Using Herbs: How To Store Herbs

How To Store Herbs | Growing Up Herbal | In order for herbs to work they must be stored properly. Learn how what that means here.

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.

Fresh Herbs

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

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.

Powdered Herbs

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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  1. Michelle says:

    Do you recommend the freezer for dried herbs at all, or just a dry, dark, cool cabinet?

    • Meagan says:

      You can definitely store herbs in the freezer if you want and if you have the room Michelle, but a dry, dark, cool cabinet will work as well. The only time I use my freezer is if I’m making a large batch of something that has fresh herbs in it or if I have powdered herbs to store. Thanks for your comment!

    • Fox says:

      Just be careful with freezer storage that your container is absolutely sealed. Especially when you take it out until it’s at room temp. If any moisture gets in you can end up with mold 🙁

      • Meagan says:

        Interesting, Fox. Thanks for sharing! I wonder why opening freezer containers while they’re cold will pull more moisture into the plant material and room temperature herbs don’t do that. I’d love to hear your thoughts on that!

  2. Jill@JillsHomeRemedies says:

    My favorite way to store herbs in glass jars. I’m trying to get all of mine switched over to glass. It seems like the herbs stay fresh longer when I store them in glass.

    • Meagan says:

      Same here Jill. My herb closet is full of glass jars, but I have tons of herbs sitting in their plastic shipping bags because there’s no more room in my closet! I need to start using them up! LOL!

  3. Shelia Tate says:

    My mother in law is giving me a lot of dry herbs and I am storing them in a cool place. In this way they last longer time and keep them fresh.

  4. Chelsey says:

    Thanks for the great info! It’s always disappointing to store an herb and go to use it later to find it molded on you! Haha patience in drying is key 🙂 Love your site!

    • Meagan says:

      Yes, Chelsey!! It does take patience to dry them. It’s definitely frustrating to find them molded after all the effort you’ve gone through in drying them. It’s definitely worth taking your time and doing it right the first time. Thanks for your comment!

  5. Colleen says:

    Meagan, do the containers need to be air tight? I’m getting ready to buy some glass for my herbs but canning jars are too small for most of what I have so I need to get larger glass containers. I’m having problems finding containers that seal. Also, I’ve been in a number of apothecary’s and they store in glass out in the open. How much does light actually affect the storage time?

    • Meagan says:

      The more air tight your jars are, the better. With that said, they don’t necessarily have to seal. I use cleaned pickle jars for some of my herbs. It’s not a complete seal, but it does keep air from the herbs. And as far as storing the glass jars out in the open goes… most apothecarys do that for looks and because they go through their herbs fairly quickly. Most herbalists agree that the more you can keep your herbs from light, heat, and oxygen, the longer they will stay fresh and retain their properties. For example, if you keep some herbal tea blends on an open shelf in your kitchen, they’ll still work for quite a while, but their properties will slowly wane the longer the light hits them. Most people put them in a cabinet, a closet, in dark jars or bags, or behind a curtain. Hope that helps!

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  7. Carolyn says:

    When you say to store herbs in a cool place, can you give me a temperature range that is considered acceptable?

  8. Kelly says:

    I’m concerned about my herbs lasting due to heat during shipping and even storage in my house as my thermostat is often at 80 degrees even though they’re store in a cupboard. Also I had a pound of Essiac tea while I lived n my RV for a year which sometimes got pretty toasty. Finally, when I ordered 2 pounds of herb recently it got shipped fast but USPS left it out all day in 100 degree temps and they aleays deliver hot packages. I understand this is a problem for stores as well which makes me wonder if you can ever really get fresh quality herbs at all in spring and summer months, especially here in Arizona! Great site.

    • Meagan Visser says:

      Hmm… 80 degrees should be just fine. I know many herbalists recommend keeping herbs below 100 degrees so the temperature in your house shouldn’t be a problem. I’d say, if you’ve ordered herbs online and are expecting them within the week, to try to stay close to home so they aren’t left sitting in the heat for long periods of time. As for the stores, every store will be different. Some purchase their herbs from local herb suppliers while others order them from bulk herb suppliers online. Either way, hopefully, they’re purchasing herbs from high-quality sources and storing them properly once they get them. You can always ask how an herb store in your area sources their herbs and how they handle quality control. Hope this helps, Kelly, and thanks for the comment.

  9. Cathy says:

    Question on drying medicinal herbs. No one ever says how long. Is a week on an open cookie sheet long enough? Or should I dry in oven on low heat? I just don’t want mold and some of my herbs are drying differently. Exp: some of my chamomile blossoms still look like dried flowers … other batch which I dried in 140 degree oven looks brown. I guess what I’m asking is how long is normal drying time for medicinal herbs and flowers? And are plastic air tight containers ok to use or do I need glass jars? Thanks.

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  11. Lindsey says:

    I had been storing all of my herbs in glass jars in a large walk-in pantry but we’ve recently moved and the only place I have available is a closet. When I go to grab the jars I need, they feel extremely warm so we’re searching for an alternative. We get no direct sunlight in any room and the dining nook for our current apartment is in the center of the apartment. We’re considering building shelves in the dinning alcove to house my jars. I’m wondering if I should always create a curtain system to keep the lights from the kitchen area from getting to them? I’m very new to herbs so excuse me if that sounds like a silly question.

    • Meagan Visser says:

      Hey, Lindsey. Great question! Over time, light has a degrading effect on herbs, making them less potent, so it’s important to protect dried herbs, especially large volumes of dried herbs, from light. You can do that with a curtain. You can also wrap your jars in brown craft paper or some other type of decorative paper to block the light. Hope that helps to answer your question!

  12. Hope Andersen says:

    I purchased some bulk dried herbs Fall 2020. I still have large amounts left since I didn’t do what I had planned when I purchased them. Would you still use them for making herbal preparations even though they may not have their full potency? Here is a list of what I have- Lemon balm, Lemongrass, Sage Leaf, Marshmallow root, Burdock root, Basil. Thank you!

    • Meagan Visser says:

      Yeah, if you’ve stored them properly, they should be fine. Harder herbs like the marshmallow root and burdock root will probably be good for 2 years, but the softer herbs (leaves and flowers) will lose their vitality sooner. You could simply double up on the amount called for when using them this next year. Hope that helps!

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