Herbs are plants with living, active, vital properties, and as soon as the plant is harvested, it starts to die and so does everything in it. Luckily there are ways to preserve the plant so that it can be stored and used later. However, you have to store the preserved plant materials so that there’s no further loss of nutrition or therapeutic benefit. That way, when you go to use it later on, there’s as much nutrition available to you as possible.
How To Store Herbs
The number one rule to storing herbs in a way that preserves as much of their beneficial properties as possible is to store them in a cool, dark, dry place.
Moisture will cause herbs to mold, and light and heat will further diminish the health benefits they have.
When not using fresh herbs immediately (whether in foods or in herbal preparations), they can be stored for a short time in the refrigerator. Flowers and tops will last 2-3 days, while bark and roots will stay good for 2-3 weeks. Be sure to store fresh herbs in labeled bags or jars and use them quickly.
Dried herbs can last anywhere from 2-4 years if stored properly depending upon the type of herb. However, they are best used within 1 year for maximum potency. This is one reason why it’s important to not buy more of an herb than you will use in one year’s time.
When it comes to dried herbs, if you’re drying herbs yourself, make sure they are completely dry, or they will mold in storage and be ruined. Store them in air-tight glass jars or plastic bags in a cool, dark, and dry spot.
Delicate herbs, such as flowers or leaves, won’t last as long as seeds or roots. Herbs high in volatile oils, such as peppermint and chamomile, will lose their freshness sooner than herbs without a lot of volatile oils, like oat straw or plantain. Each of these factors will affect the shelf-life of your dried plant material.
Once herbs are powdered, they will lose their freshness fairly quickly. Powdered herbs are best stored in glass jars, wrapped in newspaper or some other opaque paper, and stored in the freezer or refrigerator. Powdered herbs have a shelf-life of 6 months, but I personally would use them within 3 months.
Storing Herbal Preparations
Once you’ve used your herbs in your own formulations, whether it’s a salve or a tincture, you still need to remember to store your preparation so that it will last.
Remember, cool, dark, and dry is always best no matter what type of preparation it is. This is because the longer your preparation is exposed to heat or light, the quicker the properties in it will break down.
I’ll be sharing storage times for the different herbal preparations in the coming posts. Stay tuned!
Do you have any questions or comments on storing herbs? If so, ask in the comment section below.
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