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Skip the Fancy, go for Basic

There are all sorts of gadgets and whatnots and thingamabobs in the world of herbal medicine. I have spent quite a bit of money over the years exploring them. While there are a few that I have found to be incredibly useful, for the most part, I always go back to the simple and basic things.

It is easy to feel that as a home herbal medicine explorer that you need to accumulate a bunch of things before you begin. When in doubt, go back to what they used hundreds of years ago. It worked then and it still works now. Remember too that most herbs can be easily taken as tissanes (what most people call teas), and for that, you really need a cup, water, and some fire (or other heat source), and your herbs of course. I always feel that the less things I have to fidget with, the more in touch I am with the plants, myself, and the medicine I am making.

The following is a list of things that, in my experience, are important to have:

  • Mason Jars with lids - quart size and pint size (If you are lucky enough to have the mason jars like I do with glass lids, these are optimal. You have to replace the rubber seals now and then, but you will get no metal corrosion and there is no plastic to break down. You can find these at antique stores. For the average home medicine maker, having half dozed would do. If you plan to make more medicines, make it a dozen. If you only have one....that works too. You can easily make just one medicine at a time. If you do use the kinds with the metal lids - jars come with these, so why not? - I recommend a piece of parchment paper put in between the lid and the jar. This will prevent any corrosion from getting into your tinctures.)

  • A good knife

  • A strainer of some sort. When I first began, every book that I was reading talked about cheese cloth. And while cheese cloth makes a lovely straining device and has the natural quality to it, it is 1. still produced someplace. 2. eventually wears out and needs to be replaced. 3. must be rinsed and wash extremely thoroughly so as to keep your herbal extracts and what not, pure. and a note on cheese cloth....NEVER use the same cheese cloth you use for tinctures for oils. It will never go well! I prefer to use the gold mesh strainers that you use for coffee. They are very fine and can eliminate most particulate matter. They are easily washable. They last forever. I have the same three that I have been using for about 15 years still going strong.

  • Two good wooden spoons and/or a suprtle. I have both. I use both for different purposes. Have at least two spoons dedicated to medicine making. Have one dedicated to tinctures and teas and the other for things like oils and butters. Don't use them for anything else other than medicine making.

  • Labels. It is essential to label your creations with ingredients and making date. This literally can be a piece of masking tape stuck to the jar. It doesnt matter what it is, just have it there.

Really, thats the list. Simple, right?

Some other things I might recommend if you wanted to go a bit further into gadgets are:

  • a mortar and pestle (I honestly do not use mine all that often. If im using fresh herbs and mushrooms, I use a knife while they are still fresh and easy to cut - with herbs). If I am grinding them to a powder - I go to an electric grinder. Also something I do not use that much, but really handy to have when nothing else will do the job.

  • An electric coffee grinder. Good for seeds and some barks and roots that are not incredibly hard. Dont try and grind chaga in a coffee grinder. It will break it.

  • A double boiler. Get one with a pour spout. So much easier.

  • Measuring cups and spoons. I rarely use these for measuring. I practice folk medicine and after 24 years of doing this, I know how much a cup or half a cup roughly is.

  • A kitchen scale. This again, something not needed for folk medicine, although some folks do utilize it when doing formulas by weight. If you are doing weight to volume formulations or percolation, you will NEED a kitchen scale that measures in ounces.

  • Funnels. Less mess. Don't need to really say more.

  • Bottles for storing herbal creations. These can be anything. Just make sure they are clean and dry.

Some things that I LOVE that are more in the extravagant realm

  • My giraffe commercial grinder. It is the ONLY thing I have found that easily grinds things to a fine powder in seconds. I have broken many electric coffee grinders trying to grind chaga. The Giraffe handles them like a dream.

  • Manual oil press for filling jars. These are now more costly. When i purchased mine years ago, it cost me around $150. Now they are over $300 for a good one. Get a good one. it's worth it. And even at $300, if you are into producing quantity, this is a wonderful time and mess saver.

  • A good dehydrator. Also something I do not utilize that often. I prefer air drying on screens. Dehydrators can be too harsh and dry herbs too quickly, damaging some of their constitutes. If you get one, get a good one that has the ability to do very low temperatures. I have an Excaliber that is fantastic. Again, pricey, but for the times that I use it, I'm incredibly grateful to have it.

  • A percolation cone. I prefer maceration process for most tinctures. I like the element of time. I think it's important. And there are times when I need to render a tincture in 24 hours. For many herbs, percolation does this well. It does not do any muciligenic herbs well and I tend to steer clear of barks and roots too. It does flowers, leaf, and seeds beautifully. It is a whole adventure in itself and involves math and fine detailed formulation - not my favorite. Again, when it is needed, it is the only thing that will do.

I am sure there are things I left out that after this publishes, I will say OH...i forgot to include...........

However, since these are the things that first popped up, im going to trust that these are the most important ones swimming around in my head right now.

I think it is always helpful when just starting out, to have someone with 24 years of experience say......"yeah, save your money. you dont need that thing."

Happy Medicine Making!

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