Last Tuesday, I posted my first herbal tea blend and a commenter wondered how I stored my loose herbs, so I thought I’d take a time out before doing more posts like last week’s and share how I store my herbs as well as a primer on using herbs.
So, above is a peek at my current stash of herbs. The herbs I buy from the bulk herb section of my local health food store. I recommend starting out buying them this way as you get used to using herbs and discovering what you like and what you don’t like. Once you find which you like best, you can order them online (or if you can’t find a local health food store that carries herbs in bulk). My affiliate partner, Mountain Rose Herbs, allows you to buy as little as 4 ounces at a time and has a great selection. You can also find the more common ones at Amazon, but you usually have to buy a larger amount.
To store, I use 8-ounce Mason jars that I bought at Target, but you can use any kind of glass jar (not plastic!), like these cute ones, or get in the habit of cruising by garage sales. I’ve found great glass jars for $1 at, believe it or not, the Dollar Store. In the past, I’ve reused store-bought jam and jelly jars. After college, my dad made me a narrow ‘bookcase’ out of 1x3s that were just the right height to hold all my herb jars. Sadly, after so much time and multiple moves, that piece of furniture is gone 😦 It was well used, however, and could fit easily into whatever kitchen I moved into. I like having a jar mouth big enough to fit a tablespoon into, so keep that in mind if you’re looking at ones with the cute little stoppers.
You might be wondering what the little white things are inbetween–they’re little squares I cut out from the soft, rubbery shelf liners you can find for cheap at places like the Dollar Store (I love the Dollar Store). I happened to have some extra around, so cut out these squares, but eventually I want to get some of those little no-skid round pads you can buy for lamps and such and put them on the bottoms of the jars. Something like my solution, or the pads, is needed because it can get kinda slippery stacking them like this without them.
These are in a handy spot for me to mix and brew, which is essential. For the labels, I used the Avery kind (#22828) that is water resistant and removable, and they are quite durable! I don’t have a dishwasher, but they’ve held up in boiling water and in washing dishes in the sink. (I used a laser printer).
Tips for Herbal Infusions/Decoctions
Decoction: Where you let an herb simmer for at least 15 minutes. This is typically done with roots and barks which need this method to extract the goodness. The tougher, the longer it needs.
Infusion: What you normally think of when preparing tea–pouring hot water over herbs and letting them steep. This is done with the more delicate leaves and flowers. Remember it this way, if you’re in doubt whether to decoct or infuse: if it’s delicate, you don’t boil it.
Amount: 1-2 teaspoons of dried herbs per cup. A handful for fresh.
Cover pot: to keep in most of the good stuff while infusing or decocting, make sure to cover your pot!
Steep time: For medicinal herbs you’re infusing, go for at least 10 minutes (and cover!).
Use them in place of plain water in recipes: In your cooking or smoothies, when it calls for water, replace with an infusion! I usually have iced green tea on hand, as well as whatever iced herbal concoction I made (like last week’s for Stress/Brain)
Why it’s a good habit to make
- Herbs are full of nutrients that can make you healthy/healthier!
- You need water anyway, so why not fun it up? And get a health boost to boot!
- There are medicinal herbs that can help you with specific symptoms: echinacea for colds, chamomile for sleep, ginger for nausea, etc. Something ails ya? See if a medicinal herb can help.
- It’s fun! I kinda feel like a cool witch mixing these up
Tools you need
Not many, really. Just a pot with lid (even a stove pot–you don’t need a fancy tea pot) and something to hold or strain out your herbs. Pictured above is an assortment I have on hand. I use the fine mesh strainer for my decoctions–I just hold it over my mug and pour the liquid through it and compost the remains. For my infusions, I prefer the hanging ball, as it doesn’t compact the herbs as much as the as the one that clamps. It also has a weight to it so it drops into the liquid. The cloth bag is handy if you want to make some up to-go, or to give to a friend.
Infusions are for more than just drinking!
You can also use them topically for bruises, stings, scratches, and more. Also they’re great to add to DIY beauty routines. I infused calendula in olive oil and use it for a variety of things. I also have an Apple Cider Vinegar hair rinse I made that’s mixed with an infusion of Nettle Leaf and Rosemary.
Resources to get you started
- 52 DIY Herbal Tea Recipes
- The Ultimate Guide to Herbal Tea:
- DIY SKINCARE GUIDE: 15 ESSENTIAL HERBS FOR NATURAL BEAUTY
- TRY THIS: 5 MINUTE DIY HERB FACIAL STEAM
Are you on board yet? What are some herbs you enjoy using as a tea? Do you have any tips to share?