RECOMMENDED TOOLS AND SUPPLIES
There are only a few supplies that are essential for this course: one or two good field guide for your region (it’s good to cross-reference) and a hand lens or loupe (see the list for suggestions). The rest of the products listed below are things that we’ve found useful after many years of foraging and making medicine. You are not required to buy them for this course. Depending on your budget and level of interest, you might prefer to get creative and use the items you already have on hand in your kitchen and garden shed.
The ingredients needed to make a specific recipe are listed in the beginning of each recipe, along with any additional special equipment (not found in the general list). You may want to plan ahead at the beginning of each module and decide which recipes you would like to make. You can then acquire all the needed materials for that section. You’ll find a list of suppliers who provide Student Discounts further down on this list.
We don’t receive any compensation for our recommendations. We’re sharing product links for the sole purpose of showing you the intended tool. Please note that in most cases we are not specifying the exact make, model or seller, but rather the general idea of the tool. You may be able to find many of these items locally at a kitchen store, garden supply store, or big box store.
Perks: Student Discounts
You’ll receive 20% off all purchases from Mountain Rose Herbs until November 1, 2018! (See the Suppliers section for details.) They also carry many of these supplies. Depending on your budget and interest, you may opt to get creative and make use of the tools you already have.
If you would like to support a small, woman-owned business in the United States, we recommend Villagers, a mail order and walk-in store located in Asheville, NC and owned by a Chestnut School graduate. They carry medicine making supplies and high quality garden tools. Villagers is offering the following discount for Chestnut School students, good for one year after enrollment 15% off your entire order (this is a one-time discount). (See the Suppliers section for details.)
All new students also receive a 15% discount on the book ‘Foraging and Feasting: A Field Guide and Wild Food Cookbook,’ by Dina Falconi. (See the Suppliers section for details on these and other discounts.) Please see our list of student discounts for more information on these and several other discounts that you receive as a currently enrolled student.
In addition to all of the student discounts, you can also access the classic herbal film Juliette of the Herbs for free! This is the inspiring story of Juliette de Bairacli Levy: herbalist, traveler, author and pioneer of holistic veterinary medicine. Enjoy!
Table of Contents
- Recommended Reading List
- Essential Foraging Tools
- Commonly Used Tools
- Essential Medicine Making Supplies
- Commonly Used Medicine Making Tools
- Tincture Making
- Infused Oils and Salve Making
- Herbal Vinegars
- Student Discounts
- Sources of Bulk Herbs and Medicine Making Supplies
Recommended Reading List
This list represents our favorite books on various topics and is not a required reading list! We do recommend purchasing a few regional field guides, however, to round out the course materials and to help you learn your local flora. You’ll use the field guides in a few of the course assignments, so be sure to acquire them early on in the program.
Essential Foraging Tools
I recommend Felco brand pruners, as they are very high quality, sell blade and spring replacements, and may be sharpened. I have used my pair of Felcos extensively over the past 25 years and they are still in good working order! A holster is indispensable for protecting bags and pockets and keeping pruners in handy reach. If you don’t want to lose your pruners, ALWAYS put them right back in your holster, even if you’re about to use them again right then. Felco pruners come in a wide variety of models. Look for a pair that will reduce hand fatigue and strain. The pruner handles, when fully opened, should not exceed in width your extended grasp. The ones listed above work for most people, but you may want to got to the store and try some out before purchasing, especially if you have large or small hands. You’ll use your pruners to harvest and process plants. Pruners are the tool I use most often when gathering and processing foraged herbs. Sold at some garden centers and online. Here are some more recommendations for pruners from Gardening Products Review, Empress of Dirt, and Rodale Institute.
This tool looks like it sounds. Heavy duty and compact – a sturdy wildcrafting tool and excellent weeding tool. Garden knives cut through most clay soils and can even pry rocks out of the ground. Mine has seen its share of soils across the land and is still strong as ever after 25 years. Again a holster is quite handy and will protect your pack as well as your person. The wooden handled varieties are purported to be stronger than the plastic. Available through seed catalogues and landscaping outfitters as well as some specialty garden centers. Look for models that have a “lip” at the base of the blade to protect your hand if the knife slips (click on the link above to see what we mean). If you have trouble keeping track of a water bottle or keys (you easily misplace objects), you may want to paint the handle red as digging knives blend in with the forest floor and garden beds. See this article for hori-hori reiews: Hori-Hori and Soil Knife Showdown: Reviews of the Best and the Worst.
