In keeping with the home herbalist theme, I’m not going to suggest buying anything extravagant or expensive such as commercial presses or freeze dryers (though both are on my list of dream purchases!)
Most of the tools listed you likely already have in your home. If not, follow the links I’ve provided and purchase them, so you’ll be ready to tackle course assignments and follow along with our Facebook Lives and YouTube videos. If you don’t have the money up front to make all the purchases necessary, then get the inexpensive ones first, and save up for the rest. You’ll be glad you made the investment because these tools are also very handy to use for general cooking and food preparation.
What you’ll need:
One of the most important tools I’ve come to appreciate is my large supply of different sized canning jars. I store dried herbs and hydrosols in them, as well as use them for making nourishing herbal infusions, tinctures, infused oils, honeys, vinegars and more. Having different sizes is very helpful because it allows you to make more or less of a preparation.
One thing I would encourage you to do is also buy some plastic lids for your jars because it makes it easier when dealing with high acidic liquids. Also, PLEASE be careful when using jars over and over or grabbing a bunch from a second hand store to save money. If the preparation requires any heating at all, the pressure from the heat may shatter the jar and then you’ve lost everything. For storing dried herbs or refrigerated items you should be fine, but invest in new jars for making heated preparations.
Rubber spatulas of all sizes will help scrape sides and get anything left inside a jar, out.
Electric Coffee Grinder
It used to be, years ago, that herbalists would use their trusty mortal and pestle to pulverize or powder herbs. Now we have the privilege of electricity and electric tools to make our job easier. Not to say that a mortal and pestle isn’t handy! I’ve used one on many occasions, and it’s still a good tool to have in your herbal medicine-making cabinet as well. A word of caution: Keep a different grinder on hand for herbs than the one you use for coffee, or get ready to do a lot of cleaning. Both herbs and coffee leave behind smells and residue, and the only way to get rid of it is by thoroughly washing and usually rinsing with vinegar water. Also, coffee beans are very oily and that oil will pass that oil to the herb. I highly recommend getting a dedicated herbal grinder.
Plastic Measuring cups
I say plastic because glass can be heavy and breakable; however, if you have glass measuring cups, you’re welcome to use them. You’ll want measuring cups that have mL measurements — specifically one that measures 100 mL, 250 mL and 500 mL.
Devices for stirring
Wooden dowels 12-14” long and no larger than 1⁄2 inch diameter, wooden spoons and strong chopsticks will all come in handy for different stirring situations.
You’ll need a variety of them. I use strainers that are larger or smaller and have small and larger meshes. Trust me when I say you can never have enough strainers!
Again, a variety of sizes is best. You’ll need very small ones to ones that can fit in a wide mouthed canning jar (the ones I use for my dried herbs) it makes loading the herbs much easier!
Anyone who knows me knows I swear by my Excalibur dehydrator. I have two other brands of dehydrator that languish unused (I really should get rid of them…) The Excalibur beats its competitors by far. The benefit of every shelf receiving equal exposure to the air because of its back-positioned fan is a huge benefit, since you don’t have to switch shelves around during dehydrating to ensure even drying. It also enables you to remove shelves to use it as an incubator for yogurt, infused oils/honeys or even hatch out some chicks, which we’ve done in the past!
High Quality Blender/Juicer
I am blessed to have a Blendtec, which is an awesome machine that can blend almost anything (including whole, dried Reishi mushrooms — not something I recommend). I do not recommend using a regular blender as these simply don’t have the power to handle some of the herbs you may want to blend at some point. I also have a twin gear Green Star juicer, which allows me to thoroughly juice any green or grass. Other juicer styles are not recommended, since they rely on blades and sieves which leave a lot of juice unused. If you don’t have a juicer, use your high quality blender to make a whole juice. I also use the small “jar” from my magic bullet type blender when making small batches of lotion and other things. Keep your eyes open for these items in yard sales or online used. Do make sure they work though!
This is my go-to tool for making larger batches of things such as lotion or herbal oils.
Brilliant for helping to press out tinctures. A potato ricer can be really tough to get all the tincture out of the marc, and this gadget helps tremendously. I recommend this style because it holds up better than other styles to that kind of pressure.
Again, this is likely something you already have in your kitchen. If you don’t have a food processor, but have a high-quality blender, then purchasing this one is not vital. But if you happen upon one at a garage sale or second-hand store, then grab it up!
Essential for creating gentle heat water baths. I’ve used a double boiler for infusing both oil and honey. It provides enough heat for the infusion without overheating. Direct heat from the stove is usually too intense for these types of preparations.
You likely already have plenty in your kitchen. A variety is best from very small to extra large.
Make sure it has the ability to measure in metric. As you progress in herbal medicine making, you may want to invest in a more expensive triple beam scale, but to start out, you’ll want one that is accurate down to a gram. I found mine at Walmart, so don’t overthink this tool.
Cotton Muslin Cloth
This is a wonderful and inexpensive tool for straining your herbal preparations.
I use an infrared non-contact digital thermometer, and have had great success with it. It was fairly inexpensive, and I highly recommend having one.
This can be as simple as good masking tape and a permanent marker to fancy stickers. You decide what you want to do. I generally use the tape method because it’s cheap and simple, but if I’m selling a product or giving a gift, I use the fancy ones.
Ice Cube Trays
Having a variety of ice cube trays with lids is a great way to keep the herb in but alleviate any smell exchange in your freezer.