Gathering, Drying and Storage of HerbsNatural Supplements & Herbs
Collect herbs in clear, dry weather and in the morning, after the dew has disappeared.
Leaves: Gather the leaves as soon as fully matured, just before the flowers appear, just before they fade, or at the maturing of the fruit. (Biennials do not perfect their leaves until the second year.)
Stems: Cut herbaceous stems after the foliage appears, but before the blossoms develop. Cut ligneous (woody) stems in the autumn, after the foliage falls.
Stalks: Collect stalks in the autumn.
Twigs: Collect twigs in the autumn.
Bulbs: Gather bulbs after the new bulb is developed, just before the leaves decay.
Rhizomes and roots: Gather the roots of annual plants just before they flower. Gather the roots of biennial plants soon after the leaves have fallen in the autumn of the first year. Gather the roots of perennials in the autumn, after the leaves and flowers have fallen, or in the spring, before vegetation begins.
Barks: Gather barks in the spring, before flowering season begins, or in the fall, after the foliage has fallen. Separate and discard all decaying matter. Only use the inner bark of the slippery elm.
Flowers: Gather flowers when they are about to open from the bud. But if it is the buds that you want, gather the buds when they are nicely formed.
Berries, fruits, and seeds: Gather them when they are fully mature and ripe.
Aromatic plants: Peppermint, spearmint, pennyroyal, etc., are best gathered after the flowers are formed and nearly ready to open. Gather them in dry weather.
How to Dry: Dry the various herb materials in a clean room which has no dust, away from sunlight and where it is not too hot or cold. Do not dry them too fast; for too much heat spoils the herbs.
Guard them from mold: In order to protect them from becoming moldy, turn them occasionally; so no mold will form. Or hang the herbs, so they dry equally throughout.
Leaves: Dry aromatic leaves in the shade. Then place in the sun a short time to prevent fungus. Unscented leaves may be dried in the sunlight; but it is best to dry them in an airy, dry place.
Flowers: The strength of the flower can be judged by the intensity of its color; so dry flowers carefully, but rapidly, in order to preserve the color. Give special care to flowers which have volatile oils. Spread the flowers loosely on white paper (although some can be tied in loose bunches and hung with a string from a rafter, etc., in an airy room). Dry the flowers only in the shade; but place them in the sun a brief time, to prevent fungus growth.
Plants and tops: If the plants are not too juicy, they may be strung in bunches across the top of an airy, dry room.
Bulbs: Peel off the outer membranes. Then cut the bulbs into transverse (straight across) slices, each about ½-inch in length. Stir them every so often while they dry and move several times, to prevent molds from forming.
Barks, twigs, and woods: Dry in the sunlight or in thin layers in the open air. Do not dry wild cherry bark in the sun.
Fleshy roots and rhizomes: As you did with the bulbs, cut them in transverse slices, about 1/2 inch in length. Stir and move several times during the drying process.
Fibrous roots: Dry these in the sunlight or artificially at temperatures between 65º and 80ºF.
Storage of Herbs
Once the herbs are dry, and as long as they remain in a dry place, they should be good for quite some time. It is generally best to store the herbs in paper sacks in a cool, dry area. The fruits and berries, of course, will be jarred or dried.
It is important that you store your herbs properly for longest shelf life. An alternative to storing them in brown paper sacks is to place them in a tight container, not made of plastic (which contains formaldehyde). The container can be a waxed carton if it is given a wax seal; but glass bottles are best (unless you are able to seal a steel can). Never store anything in aluminum.
The stored herbs should be labeled, dated, and well-organized in the herbal medicine chest or cabinet. If the particular herb will not be used within a year, then fill the jar to the top, to crowd out oxygen, and then seal it with wax.
Herbal oils must be stored in brown bottles, sealed tightly, and kept out of the sun and extreme heat. Powdered forms of herbs will keep up to a year or more and retain fairly full potency, when stored in a fairly cool place. Powdered herbs generally do not need refrigeration. At room temperature, they will keep 6 months. When hermetically sealed with wax, they will keep 2 or 3 years. Herbal powders containing oils (such as cayenne) cannot be stored even a short time in paper, but must be wax sealed in a tight container. Tinctures are best kept in tightly capped 3 oz. colored glass bottles.
Flowers may be stored in bunches in a dry, airy room or placed in labeled brown paper bags. Fold bags to prevent insect attacks.