I love harvesting and processing herbs for my remedies and the article below is full of useful tips and instructions to help you process your own herbs.
There is nothing more satisfying than growing, storing, and using your own medicinal herbs. Using the tools nature gives us to protect our health and loved ones’ feels right to me. So, I enjoy the time spent learning about herbs, gathering them, and preserving them for future use.
Gathering Herbs For Medicinal Use
Where and how you gather your herbs is extremely important. The first concern is that you are 100% certain of your plant identification before you harvest it. Using the wrong herb could be life-threatening, so make sure you know the herb well before using it.
Next, you must be careful of where you gather or grow your herbs. Your backyard herb garden is hopefully safe from all toxins, pesticides, and herbicides. But the same cannot be said when gathering in the wild. Choose natural sites, far away from traffic and dump sites. Car exhaust, herbicides sprayed to control weeds, and other pollutants can contaminate herbs grown along the roadside. Likewise, old industrial sites or dump sites are not suitable because of potential toxins.
Drying Your Medicinal Herbs
Once you’ve harvested your herbs from a clean site, you want to process them immediately to protect their potency until you are ready to use them. If you are not using your herbs fresh, drying them is an excellent option for preserving them. Drying or dehydrating can be done in several different ways.
Method 1: Use A Dehydrator
I prefer to use a dehydrator to dry my herbs. By using a dehydrator, I can control the drying process and optimize the drying time. A steady stream of warm, dry air quickly dries my herbs before they have a chance to degrade. Here is the process:
Preheat your dehydrator. Set the thermostat for a drying temperature of 95 to 115 degrees Fahrenheit. I prefer to use the lowest temperature, but if it is a very humid day, the higher temperature may be needed.
- Clean your herbs and blot them dry with a towel to remove any surface moisture.
- Remove large leaves for drying separately. Small leaves can remain on the stem, if desired.
- Place the herbs on a dehydrator tray in a single layer and label the tray if you are doing more than one herb at a time.
- If you are drying roots, wash them and scrub off any dirt. Pat dry and cut into small, thin pieces.
- Dry the herbs for 2 to 8 hours or longer, until the leaves are crumbly, crisp, and completely dry. Larger leaves and stems usually take longer than fine small leaves, so check them periodically and remove them when dry. Allow the herbs to cool before storing.
Air Drying Medicinal Herbs
Air drying is another method of drying herbs that works well in dry climates. You need a warm, shady spot with good ventilation. You don’t want them in the sun because the intense heat and sun can quickly degrade the herbs.
1. Gather the herbs into small bundles and bind them at one end with a small rubber band. Hang them upside down in an out of the way spot, until they are completely dry.
Some people hang them in the kitchen window, but I recommend choosing a spot out of direct sunlight. Before I got my dehydrator, I would hang them on one end of my pot rack, but any warm, well-ventilated spot will work.
2. If the herbs contain seeds or tiny leaves that might release when dry; place the herb bundle in a small paper bag to catch the seeds or leaves.
3. Another possibility is to place them on an oven rack or elevated screen on a countertop. Make sure that air can flow freely under and around each sprig.
4. Air drying herbs takes longer, usually several days. Check them daily and turn them as needed to allow them to dry evenly. Make sure they are completely dry before storing.
Oven Drying And Microwave Drying
I don’t recommend oven drying or microwave drying because the herbs can easily get too hot and lose their medicinal qualities. Why go to all the work to gather, dry, and store herbs, if they are no longer potent enough to be of use? If you do choose to use an oven or microwave, use the lowest possible settings and take them out as quickly as possible.
Processing And Storing Your Dried Herbs
Once your herbs are dry, it is time to sort them and prepare them for long term storage. This process is called garbling. Follow these steps to get your dried herbs ready to store:
- Place your herbs into a plastic bag or glass jar for a day, before moving them to long term storage. If you see any condensation on the bag or jar, they need to dry longer.
- Separate the leaves, flowers, stems, and roots, discarding unwanted parts. Each plant part has different uses; do the research on your plant to know which parts are most valuable.
- As you sort, test the dryness by breaking into the larger pieces of stem and root to make sure they are completely dry. If they bend or seem pliable at all, put them back to dry longer.
