flu to viral and bacterial infections. They are a great immune booster and pair really well in herbal blends with other herbs like Astragalus, Marshmallow and Cinnamon.  Just be sure the berries are “black” or “nigra” color before they are harvested as un or under ripe berries can be toxic.  Best to source Elderberries from a trustworthy provider.

10 Herb Favorites

c. Dried versus Fresh

  1. If you can obtain fresh herbs by either growing them, harvesting them in the wild yourself, visiting a local farm and pick-your-own with them, or finding  other ways to get your hands on fresh herbs, then that is a great place to start!  
    1. Consideration is that not every plant thrives in every growing zone so you will most likely need to supplement your selection with dried herbs 
  2. Dried herbs are great to buy from a trusted local Apothecary Store or Herb Shop, local farm to market or natural grocer and secondarily, you can order them on-line 
    1. If you can shop local, you
      1. Get the opportunity to see the herb quality up-front 
      2. Can personally inquire as to the source of the herb and any certifications 
      3. Can usually can buy in bulk, meaning you can get as much or as little of it as you want to stock for home use
      4. Get the benefit of meeting and talking to other people who are “into herbs” and usually have a passion for putting plants and people together (raising my hand)
    2. If you shop online, you
      1. Can find almost any herb you’re interested in
      2. Have the ease of home delivery
      3. Must trust that the product you will receive is as it was shown on the website

3. Internal vs. External usage

a. Most especially for Internal Usage and additionally for External usage, be sure to do your own research on parts of the plant that are traditionally used and the typical applications of them  

  1. For beginners especially, I often refer to books that are written by renown, expert herbalists, especially when looking for tested concoctions and recipes
  2. Chit-Chatting about herbs with friends and shop staff is a great way to connect for “tribal knowledge” and for personal testimonial type of information, which can be supportive and inspiring! 
  3. Disclaimer: please note that within the United States and most westernized cultures, no one is allowed to provide ANY type of “medical advice” unless the person advising is an actual doctor.  

b. OVERALL: As an adult it is up to you to do your own research, learn what you can, and move forward with the next steps that you determine are the right steps for you and your loved ones; this applies for any type of health care situation within any kind of practice, even with plants

4. Preparation Options

a. Which preparation method is best?  This answer varies greatly based on which herb is being used, which part of the herb that being used, and whether your preparation is for internal or external product manufacturing  

b. If you’re feeling ready to branch out into this area, I also recommend you do some more research and again, I love “recipe” books written by people who really know what they’re doing, especially if you want to make any type of remedial solution.  Published recipes can help to make sure the right formulation and preparation methods are used

  1. Note:  Children, Toddlers and Infants are at higher risk for some plants and anything given to them should be appropriate for their age.  Please please PLEASE perform due diligence when researching using herbs for children, or instead purchase naturopathic and homeopathic pre-made remedies from trusted brands that are specifically formulated for children and infants

c. For now, here are some basic preparation methods and my thoughts on their considerations 

