STORING YOUR HERBS--You should use a glass container for this purpose though a ceramic one which has been well-glazed will do as well. The ideal container will have a large opening and tight fitting cap and will be of a blue, green or brown glass as sunlight can be harmful even to dried herbs. Containers can be found anywhere, garage sales, attics, your local Discount Store or crafts store. Store your herbs in a cool dark place, a vacant cupboard will do but if you don't have one use a shelf and heavy curtain which can be draped across the front of it. Don't forget to LABEL your jars!! Keep prepared infusions and decoctions in the frig, they'll be good for about 3 days.You may also freeze herbs for later use. This is not really considered suitable for medicinal herbs but it is very good for those that will be used in cooking. You can freeze them whole or chopped. Always store only one type of herb...do not mix herbs together. They may be frozen in plastic freezer bags or plastic containers. They may also be frozen as ice cubes. This is really good for herbs such as Lemon Balm if you're making herbal teas through the summer. Just pop a Lemon Balm ice cube into your tea and as the ice melts it releases the lemon flavoring into the tea while it chills the drink. To extend the life of your oils they may also be stored in the frig. Be sure to keep the jar as full as possible which means changing jars when the level becomes low. Never add fresh oil to an existing infused oil. Always try to keep as air tight as possible.
PICKING & PURCHASING YOUR HERBS-- Herbs are generally widely available in three forms; whole, cut/sifted, and powdered. Whole herbs are the best and should be used for tinctures, ointments, liniments and decoctions. Cut/sifted herbs are good to use for making infusions and teas.Powdered herbs are the kind you get in capsules. You can make your own herbal capsules...just like you find in the store...but for convince purposes most people find it easier to pick them up at their local health food store or pharmacy. When purchasing live plants always pick plants that are healthy looking, not yellowed or browned. Sniff the pot for any unpleasant moldy odors.
GATHERING FROM THE WILD--First and foremost be sure you're taking the right plant! If you don't know how to tell Queen Anne's Lace fro Hemlock....do not attempt to gather your herbs in the wild! Secondly before cutting with your Boline attune yourself to the plant. Visualize yourself working with the plant and really feel its energy. You may like to chant while cutting in order to help raise energy. You can use this chant or make up your own.
"O Little plant...(insert name of plant)...give to me your bounty that it shall aid me in my work. Grow stronger by my stroke. Stronger and more powerful."
Gently cut ONLY WHAT YOU NEED never take from a very young plant or more than 25% of the total growth. Always leave an offering of thanks..a silver coin, brightly colored crystal, some milk or wine. Cover the offering with sod when you are finished. Some herbs may be taken throughout the year but most require that you take them during certain times of the year. Leafy herbs are best taken just before the plant flowers. Always take your herbs in the morning or later in the evening not during the late morning or afternoon hours. The oils in the plant tend to evaporate in the hot sun. Always choose healthy looking sprigs, not yellowed or wilted sprigs. Try to use your fresh herbs within a week, they keep well in sealed plastic bags or containers. Watch for mold.
DRYING YOUR HERBS--There are several different methods for drying herbs...personally I prefer the old fashioned method. I take them in bunches...always one herb type to a bunch...don't mix them....hang them UPSIDE DOWN in a cool place that's fairly dust free for about two weeks. I hang mine in my kitchen. Another way to dry your herbs is to use a drying screen. Use a piece of plastic wind screen mesh and fasten it to a wooden frame. Place your herbs inside and allow to dry in a dry place for about a week. Another way to dry your herbs is by putting them in the oven or microwave. You must be very careful that you do not burn or "over cook" your herbs when using these methods. Personally, I don't care for this method at all but it's good to use when you really need fresh dried herbs quickly. Yet another method for drying is not really drying at all but freezing. This can be done a few ways, it can be done by freezing the herb or mixture in ice cube trays, fill the tray half way with herb and the cover with water. Freeze until solid and depending on how much you're making you can transfer them to a plastic freezer bag, be sure to keep out as much air as possible. Another method for freezing is simply to wash herbs lightly, dry well and toss into a heavy plastic freezer bag, again taking out as much air as possible, place in the freezer and use as needed. Using food dehydrators and microwaves is not a recommended practice for drying herbs for medicinal purposes...it's perfectly fine for cooking...as they tend to extract the necessary essential oils from the plant which leaves with little to no medicinal value. When dried in this method kitchen herbs still taste pretty good and look good but are best left to cooking purposes.