Drying of herbs

drying-of-herbs

Drying of herbs

21.9.2020


The end of the summer is the best time to dry herbs for cosmetic use. Of course, herbs for cosmetic purposes can be collected at any time. From July to August, nature is at its best and the supply is particularly plentiful.

Kuva Mabel Amber Pixabaystä

Why dry herbs?

Dried herbs are useful when making herb oil, herbal teas and herbal infusions. You can also use dried herbs for hair rinses. Of course, dried herbs can also be purchased at online stores. Variety may surprise you. I myself collect herbs I need either from nature or from my garden and simply dry them. I only buy herbs that are difficult to grow or that I can’t easily find in nature.

By drying yourself, you ensure the quality of the herb

Because you have collected, cleaned and dried the herb yourself, you know exactly how old the herb is. Sometimes I have found years old stock for sale in the online store.

By drying yourself you get a wonderful collection of different herbs

You can safely dry as many herbs as you happen to find. Even if you do not find any use for the herb right now, you can try out more special products during the winter. Wild herbs are free and often they are hated weeds. Nature offers them in abundance. Even if you have to discard unused herbs in the spring, no damage has happened.

Dried herbs do require very little space

Dried herbs fit perfectly in a small home. They will be preserved best in paper bags or small glass jars. Dried herbs do not require cold storage. Room temperature is very good. That is why it is easy to find good places to store herbs. It is enough that your herbs are protected from light and moist. I keep the dried herbs in a basket covered by a cloth.

Dried herbs are rich in active ingredients

You should not make large quantities of cosmetics at once. Herbal chemicals in herbs can oxidize and lose their effectiveness over long periods of storage. In dried herbs, plant chemicals retain their potency throughout the winter. If you have herbs dried, you can make a fresh facial cream, in every two weeks if you like. You can always look at your dry herb collection and select interesting plants for making products. This way you have a high-quality product that contains all the active ingredients of the plant.

A word about collecting and handling herbs

Collecting herbs is a skill worth learning. In this post I am not going to delve deeper the collection part. Let us, however, take a look at the most important points

  • If you are a beginner, learn to identify 3-4 common herbs and use them only.
  • Collect only those herbs you know with certainty. If, for example, you do not recognize the ground elder (Aegopodium podagraria), do not collect any similar plants. Plants like ground elder has similar looking, lethal varieties.
  • Sign up for an herbal walk, herbal course, or any herbal event.  You will learn how to identify wild herbs with certainty only in the natural environment.
  • Do not use toxic plants at all, not even externally.
  • If you find of a new herb, look carefully on the web at trusted sites for plant toxicity.
  • Many old herbs have been found to be toxic in the light of current research; comfrey (Symphytum officinale), coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara), borage (Borago officinalis) and many others because they contain pyrrolizidine alkaloids. Pyrrolizidine alkaloids damage the liver. The only remedy is liver transplantation. There is no reliable information on the absorption of the poison through the skin. So don’t take any unnecessary risks.
  • Do not collect herbs by the side of the road or in dog walking areas. There are no clear instructions available for how many meters the distance from roadside to safe pick-up area should be. My own safe zone is 10 meters on small roads. Forest roads are safer so usually no safe zone is needed. I’m not collecting anything next to highways.
  • Do not collect rare plants at all. Also, if there are just 1 or 2 plants just leave the alone. This ensures that the plant has the potential to spread more widely.
  • Even if there is a very large amount of plants, it is worthwhile to collect only in moderation and need. So avoid unnecessary collecting.
  • Never collect all specimens from the area. This may permanently destroy the plant from the area.
  • Only collect healthy and clean plants.

Plant treatment

drying-of-herbs
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Clean the plants by rinsing them with water. Thoroughly dry the plants after rinsing. Everyone is not doing this because rinsing significantly slows down the drying process. I clean the plants myself by rinsing as I get dust and pollen out of them. It improves the shelf life of cosmetics. If you think the plants are clean enough, rinsing is not a must.

It is not advisable to collect plants in hot weather or when raining. The best time to collect is in the morning when the plants are at their best after night dew.

You can collect the herbs mentioned to cosmetic use anytime during the year. Since the herbs are not meant to be eaten, they do not have to be small, delicious and juicy. Edible wild herbs should be collected well in advance of Midsummer.

There is no hurry with collecting herbs for cosmetics. You have a very good time drying many more herbs. Overgrowth nettles also contain significantly more chlorophyll, a very potent antioxidant. This was only an example of nettles. Other herbs have the same thing. They are clearly more effective when harvested later in the summer.

How to Dry Herbs

No special equipment are needed for drying herbs. Of course, there are utility dryers that dry plants quickly and with high quality. Get a dryer if you are about to dry herbs for food as well. The quantities are too big for slow drying.

Dehydrator

Now I don’t want to focus on dryers. I don’t have a dryer right now, because I don’t think I need one. So far, I have drained the plants using a mobile clothes rack. However, if you are about to purchase a dryer, choose a model with a temperature regulator. The active ingredients of the plants will be destroyed when drying too hot. The dryer must be able to set the drying temperature to 35 degrees Celsius (95 Fahrenheit). It is a very suitable temperature for herbs. The highest temperatures of the dryers are suitable for berries, fruits, mushrooms, fish and meat. For herbs they are just too hot.

