We’ve all seen the romanticized apothecary photos of beautiful glass bottles filled with vibrant herbs and spices. Often as I hone in on the unique tones of color in each jar, I’m reminded of each plant’s complexities, their character, and their purpose. It’s a true gift to have that same feeling when you open your cupboard or medicine cabinet. But with my busy lifestyle, my collection can sometimes become less than tidy or orderly. What I’ve learned is that keeping this area of my life organized provides me with a sense of peace and allows me to enjoy my herbal practice with more fluidity. It’s also a good way to keep an eye on my herbal inventory. Here are some tips to help you organize your botanical goods and ensure that you are making the most of your herbal allies.
The Art of Labeling
One of the cardinal rules of herbalism is that we should always label our herbal preparations and ingredients. Here are some basic things I recommend having on your labels. You can find more information and a FREE label template in our How to Label Handcrafted Goods blog post.
- Name of the Herb/Preparation: The name is one of the most important parts of a label. You always want to know what you are taking (or serving others). When labeling preparations, I list all of the ingredients, so I am always conscious and connected to what I’m choosing to use.
- Date: This is important as it helps you monitor freshness and sort through older material first. Some people label by the date it was purchased, while others label based on when it was filled/decanted. Whatever method you choose, just be sure you are consistent.
- Uses: A great way to learn more about herbs is to study up on them and learn their different uses. I found that it is invaluable to list some common uses of the herb right on the label so that I’m always connected and reminded of its supportive powers. As I’ve gotten more comfortable with their uses, I’ve started adding other fun facts so I can continue to learn and create a deeper connection with the plant. After all, repetition is the key to mastery!
How to Choose Your Apothecary Jars
Your organization style will be heavily influenced by the space you are working in. Sure, those large glass bottles filled with herbs look great on Instagram, but if those create clutter in your workspace, they may not be the best choice for you. Here are some jar choices that I love along with their pros and cons.
- Pantry Jars: As its name implies, these make great storage in a pantry or where you have ample space. They are often used for larger volume botanicals, such as bulk teas. I love that these are airtight and keep things very fresh. The downside is that they are a bit bulky and heavy. I don’t find them to be particularly useful for tight kitchen spaces.
- Cork Top Bottles: These are preferable for spices or ingredients that you use often, as it's an ideal size that you can refill regularly. The design is beautiful and makes for a visually pleasing display. Due to the wider rim, it helps dispense larger spices like cardamom pods or seeds. They are great in small spaces! The only con is that they don’t travel quite as well, so you may not want to take them on a picnic or camping trip.
- Dual Cap Spice Bottles: These are lovely, as you have the dual benefit of the shaker half and the open half of the lid. The design isn’t as unique as the cork tops, but they are great for smaller spaces and offer a secure way to store and transport herbs.
- Stacking Spice Jars: These are ideal for those who have more vertical storage space. The stacking spice jars are a great way to stack herbal powders or ingredients you use often. They are made of acrylic, and while glass is always best, this material does make them great travel shakers for outdoor adventures.
- Cobalt or Amber Glass Bottles: Generally used for herbal preparations, they come in a variety of glass colors and lid choices. They can be used over and over again, and often you can switch out the lid types.
Where to Put Your Apothecary Supplies
The presentation is a large part of your organizing style. You should keep the following in mind when choosing how you will display your herbal allies.
- Make it convenient to use: The goal is to ensure you have easy access to your beloved herbs and spices so that you're more likely to use and enjoy them. Some possibilities are shelves, cabinets, pantries, or even kitchen drawers.
- Ensure your ingredients are easy to see: You want to quickly get what you need, or see if an unexpected ingredient choice presents itself. Sometimes, inspiration jumps out to you—don’t dampen the magic by hiding ingredients behind all of the other bottes! Adding tiers in your cabinets will help you find what you are looking for.
- Maintain Freshness: Herbs store best when they are in a dark, cool, and dry space. If you like to have your everyday ingredients on the counter or out in the open, we recommend you use smaller bottles and refresh the stock more often. You also should not store herbs above the stove or dishwasher as these appliances create moisture and temperature variations, both of which can damage the plant material.
- While having uniform jars is ideal, sometimes our budgets do not allow us to achieve such organization all at once. You can clean and reuse bottles as you cycle through them.
- If you’re having trouble mustering the motivation, print out a picture of your dream apothecary and hang it near your current storage space so you can keep your eye on the prize.
- Take on the task in bite size pieces. Start with your first 5 or 10 most used herbs and work your way up. A little progress is better than no progress!
Remember that your apothecary is an expression of your herbal art. It is based on all the aspects that make up your individual practice. Herbalism is a lifestyle, not a phase, so don’t feel pressured to do everything in a particular way or all at once.
Happy and healthy tinkering!
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