Creating a Kitchen Pharmacy: Tips for Buying and Storing Medicinal Herbs

 

[G]iven the times, wouldn’t it be lovely if each of us could grow all of our own medicinal herbs…right along with all of our own vegetables, fruit, and animals. I envy those who live 100% self-sufficient lives. Although we strive for that, I must be patient and understand that for this time and place in the life of my family, I will grow and forage for as many herbs as I possibly can but the rest I will have to purchase.

Naturally, over the course of many years while working with herbs, I have learned to recognize the difference in quality. Part of that knowledge has come from growing and preserving my own homegrown plants — doing so has allowed me to opportunity to identify all of the good properties of fresh, dried medicinal herbs.

I have learned that the only way to insure effective medicinal herbal remedies for my loved ones is to use high-quality herbs, and the only way to insure that is to:

  • be resolute in my use and purchase of organically grown herbs.
  • know where and how the plant material is grown.
  • grow my own from high-quality medicinal herb seed.
  • use proper storage techniques to preserve the maximum potency of the plant.

Buying Medicinal Herbs

When purchasing medicinal herbs it is vital that you look for companies that have a reputation for honest, sustainable, and ethical practices. These companies should sell herbs that are organic and if they are wild-crafted, they should be harvested with respect for the environment.

Never be afraid to ask the company direct questions concerning these issues.

Fresh is best, however properly dried herbs contain just as many medicinal properties. But how can you tell if the plant material you want to purchase is of good quality? 

It should hold it’s color, smell, taste, and efficacy.    

The color of dried herbs should be very similar to that of the fresh herb. Their smell should be strong, rich, and vibrant. They must taste potent and fresh. And the have to work!

Grow Your Own

 We all know that the best option for growing any foodstuff is to grow your own. In the case of herbs, many of them are easy to grow and intigrate into the permanent landscape of the home.

And if you simply aren’t able to grow your own, knowing where and how the herbs are grown is a must.  

Look locally first.

I am beyond thankful for my CSA farmerTonopah Rob — who is open and willing to sit down, listen to my needs, and talk with me about the possibility of growing medicinal herbs on his farm. Sometimes all it takes is a mention of something. This is why I encourage you to join a CSA and get to know your local farmer! They love to grow things for us! Ask them to grow medicinal herbs for you and your friends…it never hurts to ask.

Proper Storage Techniques

As a natural plant material, many herbs are super vulnerable to basic things like many other foods. Protecting dried herbs from air, light, moisture, and warm temperatures will more than likely help to preserve their shelf life. 

Here are a few tips that I have learned:

  • Store herbs in colored glass containers — clear glass is also good so long as they are stored away from the light — or they can be effectively stored in brown paper or foil bags in a cool, dark place (i.e. the pantry, kitchen cabinets, or a closet).
  • Know your supplier and be sure that they only sell freshly dried herbs. Mountain Rose Herbs does a great job of labeling when and where the herbs were harvested and packaged.
  • Buy small amounts or only what you can use within a few months of purchase.
  • Ideal storage temperatures should be between 65-75 degrees.
  • In general, dried herb roots and bark keep longer (1-2 years, even up to 5 years) than the leaves and flowers (6 months-1 year). Powdered herbs have an even lesser shelf life (approximately 6 months) than whole or cut herbs. Please keep in mind…these are only recommendations. Above all, trust your eyes, nose, and mouth. Older dried herbs don’t necessarily go bad, they just won’t be a potent. Note: If you find that your herbs are waning in strength, simply add more of the plant material than you did when they were fresher.

Notes

-I personally trust the quality and integrity of the products from Mountain Rose Herbs. The herbs that I receive from them always far exceed my expectations. I love that they label when the herbs were harvested and packaged! And I love that anytime I’ve ever had a question they answer it promptly. Not to mention, their prices are the best I’ve found.

-When purchasing from Mountain Rose Herbs, bulk purchases are rewarded with significant discounts. Save even more by organizing a group or ask your like-minded friends if they’d be interested in placing an order with you for bulk herbs.

What tips do you have for buying and storing medicinal herbs? What other farmers and companies do you trust for your herbal needs? Share your experiences with us!

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Mountain Rose Herbs

Comments

  1. I try to use as many home remedies as I can. It’s an area that I need to greatly improve on and your articles have been very helpful. Thanks for sharing.

  2. I am enjoying and very excited about this series. Each day, I am left anticipating the next post. Thank you!

  3. White.Buffalo - Doug says:

    Do you have any suggestions as to what a relatively complete herbal first aid kit should contain – what herbs and their subsequent uses

    … oh – super-wonderful series = very-very helpful … I just love the way you are presenting the material – it is so easy to understand and to follow … thanks for all you are doing …

    • Andrea says:

      Hi Doug! You are a few steps ahead of me :) We will get into all of that goodness in the next few days. And yes, I will be doing a post or two dedicated to creating an herbal first aid kit! I can’t wait!

      • White.Buffalo - Doug says:

        Hi … Not sure how many of us folks read your postings – but, there are many-many of us that sure do appreciate what you have to share (as you can see by many of the previous comments by readers)
        I coulda-shoulda known you would have it in your plan to cover the issues of my question. Thanks fro the prompt reply – I am looking forward to what you share about herbal first aid.

  4. I love what you are doing. You’re process is totally on target, it is the rare bird indeed that can be 100% self reliant. Working from where you are while simultaneously pushing forward, is the best way to get where you want to be :)
    I agree with your assessment of MountainRose herbs…very good products imo.
    *anna

  5. I have really been wanting to get going with this at our home. There are so many great plants out there – we just need to know how to use them! How wonderful it would be to have that sense of security! Thanks for the inspiration!

  6. Tina M Comroe says:

    Mountain Rose Herbs is great if you like high prices, but for the herbs I use a lot, I prefer Tenzing Momo in Seattle. http://WWW.tenzingmomo.com
    I found that while Mountain Rose Herbs carries many more things than just herbs I buy mine where I am.
    Thank you for such great recipes!
    Tina

    • Andrea says:

      Hi Tina! I totally agree with you in that buying local or growing your own is the absolute best way to obtain medicinal herbs. However, I have to disagree with you on the “Mountain Rose Herbs is great if you like high prices” statement. I have searched high and low for suppliers of high-quality, orgainc, and ethically harvested herbs…their prices and practices are simply one of the best :)

  7. Gorgeous post.. and super- inspiring blog..so lovely to meet you and thanks for your visit too!
    Victoria
    I look forward to more of your posts and am following you too.

  8. MrsWJAA says:

    I placed my first order with them a few months ago, and I agree that their quality is outstanding:) As an added bonus, the majority of their packaging is compostable.

  9. I live in the rural area, so I love to grow my own herbs. I strive from using these herbs and I have definitely seen results, hence my passion. Thanks for the great information.

  10. vahid paseban says:

    hi im iran mndr collecting her bs in my career i wanted to asktht i have worked. thnk you

  11. I do like mountain rose herbs, and they have great selection and price…However, their shipping is outrageous. Many times the shipping is as much or more than my purchase total. I typically use
    bulk herb store, vitacost, and azure standard…checking prices and comparing. I have always gotten quality products from them all as well. Just an option to mountain rose herbs astronomical shipping.
    Thanks sooo much for this site and series. It’s great to find info like this.

Mountain Rose Herbs

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