Research & Writing

The Art of Apothecary Design

The more time I spend in the apothecary, the more I begin to notice its structures and patterns as a system. And the more I muse about apothecary and medicine design itself. So I began diagraming the parts and particulars of my apothecary.

For example, let’s look at the tools:

  • scale
  • press
  • strainers
  • jars (storage)
  • stove
  • refrigerator

…and all the energetic functions they represent. That’s one layer.

Now the materials:

  • alcohol
  • oil
  • water
  • honey
  • …and the plant bodies themselves (not just physical)

Now the list of the preparations most commonly made:

  • frozen herbs
  • dried herbs
  • tinctures
  • flower essences
  • syrups
  • honeys
  • infused oils
  • water extractions (teas/decoctions)

So there are the subsequent layers. I also had to look at plants’ origins:

  • locally wildcrafted,
  • cultivated in my garden,
  • purchased at the herb shop (or ordered from Oregon).

And the plants themselves can be analyzed in a number of ways…we did origins above, but we can look at part, gathering place, what preparation, celestial influences, etc.

With these basic components in place, we can get a brief picture of if and how the apothecary and a medicine practice can be a microcosm of the all-giving Whole. Does it create a vortex by which a person can obtain healing?

So, I ask: does this system increase resilience in the people that interact with it? That’s where the design portion comes in. If there are gaps or imbalances in the structure, they would inhibit the overall energy flow. In most traditional apothecary designs, I do see some gaps. Firstly, medicine preparation primarily centers on extracting constituents from plants. I’d like to explore other motions.

And then we can look at where the person/patient fits into this. What are the interacts of body systems and disease when they interact with this system? What are the systems’ capabilities of dealing with different constitutions? Where is this person “from”, and where is the plant they’re interacting with “from”? All these delicate complexities. And this is where the art portion comes in–flexing those boundaries.

About Author

Renée A. Davis MA RH is a designer and educator in botanical and mycological medicine. Her training began at the Pratt Institute of Art and Design in New York City and concluded in biomedical sciences at the University of Washington. She currently directs research and development for a nutraceutical mushroom company in the Pacific Northwest.

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