Excellent for digging roots. This tool has square and sturdy tines, unlike the manure or hay fork which has flat, bendable tines. You can find more affordable options at garden supply centers or big box hardware stores, but remember that you get what you pay for with digging forks, so I wouldn’t go with the cheapest option out there. Here are some recommendations.
A couple different types are useful. Make sure you have at least one long-handled shovel with a pointed blade (as opposed to flat).
- Several 5-Gallon Buckets or Tubtrugs
These can be repurposed food-grade buckets, I like 3 and 5 gallon sizes. Tubtrugs are pliable buckets with handles that can be quite useful for harvesting. They are expensive, but last for a long time.
- Assorted Baskets
It’s helpful to have an assortment of baskets on hand for harvesting plants and drying herbs. You can typically find used baskets in thrift stores. Look for a few baskets that have an open weave (helpful for increasing ventilations when drying loose herbs).
Other Commonly Used Tools
Here are some additional tools that we refer to in various lessons that may be useful. Again, you may already have tools or similar items that can be substituted!
- Hand Lens or Loupe
I highly recommend purchasing a hand lens, also called a jeweler’s loupe—preferably 10x to 20x (10 to 20 times magnification). These nifty little tools have a much higher magnification ability than plain magnifying lenses (the kind used for enlarging print). Many have an LED attached, which is ideal, because the increased lighting makes it much easier to spy on flowers. Available at university bookstores or naturalist stores.
- Sharp Compact Knife
For harvesting medicinal bark. I recommend a good quality larger folding knife or a compact knife with a sheath. A variety of knives can be found at Garrett Wade. Here is a good sized knife for general garden use and stripping bark.
- Heavy-duty Knife
Japanese butchers knife or heavy-duty large knife for chopping tough roots.
- Roots Brush or vegetable cleaning brush with bristles
Essential Medicine Making Tools and Supplies
Many of the tools you need can be improvised from kitchen items you already have on hand. Recycled glass jars of various sizes will suffice for storing most of your preparations, and a few mason jars are great if you have them. If you have a fine mesh strainer for pasta, you can rest this on a funnel and use this for straining. A loose weave cotton T-shirt will do fine for a straining cloth.
You’re not required to buy any of the items listed below, but if you’re really excited about making medicine with all your foraged herbs, these will come in handy!
- Mason jars – Have a variety of sizes on hand: quart, pint, half-pint. Depending on how prolific you are with medicine making, you’ll want 12 to 24 jars. Buy wide mouth jars for easier straining. A few recipes call for half gallon jars, you can substitute two quart jars or buy a case of half gallon jars (these come in cases of 6). Weck jars are fine for storing dried herbs, but use Mason jars for your tinctures, as alcohol will corrode the rubber gasket in weck jars.
- Potato Ricer – we use this for all our herb pressing needs. You can always choose to use your hands for this instead, but this can be irritating, especially when pressing alcohol-based tinctures. We recommend this brand and model (all potato ricers are not equal!): OXO Good Grips Potato Ricer
- Straining cloths – if using cheesecloth, choose one with a tighter weave than is normally sold in stores. Cheesecloth designed for goat cheese works well. You can also use muslin (although this makes for pretty slow straining), cotton gauze fabric, or alternately, a clean, old t-shirt. We recommend having 6 to 10 cloths that are about 15 inches by 15 inches (.38 meters by .38 meters). Keep your oil-straining cloths separate from all other straining cloths.
- Porcelain/ceramic drip coffee funnel – it’s preferable if you can find one with multiple holes, to allow for faster straining. Here’s the one we use.
- Tea strainer – we like the Celestial Tea Strainer, which fits over the rim of your mug or jar, and holds a good quantity of herbs. You can find this strainer and others at Mountain Rose Herbs under Tea Accessories. You can also use a teapot that comes with a fitted strainer; a French press; or make your tea in a pot and use a fine-mesh stainless steel strainer.
