If you are interested in getting into herbalism, it might feel overwhelming to know where to start. And it might be confusing to know what kinds of tools you might need to get your herbalism kit up and running! While there are a lot of fancy gadgets out there that you can purchase, an herbalism tool kit can be quite simple and can be made up of many common household objects.
Let’s take a look at what herbalism is, the most common herbalist tools for getting started, and how to get formal training in herbalism if it’s something you’d like to dive into further!
What is herbalism?
Herbalism, or herbal medicine, is the practice of using herbs and plants for their medicinal qualities to promote health. An herbalist is someone who practices herbal medicine and uses the therapeutic properties of plants to support healing.
Herbalism is sometimes used to treat symptoms or diseases, and other times it is used to maintain optimal health. Herbalists create remedies in the form of things like salves, tinctures, teas, powders, and more for specific uses—whether that be soothing skin irritations, supporting digestion, promoting relaxation, or easing the side effects of conventional treatments like chemotherapy. Depending on the herb and the desired effect, an herbalist may use the whole plant, or a plant’s seeds, berries, roots, leaves, bark, or flowers.1 2 3 4
Plants have been used for medicinal purposes to prevent or treat ailments for thousands of years, making herbalism a traditional form of medicine that has stood the test of time. In modern times, it has become quite popular as a complementary tool for healing.1 2 3
Top herbalist tools for making herbal products
Herbalism is both an art and a science. It involves harvesting, measuring, grinding, melting, pressing, stirring, and storing. And for that reason, the practice of herbalism requires a variety of different tools and supplies.
A home herbalist kit doesn’t have to be complicated, but there are some handy must-have herbalist tools that will make the process much easier:
1. Scissors and basket for harvesting
While some people prefer to buy all their herbs and other ingredients from reliable sources, many herbalists prefer to harvest their own supplies from their garden or from the wild. If that sounds like you, then you’ll need a good pair of sharp and sturdy scissors. Kitchen shears or simple gardening clippers can do the trick. You’ll also want to bring a basket or other container with you to carry your harvested goods and supplies.
2. Field guide
If you are going to be out in the wild foraging for your herbs, then you’ll want to get a good, high-quality field guide. Even better if you can find one that has information on your local area so that you have insight into the specific types of plants found in your geographic location.
A good kitchen scale makes measuring out your amounts super easy. They can be relatively inexpensive and will be well worth the investment.
A small spring scale can also be a handy herbalist tool if you do wild foraging. Although spring scales aren’t the most accurate, they are lightweight and easy to transport. Measuring in the field ensures that you come home with approximately the right amount—not too little that you won’t have enough, but not too much that you’ll end up wasting.
4. Cutting board and a good knife
Two essential herbalist tools are a sharp knife and a cutting board. Working with a good knife can make all the difference!
5. Mortar and pestle
Maybe you’ve seen a mortar and pestle on the cover of an herbalism book, or even as the logo for an apothecary or herbalism brand. That’s because the mortar and pestle is a classic herbalist tool that goes all the way back to the Stone Ages!
A simple, effective tool, the mortar and pestle is used for grinding fresh and dried herbs and is often considered an essential tool in an herbalist’s supply kit.
6. Spice grinder
Mortar and pestles may be the classic option for grinding up fresh or dried herbs and spices, but a spice grinder makes for a handy modern alternative. You’ll want to have a dedicated spice grinder just for use with spices (separate from the one you make your coffee with).
7. Potato ricer
Fancy tincture presses can cost a pretty penny, but a simple potato ricer can do the exact same thing for a fraction of the cost! Potato ricers are normally used to shred potatoes or other foods into fine, rice-like pieces, but they also do an excellent job at squeezing every last drop out of your herbs to make tinctures and other products.
8. Cheese cloth
If you don’t have a potato ricer, that’s okay. Cheese cloth can also do the job of helping to wring things out when making your products.
9. Fine metal strainers
Strainers, also called sieves, are needed for pressing and straining your herbal extracts. Look for stainless steel strainers with super fine mesh for best results. Many herbalists consider strainers to be one of the top must-haves for any herbalist kit.
10. Measuring cups and spoons
Glass measuring cups of various sizes are essential for a home herbalist. Glass is the best choice, and the kind that have a handle and spout for pouring are even better. A good set of stainless measuring spoons will also be helpful.
