organizing a home herbal apothecary

It’s completely dark out by 5pm here in Wisconsin.

I miss tootling around in my gardens like I did in the Summer.

The last remnants of a few dried herbs still hang on the wall and in a couple baskets.

Putting these herbs away will have to be my winter equivalent of playing in the gardens. The dried herbs smell as good as the garden and maybe even more potent! Besides, the dust bunnies were threatening to take up residence and declare victory. 


One of the baskets had dried anise hyssop blossoms (Agastache foeniculum). Earlier in my apothecary I noticed some anise hyssop seeds  collecting at the bottom of one of its storage jars. It got me wondering if I could flavor some muffins with them. I decided to play around with the blooms in the basket before I added them to the jar. I tried working out ways to shake the seeds out of the inflorescence.

When I was ready to add the new anise hyssop seed jar to my apothecary I had to pause . . . where would I put it?


My home herbal apothecary overfloweth. 

shelves with jars of herbs and herbal remedies<br />

I knew I had at least two other jars of anise hyssop  on the shelves that were two rows deep. I sighed, “this is getting out of hand. I must organize this better.” I didn’t want to add another jar of the same herb when I knew I could combine them. 


A year ago we moved into this house and I arranged the jars according to size and substance in this way:

  • dried herbs by pint, quart, and gallon jars
  • liquids such as herbal oils and tinctures
  • essential oils in a bin
  • plastic pouches of dried herbs from http://aspireiq.go2cloud.org/aff_c?offer_id=24&aff_id=1783 organized alphabetically in baskets
  • bins with bagged herbs from wildcrafting

This organizational strategy was visually appealing, but it has proven to be challenging to find the desired materials when I wanted to actually make an herbal remedy. Also, my apothecary was almost out of room on every shelf and corner of the room because I had duplicates and even triplicates of partially filled containers with the same herb. 


I could no longer put this off. The Great Apothecary Organization of November 2022 had to begin. 


I took the jars off the first shelf, adjusted the height to accommodate gallon sized jars, added the new anise hyssop jar, and started looking for other “a” herbs. 


Soon I had jars on the floor as I shifted them alphabetically and adjusted the height of each shelf. I was tip-toeing around the plethora of jars and I sometimes looked like a bird standing on one foot to create more floor space. 


Jars were clanking against each other and my family was wondering what in the world I was doing! 


Over two hours later I had 15 empty jars due to consolidation of duplicates and finding remedies that were past their usefulness. I was acquainted with some herbs and remedies I forgot I had. I felt a bit embarrassed that my family was suffering through a bad cold and I could be utilizing more of these herbs to help ease their symptoms, “Why haven’t I used the elecampane root (Inula helenium) to help all the donkey coughing humans in this house?” 


Now all the herbal remedies and herbs were together instead of in separate bins or locations (except the essential oils . . . they must stay in a bin to contain their loud and raucous scent party). 


What kind of home herbal healer was I if I left these herbs to sit on the shelves? I was an herbalist trying to look organized by having the jars in the same sized order, but it wasn’t actually useful. 


This is a reoccurring mindset in the dominant paradigm of this modern society I live in – make things look good even if it’s not functional. I am continuously working to root out the toxic culture of the dominant paradigm from my herbal wisdom ways. 


One might wonder, “why not have all the same sized jars and be done with it?”

There are many reasons for this:

  • Some herbs grow more profusely in my garden than others
  • I may wildcraft an herb one year and not the other due to access or growing season differences
  • Some are easy to find every year
  • Some herbs are more bulky than others
  • Some herbs I need often and keep more of them
  • As for the tinctures and salves I don’t need a large amount such as a gallon or even a pint. 


It’s not feasible for me to keep all the herbs in gallon sized jars. I would run out of room quickly and my apothecary would have a less diverse collection.

If I kept all herbs in quart-sized jars some of my herbs would end up in multiple quart jars. For example, I grew lemon balm last year and harvested much of it.

The lemon balm fits well in a gallon-sized jar right now. Plus, I rescued some antique jars which and not-so-old pickle jars (see my post here about finding a treasure trove of old jars) 


The multiple sized jars also work well for me since I have adjustable shelves. If I didn’t then I would settle for the four quart sized jars of lemon balm to hold my harvest. 


The Great Apothecary Organization of November 2022 was successful which was defined by me actually using the herbs. As I type this article I think we are in the fourth week that this cold is making its rounds through the household and some have had it for well over two weeks. Since organizing the apothecary I’ve created elecampane syrup, herbal steam blend, found the Herb Pharm® cough crusader tincture, made more berry good burdock syrup, and found my homemade catnip glycerin tincture. 


I hope you’ve learned something about organizing a home herbal apothecary. May you organize it to suit your needs and not the way a pinterest or home garden show has taught. 


Here’s to re-wilding our home herbal apothecaries! 

How do you organize your herbs and/or herbal remedies? Comment below.

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