Best Way Of Drying Herbs For Medicinal Use + Storage Techniques For Maximum Potency

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In the world of herbs, there exists a profound secret, an ancient art that whispers wisdom to those who seek to harness the healing power of nature’s bounty. Drying herbs for medicinal use is a timeless ritual that preserves not just the herbs’ physical form but also their potent healing properties.

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Dried herbs are the preferred form to use in teas, tinctures, salves, and many other herbal infused products. As we embark on this aromatic journey, let’s uncover the enchanting world of how to dry herbs, foraging through lush gardens of knowledge and unearthing the secrets of nature’s pharmacy.

Why Homegrown Herbs Crush The Competition

When it comes to medicinal herbs, freshness is your best friend. The volatile oils within the herbs, often where many of the medicinal compounds are contained, are in higher concentration when the herbs are left whole. When crushed just before consuming or use, you ensure you’re getting as many medicinal benefits as possible! Unlike those lifeless, pre-crushed dry herbs you buy from the store, homegrown and dried herbs retain their potency when properly dried and stored.

You see, most suppliers crush their dry herbs to make them easier to transport and extend their shelf life. But that process sacrifices much of their therapeutic value. By drying your herbs at home, you’re preserving their vibrant essence, ensuring you’re getting the most from your medicinal plants.

Sometimes you have no choice to purchase (we can’t always grow everything), so before you do, make sure you’re doing your research on the company. If you can, find one that offers uncrushed. Additionally, I recommend staying away from Amazon when it comes to buying dry herbs. Many supplies send their products to Amazon warehouses in order to make the buying and shipping process easier on everyone. However, these warehouses do not have the most ideal conditions for herbal storage and sometimes the product sits on the shelves for a long time before making its way to you.

Growing your own, fresh herbs is always going to be the best and cheapest way. Second best would be a local small farm, herb store, or health market. Not all online resources are terrible though. We personally recommend Starwest Botanicals or Mountain Rose Herbs when purchasing online.

how to tie herbs for drying

5 Methods Of Drying Herbs For Medicinal Use

Now, let’s delve into the heart of the matter, the art of drying herbs. There are several methods to choose from, each offering a unique charm and preserving the herbs’ integrity.

Drying Herbs By Hanging

drying herbs in oven

Hanging your herbs to dry is incredibly easy, requires very little equipment, and gives you a medicinal packed herb. You can use any kind of string to tie your herbs, however, I find that this wax coated twine works exceptionally well! As the herbs begin to dry, they begin to shrink, and often times they fall out of the knot. The wax string helps give an extra little grip and is super easy to pull if it becomes too loose.

Separate the herbs into small, manageable bunches. Depending on the size and thickness of the herbs, you can create bundles that are about the diameter of a pencil. Generally, a bunch that includes 4-6 stems works well, but you can adjust this depending on the size of your herbs.

Cut a piece of twine, about 12-18 inches long, depending on the size of your herb bundle. Lay the bundle of herbs on your work surface and place the string under the herbs, positioning it about an inch or two from the top of the stems.

Gently pull the two ends of the string up and cross them over the top of the herb bundle. Then, bring them back down to the other side of the bundle, forming a loop around the herbs. Make sure it’s snug but not too tight to allow for air circulation. Continue wrapping the string around the herb bundle, spiraling downward toward the stems’ base. The goal is to encircle the herbs several times, securing the bundle together. Once you reach the end, tie a knot or a bow to secure the bundle in place.

Trim any excess string, leaving a tail of about an inch or so. This prevents the string from unraveling and keeps your herb bundles tidy. Now that your herbs are securely bundled and tied, you can hang them to dry. Find a well-ventilated, dry, and dark location for your herbs to hang. Ensure they’re not exposed to direct sunlight, as this can cause the herbs to lose their color and flavor. A cool, dark room or a dry, shaded porch are excellent choices.

Pros: Hanging herbs preserves their color and aroma, making them visually pleasing. Plus, it’s a low-cost, low-effort method.

Cons: It’s not the quickest option, and certain herbs with high moisture content might develop mold if not properly ventilated.

Drying Rack

hanging fresh herbs to dry

Like the herb spa treatment, a drying rack offers a gentle, gradual drying process. They come in many different forms, from mesh hanging racks to wooden racks for the counter top or root cellar. Additionally, you can just use a cooling rack or create your own with some tulle and a base. Place your herbs on the rack, ensuring they don’t overlap. Suitable for herbs like lavender, rosemary, and thyme. Avoid high-moisture herbs like basil and mint.

Pros: Minimal effort with even drying, preserving essential oils and flavors.

Cons: It takes up space and might not be ideal for larger herb harvests.

drying rack for herbs
Wooden Pasta Herb Drying Rack Stackable Food Dryer with Net Multipurpose 2-Tier Noodle Vegetables Dryer Holder (Two Tier)

drying herbs hanging
Boho Herb Drying Rack Double- Macrame Flower Drying Rack with 15 Hooks

drying herbs for tea
Active Gear Guy Mesh Drying Rack Dehydrator with 8 Stacked Trays.

Drying Herbs in Dehydrator

This is like the herb equivalent of a high-tech gym workout. Set the dehydrator to a low temperature, around 95-115°F (35-46°C), and spread your herbs in a single layer for even drying. It may be very tempting to turn the heat up in order to speed up drying. However, low temperatures ensure that the volatile oils and compounds remain intact within the herb, giving it the most medicinal benefits it can offer. Ideal for leafy herbs such as parsley, cilantro, and mint. Be cautious with woody herbs like rosemary, which might become too brittle.

