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Beginner Herbalist: Sourcing Your Supplies | Where to Buy Herbs and Tools

When I first began my journey into herbalism, I would often try to find my herbs in whole food stores and in the tea aisle of my local target. While these first steps were in the right direction, they often provided very little material and were expensive. Aside from the economical value I was getting, I was unsure how medicinally viable my supplies were, and questioned whether or not I was making the right choice when buying my ingredients. Luckily, after joining herbal communities and doing research of my own, I found some amazing suppliers that provide quality herbs for a very fair price. These are my favourite places to recommend when people ask me where to herbs and tools! I hope this helps you make confident decisions when supplying your very own at-home apothecary.

A quick note: while foraging is an amazing way to stock up on herbs that may be growing around you, I understand that it can sometimes be dangerous! Not knowing what’s been sprayed on a wild plant is a definite downside to modern living. This post does not discuss foraging, but an upcoming post will! For now, enjoy these resources!

Before I get started, I wanted to let you know that I have amazon affiliate links in this post. I would never recommend something I didn’t think would be useful or good for making the best medicine. If you make a purchase using one of the affiliate links, I may earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. I don’t charge for any of my content, which is why I use affiliate links! I appreciate all the support I may receive from these links!

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In-Person

  • Local herb shops can be great places to buy herbs and tools in your area. You don’t have to worry about the cost of shipping, you’re supporting a small, local business, and you can communicate with the staff directly. If you have a shop nearby, stop and take a look. Ask where they source their supplies, and get to know the shop and what it carries. A reputable herb shop will be more than happy to explain where they source their herbs, how they’re grown, and exactly what’s in all of their products. I wouldn’t expect any cashier to have all of this information at the drop of a hat, but you should be able to get it by contacting the owner directly. Many herb shops are owned and operated by a very small team, making it easy to get to know the company and its practices. Along with herbs, you may find a friend or two in the staff and customers you meet!
  • Traditional Medicinals is a tea and supplement company operated and formulated by self-proclaimed “herb nerds”. While formulating your own teas can be rewarding, sometimes it’s nice to have a well-balanced, flavorful cup without worrying about making it just right. Several of their blends have become staples in the homes of herbalists around the world, including “Smooth Move”, “Throat Coat”, and “Breathe Easy”. When you want to have a few quick remedies on hand, but aren’t sure what you should be using, Traditional Medicinals is a good brand to start with. They use quality herbs that you can trust. I have found this brand in several grocery stores, but you can also shop with them directly or on amazon.

A Few Tips for In-Person Shopping

  • A Note on Teas: most tea brands focus on flavour rather than medicinal value. Typically, the flowers and leaves of a given herb are used in teas; they usually provide the best flavour! That said, they sometimes aren’t the best source of medicine (it all depends on the herb). This doesn’t mean your tea is completely useless, it just means you may find it less beneficial than a brand that focuses strictly on making potent blends for health! However, you should always use what you have, something is better than nothing.
  • Deciding on a Brand: Some bulk food stores such as Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, and Fresh Thyme make accessing some herbs simple. When it comes to purchasing from these stores, it’s best to research each company and brand individually! It can be harder to find information from a real person with these bigger businesses, but they should all have this information located somewhere on their websites. Private labelled products tend to be the least consistent in my experience, in both manufacturing practices and the actual product.
  • A good rule of thumb for in-person shopping is to check the price; unfortunately, price tends to reflect an herb’s quality and/or quantity. This can change if the quantity is more of a bulk supply, or if a local grower has an abundant harvest and wants to pass on their good fortune, but in most big box stores, cheap herbs = cheap quality or a small amount. By buying in bulk, you can lower the overall cost of your supplies! I recommend going in on a few bulk herbs with some friends who are also herbalists. You’ll save money and get a better variety of herbs to use!

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Online Shopping

Shopping online has become my go-to for most herbs and supplies. Unfortunately, I have a very hard time sourcing ingredients locally. If this is also the case for you, you may find some of these shops useful! I will note it’s easier to buy in bulk online, and there tends to be less of a market for small quantities.

