Thursday, August 15, 2013

Our New Medicine Cabinet

As I have mentioned before, Herbs are widely used by us in our natural healing.  They are vulnerable to the elements including air, light, humidity, and temperature.  Whether my herbs are purchased dried or wild-crafted, it is important to store them properly aid in the prevention of deterioration of color, scent, and flavor.

Once herbs have been purchased or wild-crafted, here are some important points to remember about storing them:

  • They are very sensitive to fluctuations in temperature, moisture, and light. Store in a temperature controlled environment with limited light, heat, and moisture. Ideal storage temperatures are 65-73 degrees and relative humidity should not exceed 55. Light (including incandescent and fluorescence) will strip your botanicals of their natural color and remove many key elements. An ideal location is a dry pantry, cupboard or closet. As you can see, I store mine on a bookshelf, but I have a curtain that I put up and keep on the front for protection.
  • They have a relatively fixed shelf life. Purchase what you will use within a short period of time. While many of the herbs I have bought have a two year expiration date on them, it's best to use them up as quickly as possible.
  • Some herbs and spices keep longer than others.  The best guideline to follow is: no longer then 8-12 months for spices and leafy herbs, and no longer then 14-16 months for roots, barks and berries.  Powdered herbs have a shorter life span, usually around 6 months.
  • The best container for storing your herbs is colored glass.  Clear glass is also acceptable, as long as the herbs are stored away from direct light exposure.  I have chosen to use plastic containers, which is acceptable, but they do not allow for the herbs to breathe.  However, I will be using my herbs often and quickly, which makes plastic more convenient and it is very inexpensive compared to colored glass. Mylar are also good choices for storing herbs, but they must be sealed well to keep out light, air, and insects... and we have not added a sealer unit to our list of must haves just yet. I am certain it will be an addition at some point.
  • I try to purchase my herbs in a cut and sifted or whole form first and foremost... since the powdered herbs have a shorter shelf life.  I grind my own herbs and spices just before using them. 
  •  Purchase your herbs from a reliable source. I have listed many of these in our Library & Webpicks tab.

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