Pros: It’s the fastest method, preserving color and flavor while preventing mold growth.

Cons: You’ll need a dehydrator, and the initial investment can be higher.

drying medicinal herbs
Magic Mill Food Dehydrator Machine | 11 Stainless Steel Trays | Adjustable Timer and Temperature Control | Jerky, Herb, Meat, Beef, Fruits and Vegetables Dryer

Oven Drying Herbs

Oven drying is another easy way to get faster dried herbs. Spread your herbs on a baking sheet, pop them in an oven set to the lowest temperature (usually 140-200°F or 60-93°C), and leave the door slightly ajar. As with the dehydrator, resist that urge to turn the temperature up so your herbs stay strong and potent! Works well for herbs like oregano, sage, and chives. Stay away from high-moisture herbs.

Pros: It’s accessible, especially if you don’t have a dehydrator, and results in decently preserved herbs.

Cons: The risk of losing some of the herbs’ essential oils due to higher temperatures.

Solar Drying Herbs

This eco-friendly method harnesses the power of the sun to gently dry your herbs. Lay your herbs on screens or trays in a sunny, well-ventilated area. Solar drying is not good for every herb however, so it’s best to do your research into each one and see if the sun exposure is ok. Suitable for a wide variety of herbs, especially those with medium moisture content, like basil, mint, and chamomile.

Pros: It’s environmentally friendly, cost-effective, and preserves herbs naturally.

Cons: It depends on weather conditions and may take a bit longer than some other methods.

drying herbs upside down

How To Properly Store Medicinal Herbs After Drying

Properly storing your dried herbs is essential to maintain their flavor, aroma, and potency over an extended period. Here’s an elaboration on the storage of dried herbs, including suitable containers and essential tips:

Airtight Containers

Airtight containers are your best friend when it comes to storing dried herbs. These containers seal tightly, preventing air and moisture from entering and affecting the quality of your herbs. Here are some suitable containers:

  • Glass Jars: Glass jars with airtight lids are a popular choice for herb storage. They are non-reactive, which means they won’t absorb or release odors or flavors, preserving the herbs’ integrity. You can use mason jars or any glass containers with secure lids.
  • Plastic or Metal Containers: If you prefer not to use glass, consider plastic or metal containers with tight-sealing lids. Make sure they are food-grade and airtight to maintain herb quality.
  • Ziplock Bags: If using bags, opt for quality, resealable, and airtight ziplock bags. I prefer these useable, silicone bags, but any ziplock will do. You can double bag your herbs for added protection.

Labeling

Properly labeling your containers is crucial for easy identification. Write the herb’s name and the date of drying on the container to avoid confusion. You might also want to note any specific instructions or uses for the herb.

Storage Location

Store your dried herbs in a cool, dark place away from direct sunlight, heat sources, and moisture. A pantry, cupboard, or a dedicated spice drawer works well. Sunlight and heat can cause herbs to lose their color, flavor, and aroma, while moisture can lead to mold and spoilage.

Whole Leaves vs. Crushed

best place to hang herbs to dry

It’s generally best to store herbs as whole leaves rather than crushing them until you’re ready to use them. Whole herbs retain their flavor and potency longer. When you’re ready to use them, crush or grind the leaves to release their aromatic oils and flavors.

Check for Moisture

Before storing your dried herbs, ensure that they are completely dry. Any remaining moisture can lead to mold and spoilage during storage.

Rotate Your Stock

Just like any other pantry items, dried herbs have a shelf life. It’s a good practice to use your older herbs before newer ones to ensure you’re getting the freshest possible flavor.

Special Considerations

Some herbs are particularly sensitive to light and should be stored in opaque containers. If you’re using clear glass jars, you can keep them in a dark cupboard or use fabric or paper covers to shield them from light.

Vacuum Sealing

For maximum freshness, consider vacuum-sealing your dried herbs. Vacuum-sealed containers remove air from the storage environment, extending the shelf life of your herbs.

Shelf-life Of Dried Herbs

The shelf life of dried herbs can vary depending on several factors, including the type of herb, how they are stored, and the conditions in which they are kept. However, as a general guideline whole herbs, stored in airtight containers in a cool, dark place, can retain their flavor and potency for about 1 to 3 years. Herbs that have been ground into powder or crushed may have a slightly shorter shelf life. Ground herbs are generally at their best quality for about 6 months to 2 years.

drying herbs in dehydrator

Conclusion

In conclusion, drying herbs for medicinal use is a delightful journey that combines nature’s wisdom with your nurturing touch. By growing and drying your own herbs, you’re ensuring that their magic remains potent and ready to elevate your health and well-being. No matter what method you use to dry your herbs, you’re cultivating your very own apothecary in the heart of your home. Embrace the herbal adventure and unlock the power of nature, one fragrant leaf at a time!

Hey Beautiful! I’m Tara, garden enthusiasts, keeper of chickens, herbal homesteader and stay at home mom of 3 tiny humans and a sourdough starter named Ma. I love teaching others how to live a self-sufficient and sustainable life through homesteading, scratch cooking, and remembering to live barefoot, wild and free!

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