Herbalist's Guide to Stocking Your Apothecary

This is a continuation of my first apothecary post – Creating An Herbal Apothecary at Home – where I go into detail about specific herbs and their herbal actions to stock your apothecary. This post will explore all of the extras that can make your home or professional apothecary fully functional and versatile. 

At the peak of my apothecary venture after 6 years in business, I stocked over 75 herbs in tea, tincture, and powder form that I shared with 5 additional naturopathic doctors. These were all herbs that I had used for years, and each year I would add a few more to my collection due to client or fellow practitioner demand. It grew and grew, and honestly it was one of the most glorious visual expansions of my business that I could enjoy every day. Every month (sometimes every day), I would learn something new that would enhance the functionality of my apothecary, and I would try it out. Whether it was a new labeling system, new measuring devices, better (wider mouth!) bottles for storing, or a more efficient method of tracking my herbal batches, my apothecary journey felt very fluid and adaptable. As my business model changed, so did my apothecary set up.

Personally, I take a minimalist approach these days.

Currently, I keep a steady rotation of about 15 single herbs (in tea and tincture form). These are herbs that I know as well as my own self, and utilize every single little bit of their medicinal, energetic, and ancestral gifts. As much as I loved the availability of dozens and dozens of herbs, I kept gravitating towards really paring down my collection, and utilizing a handful of herbs that offer a huge array of varying therapeutic benefits. Herbs that I continually researched and found new and old ways of incorporating into client protocols. When I eventually sold my apothecary to my former clinic, I embarked on a new model of stocking my apothecary. One that now minimally suits my personal needs better. Every single herbalist and their business structure may require something different, and that’s the beauty of the time honored herbal apothecary! Adaptable, and fluid, meeting you right were you are.

Below are a few of the staples that I always keep on hand in my apothecary, no matter how big or small my herbal collection becomes.

herbal apothecary

Tips for Stocking Your Home or Professional Apothecary

Buy only what you need. There’s nothing more disheartening in your treasured apothecary than 12 months after you bought a gazillion herbs, and find you need to discard a hefty bunch of them due to lack of freshness or expired batches. Don’t be too overzealous with your ordering unless you know you’re going to go through them. Or, harvest minimally and as needed so there is minimal waste or un-used herbs.

Source from excellent, sustainable, ethical, and organic origins. If you have a local herb farm or small scale herbal grower, support them if their practices are ethical and good. If you’re purchasing from an herb company, look for organic certification, ethical and sustainable growing practices, and some quality assurances (like offering certificates of analysis for their herbs after testing for impurities or contamination). Some of my preferred herb supplies include Mountain Rose Herbs, Starwest Botanicals, Zack Wood Herb Farm, Galen’s Way, and Gaia Herbs.

Store your herbs for optimal shelf life. Take some time to set up your herb storage space in a place away from direct sunlight, and is temperature controlled. I recommend always using glass storage containers like wide mouth amber glass jars. Read more: 5 Tips for Storing Herbs

Essential measurements. I keep at least one electronic scale with ability to measure in grams, and 4-5 graduated cylinders for tincture measurements. I also keep metal scoops, small metal funnels, and a collection of small, medium, and large mixing bowls.

Labels! For everything you have, label it with common name, botanical name, date, and contact information if you’re giving formulas to clients. You can use any labeling system you like. Simple Avery labels work fine, or an electronic Dymo printer. I also love these gorgeous assorted apothecary labels.

(For the professional apothecary) Herb tracking. This is important to keep track of if you are distributing herbal formulas to a wider range of people, including clients. This can be a binder where you track your herb batches (upon arrival), and list dates of when bottles and bags were opened, and when they were used up. I would also recommend you keep track of any COA’s (Certificates of Analysis) if offered by your herb suppliers for any herbs ordered. This just supports you in your quality control measures.

Cleaning materials. Always keep your compounding space tidy and clean (even if it’s in your own kitchen). I always keep a few bottles green cleaning spray, biodegradable paper towels, and rubbing alcohol (for rubbing the necks of tincture bottles after use so they won’t stick closed).

Not sure which form of herb to keep on hand? Read more: Guide to Herbal Preparations

Magic Herbs

Visit the Apothecary Shop page to view some of my favorite goods and herbs to stock your own apothecary. Do you have your own apothecary set up? I’d love to see it! Share with the community using #curatingmyapothecary and let’s get inspired by each others’ space!

Photos by Renee Byrd

Wednesday, October 30, 2019
Herbs for Sleep

Welcome to the season of early darkness. Where autumnal and winter evenings provide a nighttime shifting energy that is all encompassing to our circadian rhythm, and our psyche. With the change of the season, and darkness falling earlier and earlier, the more we fight against this energetic shift, the more health problems we are likely to experience. Instead, embrace this early dark, and sink into this shifting energy of the new season. By creating time and space for a new evening ritual, we support our connection with this magical season, and the changing light that entrances our circadian rhythm. In turn, we can obtain deeper sleep, more experiential and vivid dreams, and a more vibrant day ahead.

