If you’re new to herbalism, chances are you have a lot of questions. I completely understand, I still have lots of questions and I’ve been doing this for many years! One of the biggest questions I get about herbs is what is the best way to store herbs? Is one way better than another? In this article we’ll look at the best practices for storing dried herbs.
First off, let’s talk location.
There are many ways to store herbs but the general rule of thumb is that light and heat will destroy their properties so it’s best to store them in a dark, cool location in your house. Cabinets, a pantry shelf and drawers all make great storage locations. Try to avoid spots such as on top of your fridge, above your stove and other locations that have appliances giving off heat.
Depending on the container you’re storing them in, placing them behind a cabinet door is often the best place so that direct contact with sunlight is avoided.
Now let’s take a look at vessels.
Dried herbs store best in an airtight container. I like glass jars and use a variety including some larger quart, half gallon and gallon mason jars, as well as a variety of jars I’ve recycled from my pantry after use such as nut butter jars, jelly jars, and Cocoyo jars. Be cautious about using pickle and salsa jars as the scent often lingers and can mix in with the herbs. I once used a garlic jar for a Spilanthes tincture and the tincture tasted garlicky when I tried using it a few months later. It didn’t seem to affect the tincture’s use but it’s something to look out for as it can make your tinctures taste off. However, if you are making an herbal infused vinegar, a pickle jar most likely would be fine.
Another container that works great, especially if you have harvested and dried your own herbs and are worried they might not be completely dry are cardboard oatmeal containers. They seal with their plastic lid, keep your herbs about an inch below the lid to avoid touching the plastic, but the cardboard will help to wick out any leftover moisture so that they won’t mold.
Brown paper sacks can be useful for storing dried herbs as well, just be sure to fold them over and tape them closed.
Packaging to avoid.
Often herbs are shipped to you in plastic bags. While this is logical for shipping – they weigh less, have a lesser chance of breaking open and are more adaptable for packing – for long term it’s best to remove your herbs from their original plastic packaging once you receive them. Often it’s easy to remove their labels with enough sticky residue that they can be easily placed on the jar or paper bag you are storing them in.
Some companies such as Frontier Herbs ship their herbs in mylar packaging. I like to transfer these out as well although I will leave them in this packaging if I’m freezing the herbs.
Open containers are another thing to avoid. Air is the enemy of your herbs, along with light, something an open container will allow. Not to mention, dust, insects and moisture have a greater chance of destroying your herbs as well.
Glass containers with ill fitting lids is another container to avoid, especially if you are storing your tincture in it. Speaking from experience, the first time that container gets knocked over, your tincture is going to end up everywhere but in your container and it’s a sad day when you’ve realized all your prized St. John’s Wort tincture has leaked out and evaporated because of the lid not being air tight.
Hopefully this helps to clear up any questions you have about containers! How do you store your herbs? Do you have an idea for storing them that I haven’t suggested? Do you have any container mishap stories you’d like to share? Share your ideas and stories in the comments!