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How to Store Plants for Medicinal Use  RSS feed

 
Nikki Thompson
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After collecting fresh plants or parts of plants, how do I store them for later use?

My goal is to be able to provide medicinal plants throughout the year whenever I need them, but aren't in season.
 
Colin McGee
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I'd suggest drying them, tincturing them, or freezing them, depending on what plants they are, which parts you've harvested, and what you intend to do with them.
 
Anne Miller
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Wellnessmama have several articles on natural remedies such as storing bulk,making  tinctures and salves:

http://wellnessmama.com/category/remedies/
 
Nikki Thompson
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Colin McGee wrote:I'd suggest drying them, tincturing them, or freezing them, depending on what plants they are, which parts you've harvested, and what you intend to do with them.


I didn't think about freezing them! Thanks for that obvious advice, haha! I'm having a hard time figuring out how to dry them properly because my options are limited. I know that I can do it with the sun, but I don't want to let the sun jeopardize the plants riboflavin. I have a gas oven that only goes down to 250F, otherwise I would carefully do it 95F-110F. And we have a built-in fridge so I can't stick them on top of it. I haven't attempted tincturing at all yet, but that's definitely on my list! I think my best bet would be to make teas and tinctures and also freeze. I'm super stoked though! Thanks!
 
Nikki Thompson
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Anne Miller wrote:Wellnessmama have several articles on natural remedies such as storing bulk,making  tinctures and salves:

http://wellnessmama.com/category/remedies/


Thanks, I'll totally check that out too! I'm super new, but I hope to get plenty of practice starting pretty darn soon!
 
Colin McGee
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One very easy (although slightly time-consuming) way to dry them is to harvest the parts you want, put those in (labelled!) brown paper bags, and leave them in your car. It works!
 
Nikki Thompson
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Colin McGee wrote:One very easy (although slightly time-consuming) way to dry them is to harvest the parts you want, put those in (labelled!) brown paper bags, and leave them in your car. It works!


Colin, I like the emphasis on "(labelled!)" LOL! So you say this works and I really want to believe you because that you be super awesome, but isn't a key factor air flow? They wouldn't get much of that in my car unless I was using it...if it does work though, I can totally do the same thing in our other camper!
 
Colin McGee
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I'm doing it for the first time now, so I can't vouch for this from my own experience, but I can tell you the idea comes from Maria Noel Groves on her blog: http://us12.campaign-archive2.com/?u=15fb98b5aaeb1f1e54486e979&id=00ac9e237b&e=[UNIQID] Let me know if this link fails to work.

One thing I didn't mention is that she says to put the bags on your dash / in the windshield, and to test them after 3 days.
 
Nikki Thompson
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Ah, I see what you're talking about. I actually did out some in my windshield, but I hadn't with a bag haha...maybe that protects the plants from the sun. I'll give it a go and get back to yo on that one.
 
Nikki Thompson
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Feel free to check out what I've done so far here:

https://permies.com/t/58463/medicinal-herbs/kitchen/Nikki-Home-Medicine-Progress-ish#495699
 
Judith Browning
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I've always understood that when dehydrating foods and herbs that over a certain temperature can destroy much of the nutrition/medicinal properties. 

I like to dry herbs hanging in small bundles out of direct light in the house and if it's really humid I finish the drying in a dehydrator set on 95 degrees, but that is only after a couple weeks of drying naturally.

I've read that slow drying for herbs is just fine and better for the medicinal properties.  I think the trick is to have them in a fairly dust free environment, in the dark or close to it but at least good shade, and small enough bundles or laid flat on a cloth or screen so that there is no chance of mildew or mold...check on them and turn often in the beginning.

I like to put the herbs in jars when crispy and sometimes have to wait until a particularly dry day to do so or jar them at that crispy stage straight from the dehydrator.  Maybe that would be the time to bag and put in a hot car briefly.  I would check the temperature though...I think a hot car can get to 130 or more?

For most herbs, whatever the drying process, the herb should retain a nice healthy color similar to it's original.

