Dry Your Own Fresh Herbs

Growing your own garden of herbs or wildcrafting (harvesting herbs from the wild) can be a wonderfully satisfying activity. Not only this but using herbs you have grown or gathered yourself to create medicines and treatments for your family gives a sense of empowerment and achievement.

Learn to dry your own fresh herbs to have on hand for cooking or for use in healing during the winter season when fresh herbs are less readily available.

With education and herbal knowledge, you can empower yourself to take your health and healing into your own hands!

Did you know the majority of modern medicines are made from the extracts and derivatives of plants? The benefit in knowing you can be self-sufficient and be confident the medicines you provide to your family are completely organic with no added chemicals, preservatives, or toxins can greatly put the mind at ease.

Having commonly used dried herbs and medicines prepared ahead of time means more peace of mind. No more running out in the middle of the night for medicine for a sick child!

With a little planning and preparation, you can have aides for the common cold or the flu prepared and ready for use when your family needs them. The possibilities are virtually endless!

Drying Methods

For those harvesting herbs for the first time, I would suggest harvesting just one plant type at a time until you are more familiar with identification.

Plants with larger leaves such as plantain or raspberry, the leaves can be stripped from the stem. Smaller more wispy plants such as dill or fennel can be left on the stalk until drying is completed.

Once you have harvested the herbs you intend to dry and preserve, the first thing you will want to do is to separate the various herbs and gently clean them. I suggest a mild biodegradable soap. Discard any damaged or discolored leaves.

After rinsing off my herbs, I will lay them out on a counter lined with paper towels and use another layer to dab dry them as best I can. The object is to dry any visible water off the plants before moving on.

There are a few different methods that can be used to dry herbs. This can depend on the oil content of a particular plant or various parts of a plant may be dried differently. For example, thicker more woody plants and materials such as barks you may choose to dry via oven or dehydrator where mint or yarrow leaves and flowers can be easily air dried.

Natural Air Drying

Air drying can be done either by hanging the herbs to dry or by gently laying them on a rack to dry.

To hang dry herbs, gather them into bunches of 4 or 5 and tie the stems together at one end and hang them upside down with the leaves downward, leaving a few inches between bunches.

Small leaves or more delicate plants and flowers can be loosely wrapped into a muslin cloth made into a pouch and hung the same way.

I have also used small paper lunch bags for hang drying plants inside and it works well. I do not suggest using plastic as mold can develop before the drying process is complete and plastic does not allow for natural air flow.

If you prefer to rack dry your herbs, gently separate leaves and stems in a single layer on a drying rack and either set the racks into a cabinet or drawer or another area where they will be undisturbed to dry. I will sometimes use the warming drawer to the oven to set racks in to dry.

Whether hang drying or rack drying, choose a cool dry area where the herbs will be kept out of direct sunlight at all times. Drying time is typically about 10 days, give or take a couple days, depending on the particular herb and the climate they are dried in. In more humid climates, drying time may be on the longer end.

Below is a great short video you may find helpful. It will show you how easy it is to hang herbs to dry.

Oven Drying

If you are in a hurry or for herbs with a high oil or water content, you may choose to use an oven to dry the herbs.

For this method you will want to arrange the herbs in a single layer on a cookie sheet or something similar and place them in the oven at the lowest possible temperature setting. To ensure uniform drying, turn the herbs over from time to time.

The total drying time will vary depending on the herb but a few hours is typical.

Dehydrator Drying

Using a dehydrator is also a viable way to dry your herbs. Just like using the rack to air dry, you will want to arrange your herbs on the dehydrator rack in a single layer.

Any brand dehydrator will do, but you will want to have one with adjustable temperature settings and if possible the option to change the spacing between the trays.

The dehydrator should be set to a low temperature, ideally between about 95F and 125F. Drying time can vary greatly from 6 hours up to 18 hours, depending on the type of herb and humidity levels.

Your Finished Product

No matter which method you choose to dry your herbs, when the leaves are crispy and brittle and will crack and crumble into pieces and powder, the drying has completed.

Now it is time to crush up the herbs with either your hands or a mortar and pestle.

Removing leaves from the stems is super easy when the herbs have been dried. While holding over a bowl, simply hold the stem at one end and run your fingers down the stem detaching all the leaves as you work your way down.

