Apothecary is a series focusing on natural remedies produced or grown wild in local habitats. Influences come from family and Indigenous practices centered on improving physical, mental health, and well being.
If you are fascinated with apothecaries, this post explores a brief history of the profession followed by my evolutionary involvement with herbalism. We dive into a summary of the local Indigenous tribes’ influence and conclude with five easy ways to build your apothecary.
Apothecary Facts and History
The word apothecary is enjoyable to speak aloud, and the definition is quite simple — a person who prepared and sold medicines and drugs. Before we had modern-day pharmacies and pharmacists, we had apothecaries. Apothecary shops sold medication and herbal remedies derived from natural compounds.
The role of an Apothecary evolved over the centuries, and according to the blog site Petticoats and Pistols:
By the mid-sixteenth century, apothecaries in England had become the equivalent of today’s pharmacists, measuring and dispensing medicine. Some apothecaries had formal college training in medicine, some learned as apprentices. Whatever the case, folks considered them a godsend.
The apothecary created and sold unregulated medicine based on trial and error from experimenting with compounds from the natural world with the human body. The system changed during the industrial revolution and the dawn of the 20th century creating the rise of pharmaceutical companies producing mass medicine for the local pharmacies to sell and pharmacists to dispense medication to customers.
Personal Evolutionary Interest
As a child, I recall fond long walks with my Mom; collecting rose petals and sumac fruits. We often returned from our stroll and made fresh herbal tea from our discoveries, with Mom passing down her knowledge of the many health benefits to me. Growing up, I had a fascination with old apothecary jars and grew a substantial collection, which I still possess today.
In my twenties and thirties, I became self-absorbed with dating, corporate life, and became far removed from my original roots. A disconnection occurred with the natural world; the absence existed in the foreground and subconsciously. When in my early forties, I moved to New York City solo without having a social circle; what became evident was a lack of hobbies in my life.
When the pandemic started, I moved from downtown Toronto to the south shore of Rice Lake, southern Ontario, returning to the wilderness. Now, my mom, Sheila, and I are reunited under the same roof where I have the luxury of rediscovering the old passion of building an apothecary combined with the time to research and converse. Sheila, by now, has amassed a large body of knowledge in the field of herbalism. We continue our woods walk, select plants, discuss, dry, and store our wares in a combined effort.
Our family is fortunate to live close to the Alderville Indigenous reservation for the Ojibway people. Britannica.com describes the people as:
Algonquian-speaking North American Indian tribe who lived in what are now Ontario and Manitoba, Canada, and Minnesota and North Dakota, U.S., from Lake Huron westward onto the Plains.
Wikipedia.com portrays the Ojibway tribe to be known for their:
birch bark canoes, birch bark scrolls, mining and trade in copper, as well as their cultivation of wild rice and maple syrup.
With their deep connection to the land and rich oral and documented history, an incredible amount of knowledge about herbalism and natural health remedies is preserved within the Ojibway tribe and continues to flourish today. My Mom, a naturally curious woman, spends a wealth of her time connected in the local indigenous community and continues to learn from the Ojibway traditions, passing the knowledge to me.
5 Easy Steps to Build an Apothecary
- Start small. Focus your attention on what vegetation is naturally grown in your area. Research plants via Google. Consult your local Indigenous Elders and request resources.
- Beware of pesticides. You do not want to pick plants or bark beside a field sprayed with Round-Up or any other poisonous substance; the long term repercussions may be harmful to your health.
- Hang plants upside down to dry in a cool location. Before hanging, shake out any bugs or loose content.
- To make a powder out of dried herbs and vegetation, consider using a coffee grinder for fast and efficient results.
- Store your contents in glass sealable jars or non-BPA plastic containers to ensure freshness and longevity. Keep your wares in a cool, dry space such as a pantry or basement.
Coupled with my passion for coaching and psychotherapy, I am fascinated with the power of plants as a means to transform our physical and mental health. North American society is, for the most part, focused on the “quick fix”, turning too often to pharmaceuticals to remove physical and emotional pain as opposed to ‘doing the work’ and discovering the real underlying root causes. When we combine the benefits of plants for our health and well being, there are opportunities to reduce pre-existing medical conditions and shift the perspective to long term prevention of humanity’s most common ailments.
Credit to my Mom, Sheila Beasley, who continues to teach me the wonders and bounties of our natural world, a life long learner of the incredible health benefits sitting outside our doorstep.