When buying bulk herbs for making your remedies it is vital that you purchase them from reputable sources. Whenever possible, grow your own herbs or buy from local growers who can provide you with information about their growing practices. Certain herbs such as nettle, dandelion and chickweed to name a few, grow abundantly in most areas and can be easily wildcrafted. Most of the time using fresh herbs is most desirable, however, this is not always feasible, and there are some herbs that are best used dried or in specific preparations. Many local health food stores and co-ops carry bulk herbs and often offer a small discount for buying in quantities of 1 pound or more. Always ask the store's merchandiser where they get their herbs and if they're organic.
A Word About Tea
Obviously, teabags are quite convenient to use, however, in order to fit into those little bags the herbs must be cut quite small which compromises the quality and potency of your tea. The larger the pieces of herbs are, the less chance there is for oxidization to occur, which helps the herb hold it's value better. Consider making your tea in a tea press or loosely in a quart jar which you can strain before drinking. And of course there's always the stainless steel tea ball.
When buying from bulk herb bins in local markets look for
Color Dried green leaves should look very close to their fresh state. Blossoms should have deep strong color.
Smell The smell of dried herbs are a good indication of freshness. Look for strong, fresh aromas. You should be able to recognize the herb by smell with your eyes closed.
Fortunately many herbs and herbal products are now widely available through online and mail-order companies. Again, it is extremely important to select a reputable source. A high quality source for buying herbs online is Mountain Rose Herbs in Eugene, Oregon. This company offers a wide selection of organic and ethically wildcrafted bulk herbs as well as an assortment of tools & accessories for making your own herbal preparations - like organic carrier oils, beeswax, empty veggie capsules and hard to find items like gums and resins.They also guarantee that the herbs they sell are fresh which makes a huge difference in the quality and potency of your remedies.
Store your herbs in a dark cool place in air-tight glass jars with tight fitting lids. Many deli counters or restaurants have a surplus of one gallon glass jars with lids that they will give away or sell to you cheaply. Quart canning jars or recycled condiment jars are great for smaller quantities. A dark pantry shelf or large kitchen cupboard are ideal spots to store your herbs. Always label your jars so you don't forget what they contain. Some dried herbs can be hard to identify by sight and smell alone, though eventually you will be able to recognize the subtle distinguishing qualities of your favorites.
Links to Mountain Rose Herbs:
Bulk Herbs, Spices, and Seasoning Blends
Glass Storage Jars
Spice Bottles and Jars
Kitchen Tools (including Mortar and Pestles)