11. Saucepans and a double boiler
You’ll often need to heat up your ingredients when making herbal products. To make a balm, for example, you may need to melt beeswax or coconut oil. A dedicated set of saucepans for your herbalism practice is a good idea. And make sure to include a double boiler in the set, which will help you to melt your ingredients without burning them.
12. Electric teapot
Boiling water the traditional way on the stove is perfectly acceptable, but it can be extra convenient to have an electric tea kettle so you can have hot water on hand at the flip of a switch (and without cluttering up your stovetop).
13. Jars, bottles, and containers of all shapes and sizes
Mason jars with lids are an herbalist’s best friend. From storing your herbs and other ingredients to holding your finished products, they’ll come in handy at all stages of the game.
You may also choose to use dropper bottles, metal tins, and other containers. Look for darkly colored glass (often amber or cobalt) for storing light-sensitive compounds so they will last longer.
You may want to have some funnels on hand of various sizes. Funnels can save you time and cleanup when it comes time to bottle up your makings.
With all those jars, bottles, and containers holding your precious supplies and preparations, you’ll need to keep it all straight! Make sure to have labels and a permanent marker at the ready to mark what’s what.
16. Notebook, pen, pencils, and a binder
The art and science of herbalism can be a little bit like a science experiment. Office supplies like notebooks and binders will help you organize your notes, recipes, and process. From the time you harvest your herbs to the time you try out the end product, document what you try and how it turns out with detailed records.
There are countless wonderful books on herbalism to help you in your journey to become an herbalist, including how-to books, field guides, books on the health benefits of certain herbs, and recipe books. It’s a great idea to build a small, but high-quality library of books on herbalism to help guide you along the way.
Are herbal medicines safe?
When used properly, herbal medicines can be quite effective and safe. However, it is important to take care when using herbal products; just because something is “natural” or “plant based” does not necessarily mean it is safe for you.1 4
Some herbs can have harmful side effects, and some can interact with medications. Before beginning the use of any herbal product, especially supplements, speak with your healthcare provider.
Also keep in mind these other tips for using herbal medicines safely:
- Get information from reliable sources and become an educated consumer about the herbs you are considering. This MedlinePlus database is a great resource.
- Follow instructions carefully, and don’t take more than the recommended dosage.
- Choose quality brands, as not all herbal supplements and products are created equal.
- Get professional support from a trained herbalist to ensure that you’re using herbal products as safely and effectively as possible.1 4
If you are making your own herbal products at home, the most important thing is to do your research and get educated. Do your homework to ensure that you’re using the right part of the plant, that you’re preparing your products safely, and that the herbs you’re using are right for you and your specific medical situation. Don’t take chances, and consult with professionals if ever in doubt.
Becoming a registered herbalist
If herbalism is something you are interested in doing more of, then you may want to pursue professional herbalism training.
While there is no such thing as a nationally or state-recognized herbal certification, there are many options for herbal medicine training—from certificate programs to master’s level degrees. Whatever path you choose to take, look for training programs that are extensive and provide high-quality education in herbalism. The American Herbalists Guild provides this list of education programs to check out if you want to learn more.5 6 7
About Chelsea Clark
Chelsea Clark is a writer and certified health and wellness coach who is passionate about supporting others along their own health journeys. She enjoys helping people make positive, lasting changes so that they can live the happiest, healthiest life possible.
1. “Herbal Medicine.” The Johns Hopkins University, The Johns Hopkins Hospital, and Johns Hopkins Health System. Hopkinsmedicine.org.
2. Falzon, C.C., & A. Balabanova. “Phytotherapy: An Introduction to Herbal Medicine.” Primary Care 44, no. 2 (2017): 217–227.
3. Rashrash, M., J.C. Schommer, & L.M. Brown. “Prevalence and Predictors of Herbal Medicine Use Among Adults in the United States.” Journal of Patient Experience 4, no. 3 (2017): 108–113.
4. “Herbal Medicine.” Medline Plus. Medlineplus.gov.
5. “Herbal Education Schools.” American Herbalists Guild. Americanherbalistsguild.com.
6. “AHG Suggested Education Guidelines.” American Herbalists Guild. Americanherbalistsguild.com.
7. “How to Become an Herbalist: Understanding Herbal Certification.” The Herbal Academy. Theherbalacademy.com.