5 Tools Every Herbalist Needs
Herbalist sounds like an intense title, but it doesn't have to be complicated.
Being an herbalist can be as simple as keeping a few little herbs on the kitchen window sill and mixing dried herbs into teas or it can be as complex as creating personalized lifestyle plans accounting for diet, exercise, medicinal herbs, and exercises for mental and spiritual health. There's no list of accomplishments required before you can be a "real herbalist."
That said, here are five tools I think every herbalist needs, regardless of their skill level.
Just a heads up- I am linking several products from Mountain Rose Herbs in this post. There’s no affiliate or sponsored thing going on here, I just love them and think you will too.
1 | First things first, an herbalist needs plants!
Especially mints and aloes, in my opinion.
Did you know lots of culinary herbs are in the mint family? Basil, oregano, rosemary, thyme, and even lavender are all in the mint family! Mints are great because they have such a wide range of uses and they are usually easy to grow indoors (and out!)...
I thought I had a black thumb, I was so good at killing plants!! But I managed to keep my spearmint, catnip, oregano, and thyme alive for an entire year (before I moved and they all got crushed, but that's another story...). AND I still have three aloe plants going strong after a year. (And they did survive the move, woohoo!)
Aloes are good for everything from treating burns and cuts to making awesome beauty products. Aloe gel and juice can even aid in digestion, although you should definitely do some research before trying it out. Make sure you have the right species from a safe source before consuming any plant.
You don't need to keep a huge, fancy garden to be an herbalist, it's easy to grow some of the basics yourself.
And you get the added bonus of pretty plants all over your house. Yes, please.
Dried plants are great too
Even if live plants aren’t your thing, you can stock up on some basic dried herbs easily. Mountain Rose Herbs is my favorite source for herbs- though I do try to shop locally first. There aren’t a lot of options where I live- and I love that I can really trust the quality of what I get from Mountain Rose.
Once you have plants, you're ready for the rest of the tools you're going to need...
2 | Re-usable tea bags
…like these from Mountain Rose Herbs *. Most medicinal herbal teas need to steep for 15 minutes or more, so muslin tea bags are really great for that. I prefer cloth tea bags to metal tea balls, mostly because they don't tend to leak as much, but I do have a small tea ball that I am very happy with. As herbalists, sustainability is something we need to keep in mind, so when we make our own teas it's great to know we aren't just throwing the tea bag away. Instead it can be cleaned and re-used for years. The cloth ones can then be composted- that means zero waste! We rock.
3 | Jars, jars, jars
There are not enough containers in the world when you're an herbalist. Big jars and small ones, dropper bottles, extra droppers, small tins for balms, tubes for chapstick and rollers for essential oil blends... The list goes on! Find yourself a nice thrift store and go crazy buying jars- then grab anything else you need from a local shop or through Mountain Rose Herbs! I’ve linked them all for you here to give you an idea of what to look for.
Just remember to pay attention to the seals on any used containers you buy, you want a good seal so your herbs and creations stay fresh longer! When buying containers, remember to avoid plastic as much as possible and be careful about what other types of materials are used. I prefer amber or cobalt blue glass for most of my concoctions.
4 | A sustainable & ethical source
Are you catching my drift yet with the sustainability thing? Good.
As an herbalist and lover of plants and this beautiful earth, I believe it is my responsibility to know where the products I use come from.
This is especially true with herbs- you want to know where your herbs come from and how they were grown. I personally love to know that my herbs have been sustainably wild-harvested, preferably as close to home as possible. There are some pretty interesting studies linking specific medicinal herbs in an area to the common ailments suffered there, so I try to keep it local for that reason as well as to cut down on the amount of waste produced by obtaining herbs.
Even with wild crafting (gathering plants in nature), there are ethical debates to consider. Some species are extinct in certain areas and should never be wildharvested, instead they are typically sold in nurseries where they are specifically bread for herbalists to use. Before buying herbs or wildcrafting yourself, check local and global resources to find out what is and isn't allowed.
Don't let this all scare you away from herbs, just do your best to do no harm. That's all anyone can do.
5 | The Mindset
An herbalist needs to be open-minded, creative, and patient, in my opinion. To help others, you have to be open-minded enough to listen to what they are telling you and to ask the right questions to find the true cause of an ailment. You also have to be open to being wrong and learning from it. If you think you’re always right, you’re not going to be listening to your body or paying attention to others’ responses to herbs. You’ll be too busy protecting your ego. Nip that in the bud, and be amazing.
You have to be creative, because you just can't grow at this beautiful art without a little creativity in your corner. Let loose and have some fun with your plants. They won't disappoint you. And finally, patience. Herbs take time to grow, time to harvest, time to dry, time to prepare...
Tinctures take time to sit, teas take time to brew, and you certainly can't grow a garden or even a little window plant in a day. There is so much to learn and so much to do as an herbalist, so don't be in too big a' hurry. Everything will happen as it's meant to, so do your best and enjoy the ride.
That got a little philosophical, and I love it.
There you have it, the five tools I believe every herbalist should have. What do you think? Let me know in the comments below which tools have been the most useful for you as an herbalist.