Back in the olden days (and even in the not-so-olden past and present homesteading days), a stillroom was a necessity in every rural home. This was a designated space (think a modern-day pantry of sorts) which housed herbs, jars, recipe books, tinctures, teas, and preserving agents (like alcohol, honey, and vinegar). This room was where the woman of the house (yes, most often it was the woman) created cosmetics, home brews, preserves, and a year’s worth (at least) of herby medicinals. Can you imagine?
Intrigued yet? I certainly was. I figure everyone who has any intention of making his or her own remedies should probably have a stillroom of his or her own. Don’t have an extra, conveniently empty room off your kitchen? Meh, not a problem. Your stillroom can be a designated cupboard, a set of shelves, or even an outdoor building (when I lived in Maine, mine was in the old ice house on the property). Really, the only thing you need are herbs, supplies, and recipes, all housed in one convenient location.
Begin with a bit of research and observation; what herbs do you use or buy on a regular basis? For me, that’s got to be chamomile, echinacea, a variety of mints, rose petals, rose hips, elderberries, nettles, turmeric, and marshmallow root. So, first, I cleared an old bookshelf and placed it against an empty wall. Then, I grew and dried those herbs, or ordered in bulk if I needed them right away. If you don’t have space to grow that quantity of herbs, ordering in bulk is a great, affordable alternative.
Next, I stocked my “menstruums” (or the fluid in which herbs are preserved, then strained from, necessary in tincture making). I gathered grain alcohol (it’s 190 proof — by far the best, most efficient preservative), apple cider vinegar, honey, and glycerin (all three are perfect as alcohol-free preservatives). I like to label everything in my own hand, so I usually decant these liquids into interesting/recycled/upcycled containers and create labels on my computer, marking the date they were bottled. Same goes for bulk herbs; they’ll arrive in plastic bags, but the sooner you can get them into glass, the better. Oh, and be sure to use tinted glass in blue or amber if your herbs are exposed to sunlight.
It takes time and experience to gather everything you need together. Begin with a few herbs and a few tea recipes…
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