Remove any extra stems and store the dried herb in an air tight container. Keeping herbs in a darkened or amber glass jar will help preserve them for longer. Always keep them out of direct sunlight. This will also ensure a longer shelf life.

Enjoy the Benefit of Fresh Herbs All Year!

Drying your own herbs is an excellent way to preserve herbs for future use. It is one way to have herbs on hand for cooking or medicinal use during the winter months when we do not have the ability to pick fresh herbs.

As long as your herbs are kept in an air tight container out of direct sunlight, herbs will have a shelf life of at least a good 6 months. When the herbs begin to lose their strong scent and taste, you will know it is time to discard them.

Always remember that dried herbs are more concentrated than fresh herbs. When using them for cooking, a recipe that calls for 1 tablespoon of fresh herb will be the equivalent of 1 teaspoon dried herb.

Have fun with it and experiment with creating your own dried herb combinations. Make your own Italian spice rub by mixing oregano, thyme, and parsley for example.

Please share your experiences with drying your own herbs with me! I always love to hear of new herbal blends too. As always, if you have any questions or issues when drying your own herbs feel free to drop them in the comment section below or send me a private email at shan@shansherbal.com.

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20 thoughts on “Dry Your Own Fresh Herbs”

  1. Thanks, you’ve really inspired me to grow an herb garden. We’re moving to our house next year and I have been thinking about growing a herb garden. And now, I got this wonderful idea from you to dry my own herbs.

    I’m excited to do this and will start learning more about it. I think I like the idea of air drying them. Are there herbs that should be air dried and should be dried in an oven instead? Thanks, will definitely come back to your site.

    Raquel

    • Hi Raquel,
      I’m so glad I’ve given you some new ideas!

      Some herbs that contain a high oil or water content, such as chamomile, take a longer period of time when air drying. Heavier woody material such as barks also will take a long time to air dry. These types of plants you may find easier to use an oven or dehydrator for drying but it really is personal preference.

      If you have any other questions, feel free to contact me!

      Best of luck, Shan

  2. Wonderful! Thank you for sharing various ways to dry herbs. The process seems very simple! Right now, I need to grow them first lol.

    I am very interested in getting into gardening vegetables and herbs. Are there any easier to harvest herbs you’d recommend for a newbie? And do you recommend any drying process over the other? I.e hanging vs. rack. Or is it user preference?

    • Hi Sherry,
      The drying process really is super simple and doesn’t take much time. It’s a wonderful way to preserve herbs and have the benefit of fresh herbs year round.

      The process you use really is user preference however some types of plants, such as those with a high oil content or heavier woody materials like bark, you may wish to use an oven or dehydrator to cut the time of drying down.

      As far as harvesting herbs, plant identification is key for beginners. You always want to be 100% sure of the identification and safety of the plant you are harvesting which is why for beginners, growing the herbs can be the best way. There are various apps and field books that can help with identification but unless you are sure of the identity, don’t harvest them.

      All the best, Shan

  3. Hi,
    Thank you for recommending some herb drying methods here. Your post is full of useful information. I love cooking with fresh herbs and I love to try new herbs from different regions.

    You gave three drying methods: natural air drying, oven drying, dehydrator drying. Is there any specific benefit when using natural air drying compared to oven or dehydrator?

    Again thanks, I am sharing your post to my friends.

    • Thank you for visiting and sharing the article to your friends, much appreciated and I hope others get some benefit from it.

      The method used to dry herbs is completely up to you. There really is no benefit to drying them with natural air except that the process is completely natural however, when using a dehydrator or oven you will want to be mindful of overheating or cooking the herbs.

      When herbs are heated at too high of temperature, they will lose their nutritional and medicinal value.

      If you have any other questions, feel free to contact me!
      Thanks, Shan

  4. Hey there Shan, you have a really well organised system set up. It has certainly allayed any fears I had about the complexity of the whole drying process.

    You are absolutely right about how satisfying it is to grow your own herbs, growing anything for that matter. I’ve never managed to gain any consistency over the years, although one year I did grow some tomato plants in our conservatory. They were awesome, right upto the point where my wife watered them and got the ratio wrong for the plant food. Their demise was short but hopefully painless.

