As a natural minded mama, a natural medicine cabinet is a must to avoid unnecessary trips to the doctor over common ailments. As you build your natural medicine cabinet, you’ll need supplies to keep your herbs safe from damage and infestation. Since herbs are natural plant materials, they are sensitive to air, light, humidity and temperature. With the right supplies, you can prevent your herbs from deteriorating and preserve their powerful healing powers.
What Supplies Do I Need to Start an Herbal Natural Medicine Cabinet?
If you grow your own herbs, getting started will be very inexpensive. You can use things from around your own home to start planting your garden, such as using containers to grow your herbs in. When you harvest and dry the herbs, you can hang them upside down in individual bundles or place them on a drying screen. Up until this point, everything you need is minimal. When storing the herbs however, you will need a few basic supplies.
Herbs are best stored in glass jars, preferably darker colored ones. Glass is ideal because it provides an airtight seal while also allowing the herbs to breathe. The dark-colored glass is best since it blocks sunlight and helps prevent the herbs from being damaged by sunlight.
If you store your herbs in a dark area clear glass will work just fine. I personally use clear glass and keep them stored in a cabinet. Glass containers also have the advantage that you can see into them, which makes it much easier to find what your looking for when preparing your herbal remedies.
Plastic containers are convenient, inexpensive and easy to find. The downside is that the plastic material doesn’t provide good airflow, so it won’t keep the herbs fresh for nearly as long. Additionally, plastic can affect the smell and taste of the herbs. Plastic also contains chemicals that could possibly affect your herbs quality as well. If you do choose to use plastic, use it for a short time only. It’s not a long-term solution if you want to properly store herbs for an extended period. If cost is an issue, start with plastic containers, and start adding in glass when your budget allows. I'll admit that half of my herbs are still in plastic containers, slowly but surely they are all making their way into glass.
In addition to airtight glass containers, you will also need labels to stick onto the jars. This small but effective step will help keep track of what’s inside the jars. Write the name of the herb on the label as well as the date, and stick the label on the outside of the jar or on the lid, wherever you will see it best. I buy my herbs from bulk herb store and simply cut the label off of their bags and tape it to my container and use a sharpy to write the date I open it. It makes an easy and nice looking label. As your herbal kitchen pharmacy grows, you will know exactly what herbs you have and how old they are.
How Do I Store Herb Infused Medicinal Oils?
Dried herbs aren’t the only things that can be stored in jars. As you learn about the various herbal mixtures you can make, you will need to store these too. Herb infused oils can sound intimidating to make, but they’re actually quite easy and an effective way to widen your herbal kitchen. Dried herbs are always best when making medicinal oils and will provide the mixture with a longer shelf life. Using glass jars, you can combine the dried herbs with an oil of your choice, such as olive oil, coconut oil or apricot oil.
The mixture can then be stored in a glass container with an airtight seal, the same ones you would store herbs in. You’ll also use labels with these oils, except take it one step further by adding the ingredients that are in the jar. For instance, if you’ve combined dried herbs with grapeseed oil, write all of this information down on the label. Some people choose to add a preservative such as Vitamin E or grapefruit seed extract, and this should also be noted on the label. You may think that you'll remember everything now, but you'll be amazed after a month or two how quickly you'll start to question yourself. I cannot stress enough, always label or you'll risk wasting all your hard work and lovely herbs!
You should also write down how to use the medicinal oil so that you know exactly what the use is for. Imagine scrounging for something natural in the middle of the night to treat an upset stomach or a stuffy nose. If you choose the wrong jar, you could make the symptoms worse or create a negative reaction. Keep everything simple and easy to read, but be sure to provide enough information so that you know what you’re working with.
Getting My Herbal Natural Medicine Cabinet Set Up
Stock up on Glass Jars
Glass Mason jars are ideal because they come in a wide variety of sizes, are made of sturdy glass and have tight-fitting lids. (Seriously, you will use these all the time. I have bought a few, but I also save all of my honey jars as they are the perfect size!) It’s easy to add labels to them, and if you buy the jars in a bulk case, labels will be included. Keep in mind that most Mason jars are clear, so if you opt for these, keep them in a dark space. You can also find colored jars that are used for jams and jellies and will help block out sunlight.
Amber dropper bottles
Essential oils can be stored in amber colored bottles that include droppers, or you may simply store the medicinal mixtures in the same glass Mason jars. Depending on the type of oil that you’ve made, it can be stored in the refrigerator or in a dark room, out of the way of direct sunlight. All of these supplies can be purchased online or at specialty grocery and craft stores. You’ll save money if you buy in bulk, so consider shopping online for a case of glass jars that include airtight lids.
Labels for Jars
Many gardeners find that printing labels off of their computer is cheap and effective since they can type up the name of the herb, the date and the ingredients, if applicable. You can also get pretty labels here and just fill out the information with a pen. These ones are perfect because they come in small and large sizes to fit each type of your containers.
Dark cool storage area
The final piece to the puzzle is finding a prime location for your herbal medicine cabinet. Ideally, you want a space that is dark, empty and has good airflow. Large closets or pantries are a great start, but not everyone has these places. You may have to expand your boundaries and consider a basement, unused corner in the home or a shed.
As you grow your medicine cabinet, it’s important that you have consistency and organization. The ideal natural medicine cabinet includes shelves so that the herbs can be neatly placed in jars with labels clearly printed on the outside. You can easily build the shelves using pieces of wood or by creating a simple bookcase-style unit. Metal kitchen racks or wire shelves also work well.
Building an herbal medicine cabinet takes time, but will be tremendously useful. When you have natural herb infused oils, dried herbs and essential oils to treat a variety of ailments and boost your families health, you will glad you did it!