When Man’s Warehouse is Bare

Before Christmas, I posted about Nature’s cupboards being bare; something I wanted and needed to harvest wasn’t available to me. This time it’s something far closer to home for many; suppliers being out of stock.

Perhas it’s the time of year, at the tail end of winter before the new season, but every supplier I have looked at for a recent herb order has been out of stock of something on my list. Even splitting my order across three small companies, I still wasn’t able to get my hands on two things I wanted.

Angelica Roots Decocting

Angelica roots decocting on the Aga…

So, today I’ve had to improvise.

I find myself sitting up, into the night with a pan of roots simmering away happily on the Aga, and a bowl of leaves infusing gently in the bottom oven (about 70 degrees centigrade, cooler than simmering). I will use the resultant strong decoction and infusion, stabilised with a little alcohol as a quick alternative to a macerated tincture; although I will likely add most of what I’ve made to a maceration jar to get a stronger product at the end of the process.

Stellaria Infusing

Stellaria Infusing in hot water – out of the oven (It will be in a cool oven for 2 – 3 hours, sub boiling temperature)

So I find myself musing again on the availability of the core ingredients of my profession; the herbs themself. It is convenient to be able to just buy in from a catalogue, but what happens when that ease isn’t available to us? I consider myself blessed to have the skills to improvise in this way, while being able to verify the quality of what I have made. But does everyone?

I actually find myself in the middle of writing about this for another project – and this experience has encouraged me to add to this project a section on resilience in our practice and how medicine making is the first step to ensuring we always have access to the ingredients we need. It is something we can also do to save money. Not that this is a motivation today; it’s time I need to save in getting the medicines I need. Lastly it also keeps us up to speed on our pharmaceutical skills.

I keep saying it, and will say it again. Making things ourselves is how we stay resilient in a world that in many ways is loaded against us. You can’t outlaw or take away the tools, skills, and growing plants that make our medicines. It is our duty as herbalists to be the gaurdian of these skills – and indeed plants – to ensure that they are available to our profession for a very long time to come.

Categories: Reflections, Thoughts From the Herbary

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