- Digital kitchen scale – Here is another item that is super helpful for tincture making, as well as many other techniques. These can be purchased on Amazon for less than $15. Choose one that has a tare function and can convert from metric to standard measurements (i.e. grams, ounces).
- Glass measuring cups, assorted sizes
- Cutting board
- Sharp knife
Commonly Used Medicine Making Tools
We use these for a variety of the recipes, but they’re not essential for most of them, and you don’t need them to earn a certificate.
- Stainless Steel Funnel Strainer – useful tool for straining, but if you have a ceramic coffee strainer and straining cloth, you won’t need it. Easy to clean, handy tool in the kitchen.
- Glass Blender – a handy tool for medicine making, and required for some other projects (poultices, infused oils, tinctures)
- Food processor – you can sometimes get away with using a blender in lieu of a food processor. However, this can be challenging with thicker ingredients, which are harder for a blender to process. (used for goo balls, pesto, salts, and hummus)
- Glass beaker – for mixing and pouring (used for the fine measurements of tincture formulation or for mixing essential oils with carrier oils)
Additional Medicine Making Supplies for Specific Projects
If you’re going to purchase only a few items, we recommend getting some amber glass bottles with polyseal caps and dropper tops for your tinctures. You can find some sources in our Tools and Suppliers list. Be sure to get both polyseal caps and dropper tops.
- Amber glass bottles of various sizes – usually sold as “Boston Rounds.” You may want to buy a handful or two of various sizes, depending on your existing collection and how much tincture-making you plan to do.
- 1 oz (30 ml) bottle with dropper top (add optional polyseal cap for longer term storage)
- 2 oz (60 ml) bottle with dropper top (add optional polyseal cap for longer term storage)
- 4 oz (120 ml) – with both droppers and polyseal caps
- 8 oz (240 ml) –with polyseal caps
- 16 oz (480 ml)- with polyseal caps
Note: polyseal caps are also sold as phenolic cone caps
- Alcohol (see sources under the Suppliers section below)
In the United States, proof is expressed as two times the alcohol by volume (alcohol percentage). For instance, 100-proof Vodka is 50% alcohol and 50 % water. If you live in a country that lists alcohol by volume (ABV): divide proof by two to get the alcohol by volume (ABV) percentage.
When tincturing fresh herbs, we recommend 190-proof, pure grain alcohol (95% ethanol and 5% water). Grape, corn or cane alcohol is preferable for those with gluten intolerance. However, each state or region differs in the types of alcohol sold, and you may not be able to easily purchase 190-proof alcohol. 100-proof Vodka is a good alternative, if you’re not able to find higher percentage alcohol near you. You may also be able to find 151-proof Everclear, if your region doesn’t sell 190-proof ethanol. If you live in the U.S., check this interactive map from Organic Alcohol Co. to find out the regulations in your state. If you want to purchase 190-proof alcohol, you may need to special order high percentage spirits from one of the businesses listed in our Suppliers section below.
The most affordable option is to use the highest proof alcohol that you can find locally. We prefer organic products, but we know that’s not always easy to find or feasible financially. You can still make good medicine with regular vodka! It’s often more cost effective to buy a higher proof alcohol that you can dilute with water as needed (such as when you’re making tinctures with dried herbs that call for a lower percentage of alcohol).
Infused Oils and Salve-Making
- Metal Salve Tins (here’s an example) and/ or Glass salve jars – 1 oz (30 ml) and 2 oz (60 ml).
- Beeswax or beeswax pellets/pastilles – You can buy larger chunks of beeswax which will need to be grated, or you can save yourself the hassle and buy beeswax pellets. Both are available from Mountain Rose Herbs. Start with 1 lb (about 450 g)
- Grater (if not using beeswax pellets) – don’t use your favorite cheese grater here! Have a separate grater that you use only for beeswax. Remember the adage: once for beeswax, always for beeswax!
- Double boiler (or you can fashion one, by nesting a small pot inside a larger one, fitted with Mason jar rings)
- Chopstick for mixing in essential oils, you can use the handle of a spoon instead (optional)
- Glass Blender (optional, but in general a handy tool for medicine making)
- Jars with plastic lid, or metal lid lined with natural wax paper (vinegar corrodes metal)
- Clear swing-top bottles with a rubber gasket, assorted sizes. Can be found at Specialty Bottle or at most kitchen stores.