A dryer is essential when you want to dry large quantities of plants and you don’t have the space to hang them anywhere for weeks to dry. Also, parts of the plant that you want to keep as beautiful as possible require a dryer. These include flowers such as small rose buds and yellow dandelion flowers. Dandelion flowers are impossible to dry beautifully without a dryer. In air drying, they become just fluff balls.

Drying in the oven

Oven drying is easy if you can control the drying temperatures. Many ovens do not operate reliably at temperatures below 100 ° C. In fact, I have used a separate oven thermometer. I constantly monitor the drying temperature.

This is how to dry the herbs in a conventional electric oven

  • First heat the oven to about 100 degrees. Check the temperature using a separate meter.
  • Let the heat lower to 35 degrees and place the herbs on a baking sheet. User baking paper.
  • Leave the oven door little bit open
  • When the temperature drops below 30 degrees, keep the oven turned on so that the temperature rises again to 35 degrees.
  • Continue until the herbs are dry. The drying time depends very much on the thickness of the plants. Thin-leaf plants dry instantly. That is why I use this method only for small quantities and thin-leaf plants.
  • You can still post-dry herbs at room temperature on paper or cloth

Air drying

My absolute favourite is air drying. This way you can dry any herb relatively quickly. Air drying allows large quantities of herbs to be dried without any devices.

I use air drying at least for nettle. Also, yarrow, alpine and young raspberry leaves dry well. All traditional aromatic herbs such as sage, thyme and rosemary should also be air dried.

I’ve noticed with meadowsweet (Filipendula ulmaria) and fireweed (Chamaenerion angustifolium) that they are difficult to dry. The result has been poor, particularly if I tried to dry plants with thick stem. The leaves of the plants have begun to turn yellow, that is, release their active substances to the stems. Therefore, it is advisable to dry these plants by other means.

  • Use a string to tie the plants into thin bunches
  • Hang the bundles upside down, stem up, for example on a clothesline.
  • Choose a dark but airy place to hang. Some people dry herbs in the bathroom clothes rack. The bathroom is a good place if it has underfloor heating and no sunlight at all. The disadvantage, of course, is that bathroom cannot be used if it is full of plants drying out.
  • The farmhouse oven top is perfect for drying herbs. Use dark cloths to prevent the light.
  • If you have a suitable space for air drying the herbs but there is too much light, don’t worry. Just use heavy curtains.
  • Never dry herbs on top of a sauna heating element because of the risk of fire.
  • Leave the plants to hang until they dry.
  • The drying time depends on many things; number of plants, size of bunches, temperature, ventilation, humidity of the space.
  • Ideally, the plants should be allowed to stay undisturbed for long periods of time. They should be really dry.

Drying herbs in a rack

Years ago, I purchased such storage racks from Ikea. I don’t really know how to call these racks. However, the picture tells you what I mean.

These racks are supposed to put children’s toys or something similar. However, I heard that my teacher, herbalist Henriette Kress uses these to dry herbs. Just spread the herbs thinly over the bottom of the trays. They need turning to dry on all sides. After a week or two, the herbs have dried up.

I tried the rack-drying first time last summer. I dehydrated the lipstick that I have so much. The trays were almost full of lipstick leaves. I hung the tray in the storage room. I turned the leaves from time to time. Then I forgot the plants completely. In August and September, I looked at the tray. The plants were beautifully green and the aroma was most pleasant. So I can recommend this way of drying.

  • Use tray drying only on herb leaves. Stalked herbs are not suitable for this. Remove leaves from the stems and dry the stems separately in the bundle.
  • You can put different herbs in each tray. I find it really convenient.
  • Hang the tray filled with herbs in an airy, dark place where it will hang comfortably. My rack hangs in the walk-in closet or in a storage room. The aroma of herbs is delightful.
  • Turn herbs occasionally to ensure drying results.
  • When the herbs are dry, pack them in glass jars or paper bags provided with a name tag (name and date of the herb)

Flat drying of herbs

Flat drying of herbs is perhaps the most popular method of drying. Most of us want to dry just one or two herbs and even in reasonable amounts. Then flat drying is the best and hassle-free option.

Flat drying means applying herb leaves either on a cloth or paper to wait for drying. Flat drying is not suitable for thick-leafed plants or plant stems. Flat drying suits very well for example lady’s mantle (Alchemilla), dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) leaves (not dandelion flowers), raspberry  (Rubus idaeus) leaves, oat  (Avena sativa) sprouts, rowan (Sorbus) leaves and other easy-to-dry, grassy parts of plants. You can also flat-dry thicker plant parts if you cut them smaller.

Flat drying also takes time. Time can be reduced if the temperature is high and ventilation is working well. The best flat drying space is the bathroom floor if it has underfloor heating on. You can pack the dried herbs inside a cotton pillowcase and place the pillowcase on the warm floor of the bathroom. In the best case, your plants have dried up in one day.

A slower flat drying method is to place the cloths on the fabric and place the fabric on, for example, a clothes rack. In this way the air also circulates underneath. A warm kitchen desk can also be a good place for flat drying. Small and thin parts of the plant dry in a day or two.

Spend time in nature

drying-of-herbs
Kuva sipa Pixabaystä

These instructions will help you to start drying your wild herbs and garden herbs for cosmetics. You have plenty of summer left.

Already have dried herbs? Tell us, what herbs you already have in stock!

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