  • Frontier Co-Op provides herbalists with both bulk and retail sized items. I tend to check here for smaller quantities of herbs! You can find them on Amazon, or on their own site here!
  • Starwest Botanicals is a brand I have been using and loving for quite a while! I have enjoyed every purchase I’ve made from them! I tend to shop here when looking for one or two herbs in bulk, and don’t want to have to pay for shipping. You can find them on Amazon, or on their own site here!
  • Mountain Rose Herbs is probably my favourite brand for bulk herbs. The packaging is secure, and they sell their products in a variety of sizes. When I want several herbs in bulk, this is the first place I check! They do not have an amazon store, which means you have to pay for shipping. However, I have had great experiences with the herbs I have purchased from them, and do recommend checking them out! This is their site. They also sell books, oils, containers, seeds, and more!
  • Bulk Apothecary is a great site for anyone interested in making cosmetics, salves, or other topical products. They sell a variety of oils, herbs, and containers on their site! They do not have an amazon account, which means you must account for the price of shipping when making a purchase. I buy most of my soapmaking supplies from Bulk Apothecary!
  • Wholesale Supplies Plus is another bulk site focusing on raw materials for cosmetic production. They sell oils, emulsifiers, herbs, and more! This is definitely a spot I use when looking for lotion and salve ingredients. They don’t have an amazon account, so take shipping into account here, too! This is their site!
  • Etsy is full of individual sellers. Each one has a different location, set of products, price, and manufacturing process. I’ve used a few etsy sellers when sourcing herbs with wonderful experiences! I recommend asking the sellers directly if you have questions about their growing/acquiring processes, since each person will have a different circumstance! As an etsy seller myself, I understand that many people running these shops are small businesses, and supporting them makes a difference!

Sourcing Tools and Other Materials

When looking for things like coffee grinders, mortar and pestles, capsuling machines, cloth bags, etc., thrifting sites are my go-to. Generally, if I can’t find something I already own to replace a specialized tool, these are the shops and sites I check:

  • In-person thrift stores are gold mines for appliances! I got my cute little purple crockpot there, and often see blenders, food processors, double boilers, and coffee grinders there. If you have a thrift store nearby, periodically check its appliances section for tools and supplies! Food dehydrators, pots for gardening, jars, etc. can all be used secondhand. You never know what may end up in a thrift store!
  • Ebay is a collective shopping site with sellers all over the world. You can find both used and new tools here. I usually check here when my other options don’t turn up any results, or when I am looking or a specific model appliance, especially older versions.
  • Mercari is an online second-hand shop with thousands of sellers. Like Ebay, anyone can list their items, but it’s more similar to poshmark in terms of how it looks and how the interface feels. You can find herbal tools like jars, storage containers, and many appliances. I have bought many things over the years using mercari, and have had some awesome experiences! I got my mortar and pestle here, for example!
  • Etsy, as mentioned before, is a great spot for herbalists. Sometimes I head over to etsy for fancy tools or for simple things like soap cutting guides. If you want to treat yourself to something nice, etsy probably has a beautiful option for you! Handmade spoons for measuring herbs, beautifully decorated ceramicware… it’s handmade eye candy! I sell my soaps, salves, and soaks on etsy, too!
  • Amazon is, of course, an online superstore. If I can’t find an item in person (new or secondhand), or through other online stores, I turn to amazon. When using amazon, I try to purchase from smaller businesses where I can and limit my use of the site to what I really can’t find. I also find that by using their used items tab on many listings, I can “rescue” perfectly good products that have either been slightly damaged (cosmetically) or are used. They’re usually also significantly cheaper! I usually buy things like straining cloth or jars that I plan to fill with a sellable product here, too. It makes it easier to replenish my stock if I know exactly where to get it everytime!

All of these shops, brands, and ideas are not your only options when shopping for herbal supplies, but they can certainly get you started! Do you have a favourite I left out? Let me know in the comments, and please like and share this post if you enjoyed it!

If you want to explore more beginner herbalist posts, check out my page full of resources for beginners!

Thanks for reading! I’ll see you soon, in the next post.

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