- Store your dried herbs in airtight containers away from heat and light. I like to use mason jars with a tight-fitting lid and store them in a dark cabinet.
- For best long-term storage, I place an oxygen absorber into the jar and vacuum seal it, however the herbs will keep for a year or more without it. If you live in a very humid environment, you may want to add a silica gel pack to the jar.
- Check the jars occasionally to make sure they are dry and have no mold growth. If properly stored, there should be no color change or bad smells. Throw them out if you detect any changes in quality.
- Use your herbs within two years for best potency. I prefer to harvest my medicinal herbs every year to make sure I always have a potent batch available.
I’m in heaven, I’m loving this book! For Christmas this year, my hubby gave me John Gerard’s The Herbal or General History of Plants, the complete 1633 edition as revised and enlarged by Thomas Johnson (2015). It’s a massive book – 12.5 Tall by 9 wide (18 inches wide when open!!) and it weighs a whopping 11.5 pounds! But it’s a gorgeous book.
Why would I get such an old book? I love reading the ancient plant descriptions and plant properties. Its fastinating to follow the changes in research from their beginning to modern day. Its amazing to see the original herbalists disagreeing with each other about a plant’s properties.
Overall, I highly recommend the book, for anyone – whether they be herbalist or just love old books. I know technically its not an old book, but being based upon one is almost as good.
If you’re interested in this book, I found it on Amazon. And I know it’s expensive, but the hardbound book will not disappoint.
Being a Meniere’s disease patient, these tips are very welcome. Read on for more information:
Vertigo can be a life-changing condition. Many people experience vertigo occasionally but if you suffer from chronic vertigo you never know when the world around you will suddenly begin to spin. Dizziness isn’t the only symptom that vertigo sufferers experience. Vertigo can also be associated with headaches, nausea, and anxiety.
Because vertigo can strike at any moment you should avoid dangerous activities like driving a car until the condition is under control. While there are many causes of vertigo, one of the most common is BPPV or benign positional paroxysmal vertigo. BPPV is caused by a displacement of calcium crystals, called canaliths, in the ear canal. When these crystals are displaced they affect your sense of balance causing you to experience vertigo.
Migraines and other inner ear problems like infections can also cause vertigo. If you experience vertigo don’t despair. There are many natural remedies that can help you overcome this condition.
1. Ginkgo Biloba
Studies have shown that Ginkgo Biloba is effective at treating vertigo. Ginkgo is associated with Chinese medicine but the tree can be found growing throughout the United States. A large tree that can grow to over one hundred feet tall it grows well in direct sun. It is a common ornamental tree in cities as it thrives in disturbed land. The leaves have a distinctive fan shape and change to a beautiful yellow in fall.
You can harvest the Ginkgo leaves when they turn yellow in the fall to make a tincture to treat your vertigo or purchase Ginkgo in capsules. You can make a tincture easily in your own home with materials you likely have already.
Ginkgo Biloba Tincture
- 3-4 ounces of ginkgo leaves (you can use dried leaves as well)
- Vodka (or other alcohol at least 80 proof)
- Mason jar
- Coffee filter
- Tinted bottles for storage
- First, crush the leaves to increase the surface area
- Place the crushed leaves in the mason jar
- Cover the leaves with vodka to a minimum of two fingers above the top of the roots. If you are using dry leaves add more vodka as the material will absorb the liquid. Do not exceed double the height of leaves or your tincture will not be as strong.
- Seal the jar and leave in a cool dark place for at least two weeks
- When your tincture is ready place a coffee filter inside a funnel and strain the liquid into a tinted bottle for storage.
- Store in a cool dark place
Use a little as a few drops to start and no more than a teaspoon daily.
2. Blessed Thistle
Blessed thistle, Cnicus benedictus, is a plant native to the Mediterranean region that is now commonly found growing in North America. A member of the thistle family, it can grow to two feet tall and produces yellow flowers surrounded by small spines. It has been used in traditional remedies since the middle ages to treat vertigo and other conditions.
