Care & Storage of Your Magickal Herbes
Seeing as I've been writing herbe articles for the Axis Mundi for some time now, you might be wondering why I'm now advising about their care and storage, but it's never too late! The premise for this article came about because people were asking for small jars to store their herbes in, and this got me thinking. I know that many of you know how to take care and store your herbes, but it never hurts to refresh your memory. And if you're new to working with herbes, then this might be new to you.
Well you've bought your herbes, and they usually come in plastic bags, so what do you do now? Well you can store the herbes in their plastic bags for a while, but that's not good in the long term for them and also it's not aesthetically pleasing is it. Since most of the therapeutic and magickal values of leaves, roots, seeds and flowers lie within the essential and volatile oils present in all plant life, it is important to ensure that these oils do not dry out or wear off.
Once you begin to collect a variety of herbes the treasure hunt for containers is on. You could choose from glass, glazed ceramic or even plastic; as long as they are coloured. The cheapest way to collect your containers is to reuse small jars from your pantry and if you have a baby, well for storage of small amounts of herbes, nothing could be better than baby food jars. Or you could beg, borrow or buy some absolutely fabulous looking containers; hunt around at garage sales, second-hand shops or ask for them for birthday presents.
Whatever the container, make sure it's clean and dry before storing your herbs in it, as any moisture within the containers will quickly damage your herbs and can result in mould and mildew. Also don't forget to seal the containers well so as not to dissipate their magickal essence.
Ever picked up a container of herbes and wondered what the heck was in it?! Well instead of opening the container to investigate, how about labelling your container when you first put the herbe in it. The label should have the common name of the herbe, the Latin name (if you know it) and the date of purchase/harvest of the herbe. You can also add if you wish the planetary correspondence as a quick reference.
Now that you've got this far, where do you store your containers of herbes? Out of the way of sunlight of course! Sunlight is very harmful to your herbes, unless they are still growing. The sun's rays when in direct contact with the herbe will cause a chemical breakdown of the constituents the same way sunlight causes wood or fabric to dry out and fade. First and best option - find a shelf in a wardrobe or somewhere with a closing door, so that your herbes are in darkness as much as possible. If this is not an option, find a storage space that will be out of the path of the sun (remembering that the sun's path is different every season) and try and cover them with something dark and heavy to shield them from the light (I know, I know that this will stop you looking at all those lovely containers and gloating, but it's best for the herbes).
One example of simple herb storage: Jenwytch (SOL's Website Manager) has a small collection of herbs stored mainly in old Peanut Butter
and Vegemite jars, kept inside a drawer away from sunlight. (Photos by Jenwytch)
Now having taken care of all that, how long should you store your herbes! Dried herbs have an approximate shelf life of 6-12 months before losing their potency. Watch out for discoloration, extreme brittleness and complete loss of scent. When any of these occur, it means that your herbs are too old or have gotten damaged and it is time to go out and buy new stock.
In your herbes, Mother Earth has given you a powerful gift - a precious commodity that can enhance you both spiritually and physically. Take care and keep her gifts safe by storing them properly and efficiently. Just a few simple steps can make all the difference in harnessing their precious energies and benefitting from their multiple uses.
The Master Book of Herbalism by Paul Beyerl
First image from:
Photo by Kevin McKinney | Things in Jars: For Strange Women, found at http://queenofpentaclesconjure.blogspot.com/2010/08/starting-magical-apothecary-at-home.html