Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Tools of the Trade, Part One: Mortar and Pestle

Nothing makes me feel more like a "true apothecary" than when I'm grinding something up in one of my collection of mortars and pestles. When I'm grinding herbs for cologne making (or cooking) or powdering resins to tincture I feel I connect with centuries of healers and craftsmen. The word mortar is Latin for "receptacle for pounding", and pestle for "pounder". The earliest use of them was found in 1550BC Egyptian papyrus.  The tools became the symbol of the pharmacy as they were originally used in apothecaries and then eventually pharmacies in the making of medicine.  The act of mixing or reducing materials to particle size is called trituration.

These are some that I covet:

This one is actually mine, grinding up benzoin absolute to tincture.


  1. I am right along with you Julianne in this fetish! Your 3rd image down, second one from the left is exactly like the one I once had that was my grandfather's...and will forever feel a dart in the heart every time I look at a mortar & pestle. I have had several others come and go (unfortunate results of living the gypsy life!) but hope to acquire a small flock once again. Thank you for this post! xo

  2. Thanks, Dabney! Sorry to hear you lost such a great old specimen, and your granfather's to boot. By the way, I'm going to the garden later this afternoon to water my plot and check on the violets. One is really struggling and the others are kind of stringy and floppy but since they're still green I'm hopeful they'll recover from their USPS ordeal. Many thanks again, I'll keep you posted.