Herbal products come in many forms - teas, tinctures (liquid extracts), capsules, tablets, compresses, poultices, salves, creams, baths, footbaths (to name a few!), and of course, used in foods! Here is how to care and store some of the most frequently used forms of herbal products:
If possible, store your dried herbs in a glass container, which will keep them fresh longer. Using dark glass will help to further keep light out, which ages the herb more quickly and can compromise its quality. A dried herb should appear vibrant in color and have a wonderful smell to it. Even though it’s dried, it should have an “alive” vibrancy to it – you should be able to sense the life in it!
Alcohol-based tinctures are fairly easy to keep, as the alcohol acts as an effective preservative. It is still recommended to store them in a cool, dark cupboard, to ensure high quality and product longevity.
For non-alcohol tinctures, it is important to keep these in a cool, dark cupboard, away from any heat source or light. Storing these above your stove or near a heater can compromise herb quality or even cause mold to grow. The vegetable glycerine in the non-alcohol tincture has some preservative properties, but not much. This means that your product will have a shorter shelf life (still 3-5 years) and is more susceptible to being contaminated and perhaps even cultivating some mold. Because of this (and because the glass tube could be broken if bitten), NEVER allow your child to suck on the glass dropper tube. Always check your non-alcohol tinctures each time before you shake them up and before you take them to make sure they are still in good condition. It’s rare to have a tincture get moldy, but it can happen. If it does, it’s quite obvious to see visually – it will have a whitish patch floating on top of the dark tincture liquid. If you find that you do have a moldy tincture, throw it away and do not use it.
Capsules should come in a dark glass or plastic container, or a solid colored container designed to keep as much light out as possible. Store these away from heat sources also. With capsules, the herb must be ground into such a small particle in order to fit into the small capsule that the herb tends to lose its potency more quickly than a more whole herb part would. (NOTE: Herb Lore uses only the highest quality, all-vegetarian capsules in its products.)
It is recommended that you keep all forms of herbal products in a cool, dark location, even your cooking spices. Many people store their cooking spices above their stove. The heat from the stove will rapidly cause the herbs and spices to lose their vitality, rich flavor and potency. And, as with cooking herbs, freshness of your medicinal herbs makes a difference in how well the herb will work for you!
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written by Pam Caldwell
Certified Herbalist --- Fertility, Pregnancy, Birth, Postpartum & Lactation Specialist