I store in glass and then depending on the size jar, pull a small paper sack or long sleeve from a t shirt over the jar to keep it in the dark, even on my pantry shelf. 

For large amounts we store in gallon glass jars and pull out a pint or so for using day to day.  Otherwise just opening the big jar often lets in some humidity and the leaves will go limp.

good luck...you're off to a great start! 

edit to add that for roots and thicker things, yellow dock, echinacea, comfrey, I slice and if it is too humid to air dry, I use the dehydrator set at 95, the lowest temperature on it and it can take a couple days.   Since a lot of roots are dug in the fall I have sliced and laid them on trays near the wood stove.
 
Anne Miller
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Judith Browning wrote:I've read that slow drying for herbs is just fine and better for the medicinal properties.  I think the trick is to have them in a fairly dust free environment, in the dark or close to it but at least good shade, and small enough bundles or laid flat on a cloth or screen so that there is no chance of mildew or mold...check on them and turn often in the beginning. ...For most herbs, whatever the drying process, the herb should retain a nice healthy color similar to it's original.


This is good information.

Also another reason for using bags is that you might lose some of your herb when it dries. A dried leaf is very fragile and easily broken.  Also having the bags labeled keeps you from forgetting what the herb is.  Once dried the plant looks different and you might confuse two similar looking plants, which might be deadly if they each have different uses.  I have a drying room and try to keep things separate but life gets in the way and I can't always remember what is what when I go back 2 or 3 days later.  Labels will prevent this.

I think hanging several plants when drying is great for kitchen herbs since if they get mixed up it just changes the flavor of your food, but getting medicinal herbs mixed up is something else. So you might consider using strings to label each with its uses, whether is just leaves or the whole plant.

Looks like you are off to a great start!


 
Nikki Thompson
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Judith Browning wrote:good luck...you're off to a great start!


Wow! I certainly appreciate you sharing all of that information! Great advice, Judith! Thank you!
 
Nikki Thompson
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Anne Miller wrote:This is good information. Also another reason for using bags is that you might lose some of your herb when it dries. A dried leaf is very fragile and easily broken.  Also having the bags labeled keeps you from forgetting what the herb is.  Looks like you are off to a great start!


Thank you, Anne. That makes sense! I am now learning the hard way of how important labeling can really be at times, haha and how fragile dried plants can be too! Rosemary is such a delicate plant. 
 
Liz Hoxie
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Keep the leaves whole until use,they don't lose quality as fast. I don't dry in bundles, I can't remove the leaves without shattering them and we live in a dry area so I don't need to use a dehydrator. You had the right idea to keep the temps low. Heat and light are VERY destructive, so store in a cool, dark, dry area. Label, label, label. You may think you can remember what that is, but we can't. We can tell what herb is dried, but what about tinctures and infused oils?
 
Nikki Thompson
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Liz Hoxie wrote:Keep the leaves whole until use,they don't lose quality as fast.


Hey Liz,

Thanks for the feedback! How do I store them whole? In brown paper bags? Giant Jars? Etc. I had medium-sized mason jars so I just tried to stuff them as much as I could without having to cut or break any part of the plant too much. And YAAAAAAS to the labels! As of now I have index cards and tape so that's what I've been using. I'm storing them all dried, but I'm so nervous that SOMETHING is going to go wrong. I'm also tincturing for the first time too...5 weeks down, one to go. Yay Susun Weed and her Goldenrod Article:
Glorious Goldenrod <--- Click there to see it.

 
Liz Hoxie
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I just put them in jars; tap the outside of the jar w/the heel of your hand to help settle them in without breaking. You can fit more in the jar this way.

Have you tried tincturing with fresh herbs yet? They say the plants are better if they're still alive. The only thing is you have to compensate for the extra water in the plant. You can use 100 proof vodka with dried herbs, but use p.g.a. for fresh. Since that means registering, I use 151 proof and pray it doesn't mold.

I love masking tape for labels. Cheap and flexible.
 
