Apothecary Flashcards: A Pocket Reference Explaining Herbs and Their Medicinal Uses, by Nicola McIntosh
Rockpool Publishing, 1922785776, 42 pages, December 2023
I love learning about herbs, but I am the first to admit I struggle to keep track of all their medicinal properties! Apothecary Flashcards: A Pocket Reference Explaining Herbs and Their Medicinal Uses by Nicole McIntosh is absolutely perfect for staying organized, studying herbs, and looking up quick information. Even better, these cards have images that aid with identifying plants in the natural world.
These cards are 2.5 inches squares that fit easily inside your palm. They come with a ring that you can link through them to make it a flip deck. The rounded corners make it comfortable to hold – no sharp edges here! They are a great size for carrying on-the-go. And the font is a good reading size, whether you hold the cards near or far away from yourself.
McIntosh is an artist, herbalist, and Celtic Shamanism practitioner. She focuses on establishing a deep connection with nature in her work with the aim of spreading peace and love. For those who are interested in learning more about preparing botanicals at home, her book Plant Spirit Medicine is a great resource. Other decks she has published include Mushroom Spirit Oracle, Celtic Spirit Oracle, and Crystal Grid Oracle.
In introduction Apothecary Flashcards, McIntosh writes:
“The world of herbal medicine awaits you, and there you will find a whole apothecary at your fingertips.”1
There are forty herbs in this deck. The front of each card is an image of the herb, while the back of the card has all the pertinent information about it. McIntosh shares the botanical name, part of the herb used for the remedy (root, leaves, stem, etc.), actions of the herb, medicinal uses, and methods it can be prepared for a home remedy. The last piece of information is a caution, sharing advisement about when the herb should not be used.
The action section contains words that might be unfamiliar to some, such as “adaptogen” or “renal tonic”, but luckily, McIntosh had the foresight to include four deck slides, Points to know, defining what the actions do. For instance, adaptogens “help the body deal with stress”, while renal tonic “builds and tones the kidneys.”2 The list of actions is a great way to become familiar with the terms as one studies the impact of herbs on the body.
There is also one card following the Points to know, which is Terms used. These range from aerial parts, “the parts of the plant that grow above the ground”, to UTI, “urinary tract infection”.3 With all of these clarifications, it becomes exceedingly apparent that McIntosh cares about details and want to ensure the information she is convey is accurately understood.
The way the deck is on a ring makes it easy to flip back and forth between the herb card and the action card to look it up. Everything is organized alphabetically: Points to Know, Terms used, and the herbs in the deck.
Recently, I’ve been reading a book about the Melissae, the bee priestesses who oversaw the Eleusinian Mysteries. The author of the book was inspired to learn more about them after becoming curious about the botanical name of Lemon Balm, Melissa officialis, and researching to discover these long-forgotten yet high-ranking priestesses of Ancient Greece. This made me curious to see what McIntosh wrote about medicinal properties of Lemon Balm, so it was the first cared I flipped to in the deck.
From McIntosh, I learned Lemon Balm is antiviral, sedative, diaphoretic, and carminative (you bet your bottom dollar that I was flipping to Points to know for those last two words!). The medicinal uses of Lemon Balm including treating herpes (topically), depression, and IBS (another term defined on the Terms used card). For a home remedies, McIntosh writes it can be infused to make a tea or tincture to take internally or used in a poultice to put direct on skin.
Lemon Balm is surprisingly one of the only herbs that does not have a caution. And for me personally, the cautions are the most important part since herbal remedies can be a hurtful as they are healing if not used properly. For instance, Sage is toxic in large amounts, while Schisandra and quite a few other herbs in the deck are not to be used during pregnancy. Once again, McIntosh is specific, writing “should not be used during the acute phase of an infection/cold”4 for the herb Astragalus.
Overall, Apothecary Flashcards is a wonderful reference when making herbal remedies. The organization and detail make them true time-savers, and their nice size makes them easy to keep on hand or nicely stored in one’s own apothecary. Whether you use them for brushing up on your own knowledge or to identify herbs outside, this deck is a wonderful resource for guidance.
Alanna Kali is an astrologer, numerologist, and pioneer spirit that loves to explore life through the lens of depth psychology. She has a passion for studying the humanities and social trends. Her academic work is centered upon reuniting body, mind, and spirit through eco-psychology. She loves reading, spending time in nature, and travel.