What Is an Apothecary?

What Is an Apothecary?

Apothecary has a very intriguing ring to it.

You might associate the term with a crystal shop or a place that sells plants.


Apothecaries have been around for thousands of years, but were the most popular during mid-evil times.They eventually faded out in the 19th century as changes in medicine and the structure of society came about.


What Is an Apothecary?


In the past, the word “apothecary” had two meanings: (1) a person who prepared and sold medicines or (2) the shop in which they sold their products, similar to a pharmacy.


Apothecaries were skilled and educated in making, compounding, and dosing a wide variety of medicines, usually formulated from herbs and other natural ingredients.


In early history, they played the role of both doctor and pharmacist. People would come into their shop and tell them of an illness, injury, or imbalance. The apothecary would then make a diagnosis and recommendation and mix up the medicine for their customer.

What is an apothecary?

Most apothecaries learned their trade by apprenticing to an established apothecary for many years. They had to learn many different skills: correctly identifying and harvesting plants, making medicinal preparations, formulating the correct dosages for different people, diagnosing symptoms, etc.


At one point in time, the local apothecary was a vital piece of every town and city.

“Apothecary” also came to refer to the shops owned by apothecaries where medicines and other products were sold such as natural products, loose tea, etc.


You can think of them as precursors to modern pharmacies such as CVS and Walgreens. You could go to them to buy prepared medicines but also spices, herbs, cosmetics, soaps, etc.


Evolution of Apothecaries


Starting in the 1700s, some apothecary shops became attached to hospitals and other medical places. This was the beginning of a shift from apothecaries functioning as both doctors and pharmacists to more of a pharmacist-only role.


Another shift occurred in the 1800s when patented medicine (including natural medicines) came about along with the advent of the traveling salesman.


Medicine gradually shifted towards using isolated compounds from plants that were eventually reproduced synthetically in labs. Medicinal preparations largely became standardized and pre-packaged.


Modern Apothecaries


Today, you can still find shops with the name “apothecary”, although it’s much more difficult to find someone who calls themselves a professional apothecary.

What is an apothecary?

With the resurgence of herbal remedies and alternative medicine, apothecaries have once again become a place where you can buy herbs, loose tea, herbal preparations, natural products, and more. Some have gone online and become larger versions of the original. Others remain as small, local shops.


Apothecary owners are usually very knowledgeable about herbs and their use, often formulating their own products. You can learn a lot of information from them and get recommendations for different herbs to use and what to do with them (just not medical advice).


Many apothecary shops and owners also have a focus on environmental care, whether that’s selling organic ingredients or reducing waste and their carbon footprint.


Roots Holistic Apothecary


Roots Holistic Apothecary is based in Houston, TX.


We offer a variety of herbs, herbal tea blends, natural products, and more! All of our herbs are certified organic or ethically wildcrafted, and we believe in following a zero waste model.

If you’re local, come shop with us in person! Our pop-up shop schedule is posted on our Instagram weekly so make sure you are following us there! (Click here to follow)

Not local? You can shop our products online for herbal support through mensuration, natural body products, aromatherapy candles, and more. Our goal is to be your one stop for all of your spiritual and holistic self-care necessities.