  1. Water Infusions and Decoctions
    1. Infusion
      1. This is like making a “tea” but if other herbs are being used instead of the tea leaf, it is called making a “tisane” or herbal blend
      2. I recommend researching the best water temperature and steep time to use for each herb, and for each part of the plant being used
        1. Leaves and arial (above ground) parts usually require lower temperature water and less steep time
        2. Roots, barks, seeds, dried berries usually require a higher temperature water and more steep time
      3. Decoction (I love using mason jars for this type!)
        1. A “decoction” means a longer steep time and depending on the method, maybe a more sustained heat application
          1. One method is to simmer, on low, the herb in water for 10-30 minutes (like a soup), strain material and place (once it’s cooled) liquid into a glass container and put in the fridge 
            1. Most decoctions are okay in the fridge for 3 or 4 days
          2. Another method is to bring water to a boil, place herbs in a jar and pour the boiling water in then let it sit on the counter for 8-10 hours, strain then put in the fridge
          3. Another method is making “Sun” or Solar tea or tisane by placing herbs and tepid water into a glass container/jar, sealing, then setting it out in direct sunlight for 3-8 hours or so (on the longer side if using heartier parts of the plant like roots, bark, or dried berries)
            1. Fun tip:  add some fruit to steep with it!  Yummy!
      4. Inhaling
        1. Heat herb(s) and water in a pot on the stove, then place your face 8 inches or so above it and breathe deeply
          1. Tip: for best results, place a towel over your head and the pot at the same time to capture the steam in a steam “tent”
      5. Yoni
        1. Otherwise known as “V-steaming” (Vaginal) and has been around for thousands of years
        2. There are camps on both sides of the modern Do or Don’t fence; recommend researching to see if Yoni Steaming is something that speaks to you
          1. Here’s a nice article that describes one way to do a Yoni Steam at home yourself:  https://www.yinovacenter.com/blog/diy-v-steam/ 
    2. One of the most confusing questions; which is better, Extract or Tincture?
      1. The answer is kind of varied based on the plant and part of plant being used, as well as the applications, so I recommend doing some research if you’ve picked a plant/part and are now ready to figure out what other ingredients you’ll need
      2. Here’s an article I like that helps with basic guidelines for how to choose the right solvent (menstruum) to use with your plant material (solute) to get the proper solution (final liquid product) for the desired application (internal or topical) 
        1. The general difference between extracts and tinctures is the amount of herb being infused into the solvent or menstruum (the ratio).  An extract is considered 1 part herb to 1 part of solvent.  A tincture is considered 1 part herb to 3 or more parts of solvent.
    3. Common menstruum’s used with herbs are
      1.  Alcohol (80 volume or greater)
      2. Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV)
      3. White Vinegar
      4. Glycerin (Vegetable)
      5. Honey
      6. Oils
      7. Distilled Water (see Infusions and Decoctions above)
  2. Infused Carrier Oils
    1. A wide variety of carrier oils are available and depending on the skin type and/or other application they’re being used for, a good carrier oil will contain many of the desired remedial properties itself.   
    2. Some examples are
      1. Sweet Almond Oil
      2. Jojoba Oil
      3. Grapeseed Oil
      4. Sunflower Seed Oil
      5. And more.,..  here’s a nice article about carrier oils

      iii. Herbal Syrups

  1. Herbal syrups were used to sweeten the taste of bitter medicinal herbs to make them more palatable and prolong preservation
  2. An herbal syrup is prepared by combining a concentrated decoction with either honey or sugar, and sometimes alcohol 
  3. Mixing a decoction with honey or sugar helps to thicken and preserve the decoction

     iv. Topical Solutions

  1. Butters
    1. Nut butters are eco-friendly creams created from natural, plant-based sources such as nuts, beans, and even seeds
    2. Nut butters can have herbal additives including things like
      1. Essential oils 
      2. Carrier oils
      3. Herbal infused oils (like Calendula petals infused into 
  2. Salves
    1. Taking herbal infused oils and adding a little melted beeswax can help the mixture to become a soft solid, known as a salve (sa-av)
    2. Salves are used for external applications and can contain healing herbs such as calendula, plantain, lavender, comfrey, arnica, peppermint, etc.  


Whether you’re just looking to stock some awesome natural herbs for making herbal “teas” or whether you’re looking to start researching into the world of making your own wellness blends, topical solutions and other herbal products for you and your loved ones, starting a home apothecary can be very rewarding!   It can also be money-saving and as your knowledge of plants and their uses grows, you can feel the satisfaction of being a bit more self-reliant and proud to get back to the bounty that we have on this glorious planet earth.


  1. https://www.apothecaries.org/history/origins/
  2. https://scienceandartofherbalism.com/product/rosemary-gladstars-herbal-recipes-for-vibrant-health/
Item added to cart.
0 items - $0.00