    We have an Aloe plant in the house and Fennel, Lavender and Basil in the garden. I think this year might be a good time to start trying to dry some out. I can use the conservatory as it’s a bit like a greenhouse in the Summer. I would be hanging I think, as there is room. The lavender could be used as a ‘room smelly’. My wife can keep the Fennel,ugh. I shall look into some other herbs that could be low maintenance. I think we have a ‘Natural Medicines’ book somewhere so I could look up herbs and their properties. I know the Aloe plant has been useful for minor skin irritations, burns and bites.

    • Thank you for sharing your experiences with growing plants (and I’m sorry to hear about your poor tomatoes lol).

      Fennel, lavender and basil would be wonderful plants to dry and save. Fennel can be used in cooking but it’s also an excellent plant for stomach upset and a host of other ailments. Lavender can be used as a deodorizers yes, but it also has antibacterial properties and can be used for all sorts of infections internally and externally.

      The aloe plant can be used as it is without drying. Just break a piece off each time it is needed and let it grow when it is not. Aloe can be great digestive issues and for all kinds of burns. I have a recipe for a burn paste that will help everything from sunburn to horrible 3rd degree burns. I will share it in a post very soon for you and others to take advantage of.

      If you run into any issues or have questions when drying your plants, feel free to contact me.

      All the best, Shan

  5. Hi Shan,
    Never knew you could put fresh herbs in the oven for drying purposes. Always thought the had to be dried the natural way, on a line in the sun. Also quite surprising to me was the difference in the ratio, of the fresh herb and the dried herb.

    I love anything natural, and it is a great feeling to grow your own herbs etc. The six month shelf life is also a bonus.
    I haven’t started a garden this year. I do have an aloe plant which I find is handy with cuts and burns.

    I certainly believe that the herbal natural way is the best way.

    Thank you,
    Michael

    • Michael,
      I personally prefer to air dry my herbs but there are some instances where using an oven or dehydrator can come in handy. The 6 month shelf life is merely a guideline – many herbs will retain their nutrition and medicinal quality for longer than this.

      Dried herbs are more concentrated and potent than fresh herbs since there is more plant material per ounce in weight. Using dried herbs also gives one the opportunity to store a vast collection of herbs in a small area for use in various medicines or for cooking with.

      Aloe is wonderful for burns and cuts but it can also be used internally with treatments for various digestive issues and it can even be helpful for weight loss.

      I always love to come across a fellow nature lover!

      Regards, Shan

  6. Very informative article Shan.

    I have my little balcony garden which I use for planting herbs (and flowers) but I haven’t tried drying and preserving herbs. That leads to a lot of wastage as many leaves are not usable after a while.

    I will start right away and try to preserve some herbs. Will tell you how it goes.

    Thanks for the info.
    Joshi

    • Hi Joshi,

      Before I was aware of how easy it was to dry herbs, I also had quite a bit of waste from the plants I was unable to use before they died off for the season. Now I have herbs year round for cooking and medicines when I need them.

      I appreciate you sharing your story with me. I look forward to hearing how your drying process goes!

      Thanks, Shan

  7. This is a very interesting article about drying herbs. It is a very worthwhile effort to produce medicines and treatments from herbs.

    My uncle was a naturopathic physician and I grew up around natural herbs and treatments. I am very grateful that I grew up learning the value of natural remedies. I have used natural products all my life.

    Your information on natural air drying, oven drying, and dehydrator drying, is vital information to have. Thanks so much for providing this important information; I even learned a few new things. Thanks so very much.

    • Hello Joseph,
      Thank you for sharing your experiences with herbs and natural medicines. You are blessed to have grown up with an uncle who was a Naturopathic physician! You were exposed early on to the power of plants and natural medicines where I was in my 30’s before I gained any real knowledge on the subject.

      My goal is to one day become a Naturopathic physician myself one day. Do you know what school/university your uncle attended? I am in the process of comparing schools of Naturopathic medicine right now and would be grateful for any inside information or insights.

      Thank you for visiting and all the very best, Shan

  8. This post will be great for a friend of mine. He grows his own herbs and is always saying how he hates to throw away any herbs that he does not get the chance to use while fresh. I am going to share this with him, and I’m pretty confident this will help him.

    Thanks a lot for sharing this, these instructions will help my friend a lot.

    • I love to grow my own herbs in the garden! It’s wonderful to have them on hand all year round. I use them for cooking but also in various medicines I make for myself and my family.