Ritual for sleep

With daylight savings time (why we even still do this is a mystery to me), our circadian rhythms can be thrown askew for several days, or even weeks after this hourly change. Our body is extremely adaptable to the change of the seasons, to the diurnal rhythms of the twenty-four hour cycle of our lives, and the subtle monthly changes that reflect light differently into our brains. We perceive it all, and respond to each subtle change in different ways. We often go about our days, though, as if no change is happening. And how difficult it is sometimes to make adjustments in our schedules for every changing season! And if there is anything I’ve learned after 7 years in clinical practice, it’s that  people are just not sleeping nearly enough.

Welcome Autumn – the ideal time to shed practices, habits, things, routines, objects, and energy that no longer serve. The ideal time for a seasonal practice that supports our health, and our entire wellbeing through a simple evening ritual.

Why is Sleep So Important?

Sleep is pure juicy, magical, dreamscape, revitalizing time. And it’s precious. So precious that over one third of our lives are spent in sleep and dreams. Without this rejuvenation time, recharging in the dark hours of the moon, our body would die. Without at least 8 hours of good quality sleep each night, our brain function begins to decline. Our ability to retain information and focus deteriorates. Our mood, and our ability to make sound judgements and decisions suffers. We experience fatigue and lethargy, and even our levels of pain and inflammation rise. Lack of good quality sleep in the long term (3+ months) has been directly linked to health conditions including diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and obesity. Why? Because those essential 8 hours (or more) of rest, repair, and rejuvenation time are essential for our organ systems to function properly, and heal from the stress of the preceding day.

Our sleep hours are not hours to be traded and sacrificed to accomplish one more thing. We can’t actually “catch up” on sleep on the weekends, and the sooner we put in place good sleep hygiene practices into our lives, the more balanced our entire state of health becomes.

Read More: Short and Long Term Health Consequences of Sleep Disruption

How to Create an Evening Sleep Ritual

Just as we get ourselves ready for the day, we should ready ourselves for the journey of sleep. Yes, this takes intentional time, but not too much. And creating a nighttime sleep ritual can be incredibly rejuvenating in itself.

Prepare the space. I always brew up a cup of tea an hour before bed with nervine and calming herbs to help ease me into sleep. My favorite is Dream Tea or Evening Repose Tea from Mountain Rose Herbs. These blends combine some of my favorite evening herbs, including chamomile, skullcap, and mugwort, all from certified organic sources and grown sustainably. I also use Dream Balm with lavender, rose, hops and mugwort, on my temples to calm my nervous system, and provide a bit of prolonged aroma that helps me dream deeply (really, it does!). I also recommend folks keep a spray bottle of Reflection Aroma Spray by their bed, and give their sleeping space a spritz before falling asleep, and upon waking in the night to help ease back into sleep, and stay tuned in with their dreams. Reflection aroma spray combines the clearing and calming power of frankincense with the balancing, elevating qualities of davana and vetiver essential oils to help one center and calm internal chatter, ideal for those who wake up in the middle of the night with a busy mind.

Avoid screens at least 30 minutes before going to bed. One hour is even better. I strongly encourage my clients to never take screens or devices into bed at all, because once you’ve done this, the habit is seemingly impossible to break. Screens and blue light are a major disruptor to melatonin production in the brain, and can interfere with our ability to fall asleep, and stay asleep.

Dim the lights 30 minutes before going to bed. Again, one hour is even better. When we keep ourselves awake with artificial light after sunset, this also disrupts our natural circadian rhythm. Our melatonin production is triggered by the absence of light. Once the sun goes down, and we keep lights on up to the moment of trying to fall asleep, this is confusing to our hormone production and circadian rhythm cycle.

Similarly, if you’re waking up when it is still dark in the morning, turn on a soft light, such as a salt lamp, to gradually trigger your cortisol production to rise, and your melatonin levels to fall. This will help establish your rhythm for the day, and reduce fatigue throughout the morning and afternoon.

Read More: The Grounding Magic of Tea Ritual

Dream Aroma Spray

Dream Balm

Shown above: *Celestial Tea Strainer *Dream Balm *Dream Tea

Experience Autumn Evening Magic

Now is the time, early November, when the leaves are still vibrant and the air is chilly, to connect to the evenings and feel this change in energy and weather. Take your evening tea outdoors. Watch the sun set (or sun rise!). Breathe in this new, crisp air that’s alive with leafy decomposing matter, perhaps with a hint of distant smoke on it’s tails. Leave your window cracked just a bit during the first of the November rain storms. And as always, write down your dreams.

Read More: Autumnal Lucid Dreaming Tea

Evening Ritual

Setting rates for herbal consultations

I’ve had my herbal medicine and nutrition business for going on eight years now. I’ve done everything from having my own office space for client work, owning and managing a compounding herbal dispensary, making herbal formulas for wholesale, being a practitioner within a larger clinical practice, independent contracting/consulting work, social media collaborations and brand partnerships, and all the behind the scenes successes and failures of owning my own business. It wasn’t until probably two years ago that I finally wrapped my head around managing my cash flow, and charging enough for my services to make my business not only successful, but profitable. Mastering the process of setting rates for herbal and nutrition consultations was a game changer for me, and this mindset trickled into every single additional service I offered, and totally transformed my sense of self worth not only as an herbalist and nutritionist, but as an entrepreneur and business owner. So, let me share with you just a few things to consider when figuring out how to set your own rates for services, and see where this can take you!

