DIY Inspo: How To Stock Your Own Herbal Medicine Cabinet
Back in the olden days, a stillroom was a necessity in every rural home. It was a designated space (think a pantry of sorts) that housed herbs, jars, recipe books, tinctures, teas, and preserving agents where people created cosmetics, homebrews, preserves, and at least a year's worth of herbal medicines.
Imagine traveling back and just stepping foot into one of these medieval distilling rooms: herbs hanging from the rafters and intriguing bottles and jars of every size holding remedies long forgotten. I figure everyone who makes their own herbal remedies dreams of having such a place of their own.
Don't have an extra, conveniently empty room off your kitchen? Not a problem. Your stillroom can be a designated cupboard or set of shelves. Really, the only things you need are herbs, supplies, and recipes. Here are some more ideas about how to stock your modern-day herbal pantry:
1. Ask yourself what herbs you'll need.
Before you begin your collection, do a bit of research and observation: What herbs do you use or buy on a regular basis? For me, that's got to be chamomile, echinacea, a variety of mints, rose petals, rosehips, elderberries, nettles, turmeric, and marshmallow root.
2. Stock up on preservatives.
Next, stock your menstruum—the fluid in which herbs are preserved. I gathered 190-proof grain alcohol (it's the most efficient preservative), apple cider vinegar, honey, and glycerin (all three are perfect as alcohol-free preservatives). I like to label everything, so I usually decant these liquids into interesting/recycled/upcycled containers and create labels on my computer. Be sure to mark the date they were bottled. Same goes for bulk herbs; they'll arrive in plastic bags, but the sooner you can get them into glass, the better. Oh, and be sure to use tinted glass in blue or amber if your herbs are exposed to sunlight.
3. Gather recipes and other inspiration.
Then, begin to gather recipes into one place. Consider cross-referencing by herb and what the recipe is used for. That way, the next time you want to make a cold and flu remedy, it's as easy as flipping to that section of the recipe book and seeing what your options are.
In my stillroom, I also keep my collection of herbal books. These include wild-crafting books, identification manuals, and pretty much every book on herbs that's ever resonated with me. When I had an actual room for my stillroom, I put up drawings and photos of herbs, little sayings that inspired me, prayer flags, candles, interesting packaging (in case I was crafting gifts), a hot plate, and a selection of cooking vessels. Eventually, I added soap molds, candle-making equipment, carrier oils (such as almond, apricot, olive, and jojoba), and essential oils.
From there, the sky's the limit. If you're new to herbalism, I'd recommend starting with a few basic tea infusions. Blending something as simple as rosehip and ginger tea, placing it in a recycled jar, labeling it, then stocking it in your kitchen can give you a great feeling of independence.