Nikki Thompson
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Liz Hoxie wrote:Have you tried tincturing with fresh herbs yet? ...but use p.g.a. for fresh. Since that means registering, I use 151 proof and pray it doesn't mold.


Yes ma'am, that's what I was saying in the previous comment. I am currently tincturing for the first time with fresh goldenrod and I'm using Golden Grain. I really hope it works out alright. :-/ What is P.G.A. though?
 
Liz Hoxie
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Pure Grain Alcohol. I think it's 192 proof.
 
Sharol Tilgner
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I have written up details on drying and storing herbs: http://dreamingabeautifulworld.blogspot.com/2013/01/drying-storing-herbs.html
Harvesting herbal roots: http://dreamingabeautifulworld.blogspot.com/2011/12/harvesting-medicinal-roots.html
Harvesting herbs in general: http://dreamingabeautifulworld.blogspot.com/2011/12/harvesting-herbs-wildcrafting.html
Making herbal tinctures: http://dreamingabeautifulworld.blogspot.com/2011/12/making-herbal-tinctures.html
The blog these all came from also have many more details on making herbal products and using them free for the reading.



 
Tina Lee
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I have had several people in the shop lately saying that they are making their own essential oils. Because of the storage factors and losses etc.  I haven't looked into it much yet but I know they all want old crock pots.
 
Sharol Tilgner
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The best way to make essential oils is to use a distiller such as you would use to make alcohol. If a person just wants a super cheap way to collect oil that they plan to add to water and alcohol and use in a spray mister or such they could use a crock pot. They could use a crock pot or simply make an infusion in any kitchen pot with a tight lid and when the infusion has cooled simply collect the essential oil off the top of the inside of the lid. This is not how to get the most essential oil out of your plant and it does have some water in it. However, most people do not have a distiller and if you were going to add the essential oil to a water and alcohol mix anyway, this will work. As far as distillers go, you can buy them on the internet. Some folks make them out of old canners also.
 
Nikki Thompson
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Liz Hoxie wrote:Pure Grain Alcohol. I think it's 192 proof.


I used Ever Clear. I'll post my progress soon. Thank you!
 
Nikki Thompson
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Sharol Tilgner wrote:I have written up details on drying and storing herbs: Making herbal tinctures: http://dreamingabeautifulworld.blogspot.com/2011/12/making-herbal-tinctures.html
The blog these all came from also have many more details on making herbal products and using them free for the reading.


Thank you Sharol! I'm sure I'll be using them as a resource often! That's good stuff...thanks again!
 
Liz Hoxie
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How do ppl make essential oils using a slow cooker?
 
Nikki Thompson
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Liz Hoxie wrote:How do ppl make essential oils using a slow cooker?


I haven't done it yet, but here's one short video of many.

Click here for DIY crockpot essential oils!

Super simple!
 
Tracy Wandling
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Using a crock pot is a great idea for infused oils! And it will make the house smell so nice while they're being made.   But that won't get you 'essential oils'. You are just infusing the herb oils into a carrier oil. Essential oils are the pure oils of the plants, with no other oils mixed in. You get that by distilling them.

But infused oils are very handy for many things, and are much easier to make. I will be getting a distiller set up, hopefully in the fall, so I'll be sure to post my progress with that. In the meantime, I think I'll pull out the crock pot and make some infused oils. Super idea.
 
Nikki Thompson
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Tracy Wandling wrote:Using a crock pot is a great idea for infused oils! And it will make the house smell so nice while they're being made.   But that won't get you 'essential oils'. You are just infusing the herb oils into a carrier oil. Essential oils are the pure oils of the plants, with no other oils mixed in. You get that by distilling them.

But infused oils are very handy for many things, and are much easier to make. I will be getting a distiller set up, hopefully in the fall, so I'll be sure to post my progress with that. In the meantime, I think I'll pull out the crock pot and make some infused oils. Super idea.


Thank you for the clarification! I'll be eagerly awaiting your progress. I don't get on here regularly, but if you put a link in this thread to yours, I'll get an email so I'll know to follow you. Thanks again and good luck!
 
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