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How many medicinal plants root actually NEED a specific amount of year before being harvested ?

 
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Hello,

As usual for each coming season, I absolutely am not going overboard with plants ideas.

This year for instance, I only have about 60 medicinal plants that can go in the garden. Obviously, some of them are already OK, but as I'm planning things and learning, I have a few questions.

I plan to have quite a few medicinal roots, and I'm wondering how many of them actually REQUIRE a specific amount of time before harvest to be used. What I mean by this is that I see recommendation to get Echinacea roots that are three years old, licorice that has three years...

I know that some plants are best harvested at specific time, as it's when their medicinal content is highest (Salvia milthiorriza for instance, seem to be much better when harvest in the fall of the first year, AND require a specific drying procedure for optimal medicinal content). But for others, it seems that it's only a matter of root (and so, harvest) size. For instance, I grew ashwagandhas this year, and most of them are one year old; still got about 60g (not dried) for my first one; it seems that they are harvested after the second year but more for the bigger roots.

Most of the roots I plan to grow are:
  • Astragalus
  • Licorice
  • Valerian
  • Marshmallow
  • Rudbeckia hirta
  • Rhodiola rosea
  • Echinacea (both purpurea and angustifolia)
  • Codonopsis
  • Eleuthero
  • Chinese Skullcap
  • Ceanothus americanus (Red root)
  • Nandina domestica
  • Berberis Vulgaris


  • If I'm not mistaken, it should be all of them (the others are annuals). Does any of these plant require a specific time before being harvested, in term of if I harvest them too soon, they just won't work ? Or the amount of root will be ridiculous ?

    I plan to use those plants to make either tincture, powder, teas... obviously the less root I have, the more I'll make medicine that don't require a lot of resources.

    Thanks !
     
    Mike Lafay
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    If anyone has more information, I'm glad to hear it.

    So far, it seems that Astragalus is harvested in the fall of the third year, or the spring of the fourth, because the root is considered too weak of a medicinal otherwise. Licorice (glabra) is also harvested after 3 years because otherwise the content of the root is also too low and apparently it seems much better to harvest it in August or September. Eleuthero needs 4 years, because its content in medicinal molecules is much higher by the fourth year.

    Rhodiola seem to require 5 years before harvesting but I'm not sure why, it might be because it need 3 years to reach maturity and then reach a good size. Echinacea needs 3 years before harvest (unless the aerial parts are used), but same as Rhodiola, I don't know if it's because the root size is different or because its content is better at the point. Chinese skullcap, 3 years, but I have no information if it's because the content vary.

    Red root doesn't seem to require much time before the root can be harvested, I'm not finding much information on it. Not much for Berberis either, except that it's harvested in autumn. No information for Nandina domestica.

    For Valerian, I can find 2 or 3 years, it seems for its medicinal content. Marshmallow doesn't seem to have a specific amount of year before harvest. Not much information for now on rudbeckia hirta, but since it's in the same family as echinacea, I'd say 3 years would be interesting, but I have no idea if it's even the right time to wait, and if it's just about the root size.

    So if anyone has more information on the following, that would be wonderful:
  • Rhodiola
  • Echinacea
  • Chinese Skullcap
  • Red root
  • Berberis
  • Nandina
  • Marshmallow
  • Valerian
  • Rudbeckia hirta


  • Hopefully the information I've found can save someone else some headaches.
     
    Posts: 37
    Location: West Quebec
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    From my experience with Echinacea I would say that the 3 year wait has more to do with the health and propagation of the crop than strength of the medicine. By about 3 years the plant has produced a good sized crown that can be divided while you harvest. This means you not only get good sized roots but next year you’ll have half a dozen new plants.

    Waiting for the plants to mature is frustrating. Luckily flowers and seeds from *home grown* plants make nice medicine when tinctured fresh.

    Hope that helps.
     
    Mike Lafay
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    Thanks a lot for your reply !

    There are indeed a few plants that can both be harvested and also divided, so you have more plants yet also some harvest. Good thing  to know that Echinacea is one of them then !

    I had heard too that the aerial parts can be tinctured, which is something I'm definitely going to try.
     
    christine lawson
    Posts: 37
    Location: West Quebec
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    Another thought (although it may have occurred to you), the Malvas (ie neglecta, sylvestris) are biennial, the roots harvested the first autumn or early the second spring. They’re pretty much interchangeable with the true marshmallow. Perhaps an alternative while you wait for the marshmallow to mature?
     
    It's in the permaculture playing cards. Here's the link: http://richsoil.com/cards
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