You can get super fancy with your labels, or you can just use paper and a fine point pen or permanent marker—simple and budget-friendly! Just remember to cover the entire label with clear packing tape so that it doesn’t get smeared if it gets wet.
A good way to label your products is to buy label stickers from an office supply store, label them with a fine-point sharpie marker, and cover with packaging tape. Be sure to cover your labels with clear packaging tape, as alcohol will dissolve ink!
Recommendations for printing waterproof labels (that don’t smudge when exposed to alcohol or essential oils) from our friend Jade Shutes, of the East West School of Aromatic Studies: Online labels, offers an array of sizes and shapes of waterproof labels to fit every type of bottle imaginable. They offer a design program called Maestro, which you can use to create your labels and then print them out at home (be sure to specify inkjet or laser).
Sources of Bulk Herbs and Medicine Making Supplies
Have a look through all the recipes and decide which ones you want to make. Then you can lump your orders together and save on shipping. For instance, you can buy tincture bottles, lotion bottles, and spritzer bottles in one order from the same company.
Organic Alcohol Co. – Sells a number of different kinds of organic alcohol, including grape alcohol for gluten-free tinctures. Currently, 1 gallon of Organic Cane Alcohol costs $104.65 (including taxes). Expect to pay about $50 shipping if you live in the U.S. If you live near Ashland, Oregon, you can pick it up at their facility!
Pharmco – Due to strict governmental regulations, they can only ship their products to a commercial facility, and not to a residence. However, if you start a medicine-making business, this is a great resource.
Catoctin Creek Distilling – organic brandy for flower essences
Specialty Bottle – This might be your one-stop shop for bottles. They have a huge variety, including amber glass Boston rounds with caps and dropper tops for tincture making, swing-top bottles for vinegars, roll-on bottles for facial serum, salve jars and salve tins, and various assorted jars for aromatherapy. Many bottles come with different closures, such as pump tops for lotion. In our experience, their aromatherapy mister bottles don’t work well, and we recommend purchasing these elsewhere. You need to order by phone to special request polyseal/phenolic caps (used to store tinctures), as they’re not listed on the website.
Bulk Ingredients, Tools, and Supplies
Mountain Rose Herbs –20% discount through November 1, 2018
Quality source for bulk ingredients including an abundance of dried herbs, as well as carrier oils and essential oils for body care. They also sell supplies, such as salve tins and beeswax for salve-making; tincture bottles with polyseal/phenolic caps; and various closures such as pump tops for lotions, and misters for aromatherapy sprays.
To use your Mountain Rose Herbs discount:
- Head over to the Mountain Rose Herbs website and start shopping.
- Once you’ve selected all the items you want to purchase, you’ll be taken to their online “Shopping Cart.” At the bottom of the “Shopping Cart” page, you’ll see a box that says “Have a coupon code?” Enter the code MRHsd18he4 here, and then update your cart.
- Once your discount has been applied, you can click the button that says “Checkout.” Please be sure to double check that your discount has been applied BEFORE completing your purchase.
- If you are sending your order by mail, fax, or phone, include the school discount code (MRHsd18he4), and the 20% discount will be deducted accordingly.
Please make sure to include the school code with each online order, as Mountain Rose is not able to apply the discount after the fact or issue a refund if the request comes in after the order is placed.
This code is only valid through enrollment.
Please Note: The 20% student discount is NOT cumulative and may not be included with any other discounts available through Mountain Rose Herbs. This discount may not be used to purchase gift certificates. Your discount expires November 1, 2018. Please mark your calendar accordingly.
Villagers – student discounts for one year after enrollment
Offers high quality tools and supplies, beautiful bottles and jars for gifts. Villagers is a small, woman-owned business, consisting of a mail order and walk-in store located in Asheville, NC and owned by a Chestnut School graduate.
To use your Villager’s discount:
Villagers’ online store is offering the following one-time discount for Chestnut School students, good for one year after enrollment: 15% off your entire order (use code CASTANEA).
