Drying Medicinal Herbs

You know how it is: In the middle of summer, both culinary and medicinal herbs are everywhere – there’s so many I forget to see them. And then, before I know it, it’s autumn, and we’re fast coming up to the season of sniffles, coughs and colds, which is when I need the herbs the most!

There’s just one problem. They’ve shrunk back to lowly small patches, or in the case of frosty climates, to a brown dead lump.

At this point, the fact that they will sprout anew with the spring is small comfort. I need them in June when the cold wind blows, not in September when everyone is recovered.

The obvious answer? Store that season. And store it good.

My family learned the true meaning of snot last winter. We’ve always been a pretty healthy bunch, but last winter we re-set the bar. Way down low. Whatever the reason, we got sick. And sick again. And then again. The three of us, two big, one small, were like a rotating puddle of cough and flu and phlegm and it was awful.

And here was I thinking (kinda) that all it took was clean food, raw milk and a purpose in life to stay healthy. Apparently not. We learned our lesson well. So this winter, I’ll be ready.

I will have dried medicinal herbs, master tonic and dried tumeric alongside lashings of crushed garlic (possibly on everything, including the porridge) and whatever else it takes to have a happy and relatively snot-free winter.

Drying herbs has not been my thing, up until now – I prefer to cook and eat as seasonally as possible (with the exception of things like passata) so I’ve never gone to much trouble trying to dry the excess summer basil or parsley.

But medicinal herbs are another matter.

Contenders at our place include sage, thyme, and marigolds. Let’s go.

This is how you do it:

You can dry your herbs upside down in small bunches, hung in a shady, warm place where they get airflow. This method will take about a week.

Alternately, you can plunk them in a dehydrator. This will take around 12 hours.

Once they’re dry, jar them up and label, then store them somewhere away from the light.

Or you can pack your medicinal dried herbs into a jar and pour good quality honey over the lot. This limits their scope of use a bit, but is still a very good thing to do.

The three herbs below are all round all-stars for winter health – whack them in a tea, steep, and serve.

I will also be sprinkling them on meals here and there. And possibly into the morning porridge, in small amounts.

Sage is good for…

  • Sore throats
  • Mouth ulcers
  • Inflammation in general (especially in the mouth)
  • Fevers + excessive sweating

Thyme is good for…

  • Coughs and colds as an expectorant
  • Great antibacterial + antiseptic for sore throats
  • All-round excellent herb

Marigolds are good for…      

  • Coughs and sore throats
  • Eye infections (as a wash)
  • Great fungal treatment (as a cream)
  • Recovery from radiation treatment (as a cream)
  • note that in the above pictures are two types of what’s commonly called marigold – the Calendula (daisy-like), and the Tagates (on the sewn thread) – they’re not closely related genetically, but can be used for the same purposes

Of course, there’s a billion more herbs that could be dried and stored for winter goodness.

My favourite medicinal herb resources:

P.S. This is a slightly edited version of a post originally published on the Milkwood Permaculture website.