Herb Basics: How to Store Herbs

How can I tell what label terms mean?

| July/August 1998

How to Store Herbs

Herbs are organic materials, so they’re vulnerable to the elements, even when they come in capsules or tablets. Exposure to light, heat, or oxygen can reduce an herb’s potency, so it’s generally recommended that you store your herbs in a cool, dark place such as a pantry or cellar.

Some of the best herb protectors are colored glass bottles, particularly amber or cobalt-blue ones. Many commercial products are packaged in these and other materials to block out direct light, which causes oxidation and reduces effectiveness.

If you buy bulk herbs, make sure your supplier stores the products as carefully as you would at home. Andrew Chevallier, author of The Encyclopedia of Medicinal Plants (DK Publishing, 1996) recommends that you:

• Avoid herbs stored in clear containers.

• Smell the herbs. Good-quality herbs should have a distinct scent and taste.

• Check for signs of adulteration (dried grass or other non-medicinal mate­rial mixed with the herbs). Also, check for mold.

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