How To Create An Herbal Apothecary: Bulk Spices & Herbs
So you want to create your own home herbal apothecary — I don’t blame you. Having a home herbal apothecary is a wonderful way to support your (and your family’s) health holistically, plus it is a lot of fun to collect and learn about the many herbs that can support your holistic health.
But when you first set out to create your own home herbal apothecary there is a lot that you need to collect, with the most important piece being where (and how) you are going to source the bulk spices and herbs that will make up your home herbal formulations.
While there are an abundant number of options for sourcing your bulk spices and herbs, not all sources are created equal. In my opinion if you are going to put the time and energy into crafting your own herbal apothecary you want to make sure that the bulk spices and herbs you are sourcing are of the highest quality.
what to look for when sourcing bulk spices and herbs
When sourcing bulk spices and herbs for your home herbal apothecary it is important to think about the growing practices and storage practices of the companies you are purchasing from. Since herbs are like any other plant they can be grown organically and using regenerative practices that improve and promote soil quality, or they can be grown with the use of pesticides.
Of course it goes without saying that when it comes to sourcing herbs that you will be using to promote your own holistic health it is essential that the herbs you purchase were grown organically, and without the use of any harmful chemicals that we absolutely do not want in our bodies or in our herbal formulations.
When sourcing bulk spices and herbs you may also come across the term “wildcrafted” which is a form of sourcing plants that have been directly sourced from their natural, wild habitat. I am going to be sharing the ways in which you can wildcraft herbs sustainably, but for now I want to talk about what this term means since you are bound to encounter it. For herbs, wildcrafted would mean that the herbs were sourced from a native forest, field, or undeveloped area where the herbs naturally grew. In other words they weren’t commercially grown in a “farmed” environment.
wildcrafted herbs vs. organically grown herbs
There are many differences in opinion as to whether wildcrafted herbs are a better option than organic, but this is my personal opinion — for your own personal home and use it would be incredible to use wildcrafted herbs and plants that you discover in your own native environment. As long as you can source wildcrafted herbs and plants in a way that is not disruptive to the natural ecosystem (we will get into this in a later article) then I think that this is a wildcrafted herbs are a wonderful way to connect with your local environment and the plants that natively live in it.
In herbal medicine, herbs and plants are known to have their own intrinsic energy like all living organisms. This becomes important especially when discussing wildcrafted versus organically grown herbs and plants because wildcrafted herbs live under harsher conditions and so are naturally conditioned to have a more intense energy.
Organically grown herbs and plants on the other hand are believed to be “coddled” and grown under ideal conditions that are in many ways controlled and improved by the farmer, which many herbalists argue makes organically grown plants just not energetically able to be all they can be.
wildcrafted herbs can put a strain on native plant species if not collected appropriately
While in an ideal world most herbalists would agree that herbs and plants used for herbal medicine would be wildcrafted, the rise of our worlds population and the interest in herbal medicine (which is a good thing!) makes it impossible for wildcrafted herbs to be able to meet the demands we see today. In fact we have already begun to see how wildcrafting practices for commercial use have placed a burden on wild plant species and put many at risk.
This is why if you do choose to wildcraft your own herbs it is important to ensure that you are only collecting those plants which are not threatened or endangered, for these plants, organic commercial growing methods are the only option.
Buying Bulk Spices & Herbs Locally Vs. Online
When it comes to buying bulk spices, herbs, and oils (along with all your other apothecary supplies) it is always a good idea to first look at what you could purchase right within your own local community.
Rosemary Gladstar (aka the goddess of herbalism here in the USA and a Vermont native!) says it best when she addresses how herbalism works as a medicine and why local sourcing of herbs is such an important part of the process…
“That’s partly how these medicines work; it’s the connection between you and your environment…we’re going in the opposite direction in the herbal movement these days…we’re re-creating the same problem we’ve had for the last 100 years. The best solution would be for people to grow their own medicine and if that’s not possible, I recommend that people get herbs from the geographically closest local source possible. When we look at herbalism and how it evolved, it maintains its integrity best when it’s on a more regional level.”
Now of course that may not always be possible for everyone, and if you are seeking a very specific herb or plant that isn’t grown (or cannot be grown within your own region) this is where I think that we can benefit from the wonders of our global food system and think about sourcing bulk spices, herbs, and oils online. But start local and expand from there.
My Favorite Sources For High Quality Bulk Spices & Herbs
Now that we know what to look for when it comes to sourcing bulk spices and herbs it’s time to get into some of my favorite sources. I will be updating this list to include every region in the USA, as well as companies that source their herbs globally and have organic and sustainable sourcing standards, but for now I am beginning with my home region of New England.
If you have recommendations for an herb farm that you love and trust please leave a comment! Also for anyone who is from a country outside of the USA and knows of any herb farms/bulk options within your country I would love to have this list be as extensive as possible.
bulk spices, herbs, and teas (globally sourced)
I hope you are now well on your way to beginning your home herbal apothecary journey and have a better understanding of what to look for and where to go when sourcing your bulk herbs and spices for your herbal formulations.