      If you or your friend has any questions, feel free to contact me!

      Thanks, Shan

  9. This article reminds me of my college days when I was just studying Pharmacy at Manila Central University. Unknown to most people, most drugs or pharmaceuticals that are sold in drugstores today are derived from herbs. A small minority comes from minerals. But the majority, the active ingredients are extracted from herbs. Your article reminds me of those days when we were drying leaves to be used in our thesis. We extracted Tannins and Alkaloids, components of our modern drugs today.

    Being a pharmacist, I can say that the advocacy of this site is good. This is making ordinary people aware of the medicinal herbs they can use for the treatment of illnesses. The herbs around us are actually created by God for that purpose, and we, the modern pharmacists and chemists, are amazed at how good our God is in formulating and balancing substances in plants. The leaves of herbs that we use come with complete ingredients which include the active ingredients but also the buffers and adjuvants.

    In drying leaves, I agree with the said temperature given in this article. It’s the right temperature for drying, just enough to eliminate water and moisture for the extraction and purification of the desired therapeutic substance. And just enough to not destroy the buffers if one is to use crude preparations like poultices.

    Great article and great site. I will bookmark this for future use as a reference site.

    • Hello Gomer,

      I very much appreciate your comments and expertise while explaining how modern medicines are most times created from plant components. Herbal pharmacology and knowledge is vital when creating medicines and herbal formulas for therapeutic and medicinal use.

      Your comments on plants containing and balancing the active ingredients but also the buffers and adjuvants is a huge point for me. For this reason, I strongly believe medicines created with the use of whole plants are much safer than most any pharmaceutical medicine.

      Many synthetic pharmaceutical drugs are made by extracting and then synthesizing only the active ingredient from the plant but then leaving behind its natural safety buffers, which is why I believe drugs can be so much more dangerous when consumed. On the contrary, when the whole plant is consumed, the active ingredients are balanced against the buffers and adjuvants, therefore making them much safer to ingest.

      Plants also come with the added benefit of no added chemicals or preservatives and they are packed with vital vitamins and minerals which is an added bonus when using whole plants in medicines and therapeutic treatments.

      I very much hope to see you again. I look forward to your insight with your pharmaceutical background and expertise.

      God Bless, Shan

  10. Hi!
    I am fascinated with herbs. I remember my grandma and my mom – they always prepared different herbs themselves. I was little then and, unfortunately, didn’t learn much. I should have!

    I would love to start but one issue though: I live in a city apartment with very limited in space. Any idea how to get started? Also, in the area near the city – what herbs are safe to collect? Any precautions? Or should I go to the suburbs?

    Lastly: what herbs, in your opinion, are the safest to use for a prolonged time?

    Thank you!

    • Hi Ella and nice to meet you!

      It’s wonderful that your mom and grandma exposed you to herbal preparations when you were younger. There is always time to learn more about specifics but your experiences and personal testimony on the power and usefulness of herbs is priceless.

      Living in a city with limited space for growing herbs can be more difficult but not impossible. You could grow herbs on a balcony in pots or in window boxes inside where sunlight is available. If you have a basement area, it is possible to grow herbs with the help of a heat/sun lamp over them and/or heat mats.

      I do not advise harvesting herbs from roadsides or heavily polluted areas as the herbs will take in all the pollutants of the soil they are grown in. I suggest going to a less populated area where it is free of heavy traffic and any areas where pollutants of any type may be running into the soil.
      One note however, it is vital to know 100% the identity and safety of the herbs you collect when wildcrafting. Making a mistake in this area can lead to illness or even death. Always consult a herbalist or at the very least a field guide to properly identify plants and never harvest unless you are sure of its identity.

      Another option may be to visit farmer’s markets or local health food stores to buy fresh herbs to dry at home. You can then be 100% sure of the identity and you will know they are fresh. Bulk dried herbs can also be purchased from health food stores and various online stores as well.
      As for your question on which herbs can be safe to use for a prolonged time – there are various herbs that are potent and should only be consumed during specific treatments however the vast majority of herbs can be taken as a tonic, or daily preventative, each day to boost your health and immune system. A qualified herbalist can give you dosage and usage information.

      I am happy to answer any questions on specific herbs you might have or if you run into questions or issues if you decide to grow your own.

      Best of luck, Shan

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