Oregon’s Wild Harvest – students get wholesale pricing
Makers of certified organic and biodynamic herbal supplements. Made in small batches. Currently offering Chestnut students wholesale pricing on bulk herbs only.
To get whole sale pricing with Oregon’s Wild Harvest:
Pacific Botanicals – Organic bulk herbs, both dried and fresh; organic seeds
Starwest Botanicals – students get wholesale pricing
Selection of organic bulk herbs and essential oils, beeswax, carrier oils and butters. Ships to U.S. and Canada. They’re offering Chestnut students wholesale pricing. Once you sign up for a wholesale account through Starwest Botanicals, you can continue to use it as long as you would like to, even when you are a Chestnut alum.
How to sign up for a wholesale account with Starwest Botanicals:
Step 1: Go the Starwest Wholesale Website and apply for a Wholesale Account. During the application, please enter “Chestnut Student” for Company Name.
Step 2: Request an enrollment confirmation letter from the school by emailing email@example.com
Step 3: Send your enrollment confirmation letter to firstname.lastname@example.org after you have applied for a wholesale account. Please include the following text in the email: “I have just applied online for a wholesale account as a student of Chestnut School of Herbal Medicine, please find attached my letter confirming that I am a student.”
Frontier Co–op – students can set-up buying clubs and get wholesale pricing
Sells a large selection of organic bulk herbs. They offer a buying club program that we encourage you to take advantage of to enjoy wholesale pricing on Frontier products. Frontier offers a wide variety of items including medicinal herbs, culinary herbs and spices, essential oils, bulk foods, and lots more!
To set-up a buying club with Frontier Co-op:
All you need to do to set up a buying club is to get together a group of at least 5 people that live near you (they can be students at the Chestnut School or your friends and family). Then, designate the primary account holder who will receive the bills and place orders for the group. Your group order will be shipped to the primary account holder and can then be divided up upon delivery. Group orders over $250 will receive free shipping. This is a great way to build community with local herbalists in your area – your delivery day could also be the day of your herbal study group or a group plant walk! Complete Frontier’s online application or call the Customer Service Team at 1-800-669-3275 for more information.
Foraging and Feasting book discount – 15% discount for one month after enrollment
All new students receive a 15% discount on the book Foraging and Feasting: A Field Guide and Wild Food Cookbook by Dina Falconi. Click here to order your copy of Foraging and Feasting, and enter code ChestnutYesNew! at checkout. Please limit to one copy per person, and must be used within one month after enrollment.
Harmonic Arts Botanical Dispensary is offering Chestnut students a 20% off coupon code (September 1, 2018 through August 31, 2019). Use coupon code: “chestnut2018students”
The coupon code is valid on all items with the exception of books, games, and honey. Harmonic Arts ships within Canada and the US only. Orders in Canada over $100 will receive free shipping. They do not offer free shipping to the US at this time.
Herb Growers and Wildcrafters
We recommend supporting local growers whenever possible. To that end, we’ve compiled this list of growers and wildcrafters across the U.S.. We encourage you to seek out local sources, and if you know of any that we should add to this list, please let us know!
Ancestree Herbals – Twisp, WA
Barefoot Botanicals – Doylestown, PA
Blessed Maine Herb Farm – Athens, ME
Black Locust Gardens – Ann Arbor, MI
Crystal Organic Farm – Newborn, GA
Cutting Root Farm and Apothecary – Pittsburgh, PA
Desert Bloom Herbs – Silver City, NM
Flack Family Farm – Fairfield, VT
Friends of the Trees Botanicals – Port Hadlock, WA
Gentle Harmony Farm – Lexington, NC
Healing Spirits Herb Farm – Avoca, NY
Maple Spring Gardens – Cedar Grove, NC
Mountain Gardens – Burnsville, NC
New Mexico Farmacy – Las Lunas, NM
Oregon’s Wild Harvest – Redmond, OR
Oshala Farm – Applegate Valley, OR
Our Friendly Allies – Marshall, NC
Sonoma County Herb Exchange – Sebastopol, CA
Sweet Mountain Top Farm – Carpinteria, California
Understory Apothecary – Olympia, WA
Voyage Botanica – Silver City, NM
Wild Faith Wellness – South Burlington, VT
Will Heal Farm – Cedar, MN
Zack Woods Herb Farm – Hyde Park, VT
Medicinal Mushroom Suppliers
Resources for Purchasing Medicinal Mushrooms
Please note the difference between 1. Fungi and fungal medicine being sold as the mycelium (with the growing medium) and 2. Fungi and fungal products made with the fruiting body (what we commonly think of as a “mushroom”). All the recipes in the course call for the fruiting body and not the mycelium/growing medium. Some of the sellers below offer the mycelium and not the fruiting body.