The flowers, leaves, and stems can be harvested from June until August and used to make either a tea or a tincture. To make a tincture follow the recipe for the Ginkgo Biloba but replace the Ginkgo leaves with leaves, flowers, and stems from the blessed thistle. Use just a few drops to start and don’t exceed a teaspoon daily.
Ginger is one of those plants that have many uses medicinal and culinary. There is evidence that shows ginger is an effective treatment for vertigo and accompanying nausea.
Ginger is excellent when it comes to increasing the circulation of your blood. If you are feeling dizzy, chew on a little fresh ginger or drink ginger tea several times a day.
You can use ginger to make a spicy tea that will help alleviate your vertigo. Use either fresh or dry ginger rhizomes to make tea.
- slice the ginger finely
- place 1-2 tablespoons of sliced ginger in a cup
- Pour 8 ounce of boiling water over the sliced ginger
- Let steep for 5-10 minutes depending on how strong you prefer
You can sweeten the tea with honey to taste.
4. Lemon Balm
Lemon balm is believed to have healing properties that help with nervousness and vertigo. This is, in part, attributed to the health effects of the balm on the circulatory and nervous systems. The latter is important because vertigo results from the constant sending of nervous signals from the ear.
Considered one of the fastest home remedies, lemon balm is effective in treating vertigo, migraines, insomnia, nervous tension, and even depression.
You can rub its leaf and take a whiff to smell the cozy subtle lemon aroma of its leaves. Lemon balm oil helps you stay calm and relaxed because it reduces stress.
Drinking the strained tea of dried lemon balm seeped in a cup of boiling water can be an almost immediate relief for vertigo attacks.
Lemon Balm Tea
- Place the cup of water in a pan and boil.
- Add the lemon balm to the hot water and lower the heat to let it simmer for 10 minutes.
- Pass the tea through a strainer and drink daily to help alleviate the symptoms of vertigo.
You may also inhale the balm as it simmers.
Do this for about 5 minutes to allow you to regain some balance and reduce the ‘off-balance’ feeling.
Exercise is a common way to treat vertigo and is particularly effective in treating BPPV. While there are several different exercise regimes to choose from the most common is the Epley maneuver. A series of movements designed by Dr. Epley, this maneuver is designed to return the displaced calcium crystals to where they belong. This will then relieve the feelings of dizziness and loss of balance.
To perform the Epley maneuver simply follow these steps:
For the right ear
- Begin by sitting on a bed
- Turn your head 45 degrees to the right
- Lie back onto a pillow, keeping your head turned to the right
- With your head reclined on the pillow, stay in position for 30 seconds
- Next without raising your head, turn 90 degrees to the left so you end with your head positioned 45 degrees to the left
- Stay in the position for 30 seconds
- Now turn your head and body another 90 degrees to the left so you are facing into the bed
- Stay in the position for 30 seconds
- Sit up on the left side
Do the same for the left ear.
After completing the Epley Maneuver you may experience immediate relief. However, you may find you need to repeat the maneuver a few times to get the crystals to return where they belong. Once your vertigo has subsided you can stop the exercises.
Get Plenty Of Sleep And Stay Hydrated
All of us suffer from bouts of insomnia from one time or another. As a vertigo sufferer, insomnia can exacerbate your symptoms. The longer you go without sleep the more likely you are to find yourself facing the consequences and experiencing dizziness and loss of balance.
Having a regular sleep routine can help ensure that you get enough sleep each night. Also, avoid caffeine and alcohol which can disturb your sleep patterns.
Dehydration can be another factor in triggering vertigo. While staying hydrated is always important it is even more important if you suffer from vertigo. You may have heard to drink 64 ounces of water per day but current standards now recommend that you drink between half an ounce to an ounce of water for every pound you weigh. To stay hydrated in hot weather you should make sure you are consuming on the higher-end of these guidelines. By keeping yourself hydrated you can eliminate one of the factors that can trigger bouts of vertigo.
While vertigo can be life-altering, with these simple home remedies you can begin to regain control of your life. Taking simple steps like staying hydrated and getting plenty of sleep can make a real difference. And when you are faced with an attack of vertigo, knowing exercises and herbal remedies can help you regain your equilibrium. (By RACHAEL BLASBALG)