Storing herbs

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Storing herbs -
prolonging the life and potency of dried herbs

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Assuming you have dried the herbs properly as explained in harvesting and drying you have a few options of how to store your herbs:
  • As dried herbs. This is not a bad option but it is bulky and it is more difficult to handle and store.
  • As powdered herbs.
  • As whole seeds or beans

Powdering herbs can be done either by using a mortar and pestle for small quantities or a coffee grinder for bigger quantities. In both cases please make sure that the device is clean and does not contain any trace of the last herb because you do not want to contaminate the herbs that you have worked so hard to get to this point.

I always store seed and beans whole, powdering only when I need to. Seeds (beans) have a natural self preserving mechanism to keep them fresh in the wild while they wait for the spring or their growing season to germinate so, providing they are stored effectively, they last better whole.

Choosing a storage place:
Herbs and any organic matter deteriorate. This deterioration is caused by many things but we should only concern ourselves with the two main ones, which is light and air.

Light, mostly UV, provides the energy that will eventually break down almost any substance (look at what it does to curtains, starting with fading and eventually full deterioration) and the first thing that suffers in herbs is the medicinal potency and distinct flavors. A dark cupboard or opaque containers should take care of that.

Air contains oxygen that is just as destructive by oxidizing the active constituents. Air also is a medium for evaporation of the volatile oils that contain a lot of the medicinal compounds in the herb. Glass or ceramic containers that are hermitically sealable will do that very well.

The above techniques will retard the eventual loss of medicinal potency considerably but even then do not expect a shelf life of more than two to three years.

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