Mycomedicinals/ Fungi Perfecti – Medicinal mushroom capsules, tinctures, etc., available for sale. Information/studies/scientific papers on medicinal mushrooms.
Mountain Rose Herbs – Bulk organic herbs, spices, and essential oils. Bottles, presses, strainers and infusers, seeds, extracts, books.
Mushroom Harvest – Medicinal mushroom powders, extracts, and capsules. Located in Ohio.
Mushroom Mountain – Mushroom cultivation supplies, classes, instructional video and mycoremediation. Tradd Cotter lives and lectures in the southeast.
Maine Coast Sea Vegetables – Specializes in sustainably harvested seaweeds from the North Atlantic.
Maine Seaweed – Family-owned business. They sell the summer soup mix that we recommend.
Island Herbs – Operated by herbalist Ryan Drum. This is one of the few places you can buy bull kelp, which is used in some of our recipes (he sells it as kelp). He also sells sustainably wild crafted bulk herbs.
Atlantic Holdfast Seaweed Company – Small company working to sustainably harvest and distribute high quality, hand-harvested sea vegetables from the Gulf of Maine.
Ironbound Island Seaweed – Dedicated to the sustainable harvesting of wild seaweeds from the cold, clean waters of the Schoodic Peninsula and surrounding islands of eastern Maine.
Naturespirit Herbs – Sea vegetables, seaweed capsules, wildcrafted herbs, and herbal extracts.
Many of these suggestions came from our students. We will continually expand this list, so please email sara@chestnutherbs if you know of a resource not listed here. Thanks for your help!
Voyageur Soap and Candle Company – has lots bulk herbs, some organic options; offers several organic carrier oils and butters, essential oils
Harmonic Arts Botanical Dispensary – bulk herbs and mushrooms, many organic options
Judy’s Organic Herbs – bulk herbs from a 24-acre organic herb farm in the historic Ottawa Valley in Ontario, Canada.
Rebel Roots Herb Farm – small family farm growing quality medicinal herbs in Grey County, Ontario
Organic Herb Trading Co. – bulk herbs and essential oils, many organic options; minimum order is 1 kg (.5 lb), orders must be placed by phone or email
Baldwin and Co. – bulk herbs, body butters, beeswax; some organic options; storefront in London, ships to U.K. and beyond
Woodland Herbs – bulk herbs, body butter, and beeswax, not certified organic; sells jars and bottles with various lids: pump, spritzer (no polyseal caps)
Austral Herbs – bulk herbs, many organic options
Herb Cottage – bulk herbs, organic culinary herbs; various bottles and jars; and they sell medicinal plants for your garden!
New Directions Australia – dried herbs in 100g package or more (not organic); organic beeswax and butters; amber brown glass bottles; glass jars and salve tins; essential oils; carrier oils
Escentials of Australia – carrier oils; essential oils; some bottles and jars
Suncoast Plantations – organic carrier oils; organic essential oil; small selection of organic herbs; organic butters; organic beeswax
Auroma – essential oils (some organic); organic carrier oils and butters; organic beeswax; amber glass bottles; glass jars; spray bottles for aromatherapy spritzers
All Rare Herbs – large selection of dried herbs, seeds, and live plants
Ozfarmer – Ball Mason jars; Weck jars; fermenting and canning supplies
Pack My Product – great prices on a wide array of bottles, jars and tins
Distillery King – 190-proof grain alcohol
*still looking for a source of organic 95% alcohol in Australia; email email@example.com if you know of any!
Visit the school’s links page for even more botanical resources and suppliers!