Plants from an apothecary garden

How to Find an Apothecary in Your Garden

Find an Apothecary in Your Garden

Did you know it’s easy to find an apothecary in your garden and create medicinal teas, tinctures, infused oils and balms at home?  But before you read more, there are a few important precautions.

Take Care

  • I’m not a qualified herbalist and I have no other training in this area, so the information I’m sharing is simply from my own reading and experiences.
  • Be cautious.
  • Understand your own personal and medical needs.
  • Don’t eat or drink any home remedy without first checking with your doctor or a qualified professional.
  • But have fun creating beautiful blends, products and scents for your home.

Key Concepts

It’s important to understand the different words that might be used to describe medicinal recipes.  

  • Teas, Tisanes or Infusions
  • Decoctions and Tinctures
  • Infused Oils
  • Salves and Balms
  • Creams and Lotions
  • Syrups and Infused Honeys
  • Herbal Vinegars
  • Poultices and Compresses
  • Drying Plant Material

Teas, Tisanes or Infusions

  • This is the simplest way to extract essential constituents from plant materials.
  • Cover leaves or flowers with boiling water.
  • Use 30 g fresh or 15 g dried leaves or flowers to 500 ml water.
  • Stand (steep) for 8 – 10 minute.
  • Strain, then drink, or use in baths, lotions or creams.
  • Leaves, flowers, stems and roots of various herbs can be used.
  • Try chamomile, lemon balm, ginger, peppermint, spearmint, rosella, thyme, calendula, lemongrass, rose hips, and myrtle.

Decoctions

  • A decoction is much like making tea but it is left to simmer for at least 10 minutes.
  • Used for roots, barks and woody parts of plants.
  • Use 30 g fresh root to 500 ml water.
  • Simmer for at least 10 minutes, or longer depending the particular plant materials used.
  • Strain, then drink, or use in baths, lotions or creams.

Tinctures

  • Tinctures are made by using chopped plants steeped in alcohol (usually Vodka).
  • Cover plant material with alcohol in a jar.
  • Seal and leave in a cool dark place for 8 to 30 days.
  • Strain and decant into glass bottles.
  • Keeps for up to 5 years (alcohol is a preservative).

Infused Oils

  • Infused oils are made similar to tea but use oil instead of water.
  • Used to make creams, lotions and massage oils.
  • Fill a jar with plant material and cover with oil.
  • Seal and leave in a warm place for 2 weeks.
  • Strain and bottle – keeps for up to 1 year.

Salves and Balms

  • Salves and balms are created by adding beeswax to an infused oil and then heating gently.
  • Use more beeswax for a thicker balm.
  • Pour into wide-mouthed jars and seal.
  • The waxy mixture solidifies as it cools.
  • Keeps for up to 2 years.

Creams and Lotions

  • Creams and lotions are created using emulsions.
  • Mix water-based and oil-based preparations together and then heat.
  • Add an emulsifier (beeswax or emulsifying wax).
  • Keeps in refrigerator for up to 2 months.

Infused Honeys

  • Honey has antibacterial properties.
  • Often used for throat soothers.
  • Cover plant material with honey in a jar.
  • Infuse or ferment for a few weeks.
  • The plant material may be strained out before storing.
  • Keeps for up to 6 months.

Syrups

  • Syrups are much like a runny jam.
  • Boil plant material in water with sugar or honey.
  • Strain then store in sterilised jars or bottles.
  • Keeps for up to 1 year if unopened.
  • Refrigerate after opening (then keep for up to 3 months).

Herbal Vinegars

  • Vinegar extracts the essential constituents.
  • Apple cider vinegar is commonly used.
  • Steep herbs in vinegar in a glass jar for a few weeks.
  • Strain, bottle and store for 6 months or more.
  • Use in cooking, or as a hair rinse, or in a bath.

Poultices and Compresses

  • The essential compounds are absorbed through the skin.
  • Plant material is applied directly as a poultice.
  • Apply to skin and cover with gauze and a bandage.
  • Compresses use natural cloth soaked in an infusion or decoction and applied to the skin.

Drying Plant Materials

  • Drying allows us to use plants out of season.
  • Air Drying: Hang upside down out of direct sunlight for at least 2 weeks until crispy.
  • Oven Drying: Place on a tray in the oven on lowest setting for 5 hours or longer.

Simple Recipes

I’ve included links to some simple recipes to try using plants from your gardens.

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