Considerations for setting your rates:

Local practitioner network | Who within your area (50 miles or so) is doing similar work? Is your area saturated with offerings similar to yours, or is there a niche you can fill? What are they charging, and would this be a comfortable financial model to fit into yourself?

Your level of experience | Take this into account when exploring your local referral network / local practitioner network, and set your rates accordingly. If you’re just starting out, perhaps setting a slightly lower rate (but *always* covering your business expenses) and gradually raising them yearly is a good fit for you. If you’ve been doing your thing successfully for 5+ years, this can acceptably be reflected in your rates for services and products.

Demographics | Look closely at the population and financial ability of your locality. What folks charge for services in LA is totally different than small town Ohio. If you’re offering goods and services virtually, this isn’t so much of a factor.

Your business overhead expenses | Seriously – look closely at this. This is a big determining factor of setting the costs for your services. Office rent, internet, software, computers, utilities, subscriptions, continuing education, actual products (bottles, herbs, packaging etc) included in your services, licenses renewals, travel expenses, marketing & advertising, debt, etc…so much more. It all needs to be covered. Get a handle on this overhead monthly expense ASAP.

Your personal standard of living | If you’re offering consultations, goods, and services as your 100% income, then aside from your business expenses, your standard of living must also be provided for in your rates. Keep in mind your own personal expenses, including rent/mortgage, health care, utilities, transportation, insurances, food, children/family expenses, plus all the extras.

Taxes | If you’re self employed, always allow 20% to go directly to your taxes. If you finally land at a rate for goods and services that you feel covers all your overhead expenses, provides for your standard of living, pays you a decent hourly rate, and is fair within your locality, automatically add on an extra 20% to that rate for taxes alone. (Note – this % may vary depending on your business structure etc, but it’s a good number to start with. I highly recommend working with an accountant your first year in business to make sure you’re covered.)

TIME | this such an important thing to devote your attention to for a little while. If you’re an herbalist or nutritionist offering consultation services or products, how much time are you really spending on each appointment or on product development? Not just the 60 or 90 minutes face to face with your client, but all of the before and after work that goes into that interaction? You need to account for this time, and pay yourself appropriately.

Example: If you’re charging $100 for a 90 minute initial consultation, remember the 20 minutes of email communication you spend prior to scheduling this and then 20 minutes of intake paperwork review before they come into the consultation. Then account for the extra hour you spend writing up their recommendations and plan / putting together their formulas / doing any follow up research for them / completing their chart notes. Then account for 30 minutes of post-email questions or follow up lab work review. All said and done, that’s around 3.5 hours total. Now deduct 20% of that $100 for taxes, leaving you with $80. Now put at least 10% of that $100 for overhead / rent cost and that’s $10, leaving you with $70. Also deduct at least 15% for putting back into business costs (operating expenses/paying yourself for behind the scenes work later) and that’s $15, leaving you with $55. Now put at least 10% into your profit, leaving you with $45. Not including anything else, that means you’re paying yourself at most $13/hour. This $13/hour has to be enough for you to put some into savings, retirement, pay your living expenses, feed yourself / your family, pay for health insurance, pay off debt, put gas in your car or do anything self-care related. Is that enough? Probably not, considering you could only see two clients a day if you want to work 7-8 hours a day.

Really sit down, and do the math based on what you need. Don’t set a rate based on what sounds affordable, what you think is “fair” to charge, or what you think a client is willing to pay. The bottom line is you need to make enough to support yourself and your business. You’re basing your rates on what you need to survive plus the abundance of a financially secure life. That’s why you started a business you love, isn’t it? For creative freedom and financial stability. Thus, set your rates according to what you really truly want, not just what you need to get by.

For a much more detailed breakdown of setting rates as a clinical practitioner, sign up to read the below article I’ve written for The Herbarium:

Read More: Setting Rates & Establishing Self Worth of a Practitioner

I know that talking about money – especially in this line of work – can feel a little squeamish and “selfish” for some, and I have definitely grown out of that frame of mind after 8 years in business. I want to do this for a living, full time, every day, and I do now that I’ve gotten my cash flow, rates, and confidence about asking for money secure in my psyche. I’m so passionate about herbalists and nutritionists making a living doing this, and building the confidence to be compensated fairly for their time, expertise, and quality products.

Personalized Business Mentorship

If you want individual support growing your business, and getting your finances and cash flow in a profitable and secure place, let me help you get there! My one-on-one Business Mentorship offers all of this and much more. If you’re building a business from the beginning, or have been at it for years ands till struggling, take the leap and invest in yourself and your business to grow the herbal medicine and nutrition career you love. Start Here 

Read More: How to Make a Living as an Herbalist

Photos by Renee Byrd