Using Up Wrapping Paper: Making Herbalist Bottles!

Herbalism is a lovely medicine-making tradition that can be done right in my kitchen, using things I collect in my own backyard, and with minimal amounts of equipment. I’ve read about herbs–grown herbs, collected wild herbs “weeds”–and have even played around with making my own green medicines from my finds.

This past fall I signed up for an herbalist apprenticeship that’s starting in just one month’s time. I am, to say the least, very excited about this so I’ve been experimenting a lot more than usual. I’ve quickly learned that if I want to make more than tea, I really need to get some light blocking bottles. While I love the little blue and brown bottles associated with herbalism, I didn’t want to run out and buy a bunch in bulk of them without knowing how many I will need, what size, if what I’m making will even work, and if I’m really going to stick with herbalism.

The main thing is that they block light so the potency of the herbal concoction won’t degrade as quickly–same principle goes for beer. I can do that. I can block light. Look at all these jars from pickles, curry sauce, and spaghetti laying around plus a huge pile of scraps of wrapping and tissue paper. Perfect. I wouldn’t have thought to use those materials if it wasn’t for Card.Paper.Ribbon. Love how it makes me see a pile of trash in a whole new way.

First I’ll show you how to clean and de-smell your jar (pickles and curry can be quite pungent). Second I’ll show you how to block the light.

Cleaning and De-Smell Saved Food Jars

Pickle jars, spaghetti jars, olive and temari jars. All lovely sizes and shapes to use for a variety of things, all smelly. Here are three ways to remove the odor:

Step One is always to wash your jars with hot soapy water. Not only does this get the big food stuff out, it loosens up the label so you can remove that too.

Method 1: Boiling Water + liquid dish soap + baking soda

  • Fill up a canning pot (or a pot big enough to accommodate your jars + 1 inch of water) with your clean jars and lids and top off with water.
  • Bring to a boil and boil for 25 minutes.
  • Once cool, remove from water bath and rinse one last time.

Method 2: Newspaper

  • Take crumpled newspaper and stuff it in the jars, then let sit for a few days.
  • Remove from the jars, and if they still smell, stuff with newspaper again and let sit a few more days.

I have yet to try this method, in theory it’s supposed to absorb the stray odors like an open box of baking soda. If anything, it’s good to store empty freshly washed jars with newspaper in them so they absorb excess moisture.

Method 3: Boiling Water + liquid dish soap + bleach

This is what I like to use best.

Put a cap full of bleach, a couple drops of liquid dish soap in the jar and then add boiling water. Cover and let sit a few hours. Dump out the solution and rinse really well to remove the bleach and soap residue.

Making Herbalist Jars with Leftover Wrapping Paper

Happily, many gifts were given us this year and they were all wrapped up in delightful papers that were oh so pretty. We had a few wine bottles (saved the corks) and many other jars that I had been saving that were perfect for herb mixtures. Except they didn’t block light. It’s finally time to fix that now that I have a good collection of pretty papers.

::Materials Needed::

  • Wrapping paper and tissue paper scraps
  • craft glue – modge podge works great
  • X-acto knife with a fresh blade
  • Masking tape
  • Sponge brush
  • Yogurt containers – 2 to 3 should do the trick depending on how many colors you are using.
  • Water
  • Acrylic paint
  • Acrylic gloss medium


Step One: Rip up all your wrapping and tissue paper into small pieces.

Step Two: Wrap the masking tape around the threads of the jar and around the very bottom of the jar – like 1/4″ or less up the sides.

Step Three: In the yogurt container, mix one part glue to two parts water.

Step Four: Dip a piece of paper into the glue mixture and press onto the glass with a wiping motion. Repeat until the glass is completely dry. I like to let mine sit over night or for at least 6 hours.

To unify all the mashing colors from the gift paper, we are going to apply a little color. Now one of the jars shown has a two color scheme, another is monochromatic, and the last is all one color.

Step Five: Mix up as many colors as you want to use. Use smaller amounts of paint if you are using more than two colors.

Step Six: Using a sponge or a large round brush, apply the color to the entire jar. Play around with mixing the paint wet on wet as well as letting it dry completely between applying a new color.

Step Seven: Use the x-acto knife to carefully cut away the paper that overlaps the masking tape.

Step Eight: Once the paint is all the way dry–letting it sit a half hour should be enough–use a clean brush to apply a top coat of the gloss medium. Remove the masking tape before the medium dries all the way and dab a little medium along the edge of the paper where it meets the glass. Let dry a few hours. Over night is a good standard.

And that’s it! Because jar is covered in paper, it helps block out light. Because it’s coated in the gel medium, it is water resistant. I’m using mine to store all my dried herbs.

Happy crafting!

One thought on “Using Up Wrapping Paper: Making Herbalist Bottles!

  1. The newspaper method is a miracle. Paper towel works just as well on all but the very strongest (that would be the curry sauce) odors.

    I always store my jars with newspaper or paper towel in them and leave that stuffing in the jar bin when I pull one out to use.

Comments are closed.