There's something wonderful about cultivating your own herb garden, nurturing nature's gifts, and being rewarded with an abundance of flavors and aromas.
After putting in all the work to grow fresh herbs in your garden from seed, you can learn how to harvest herbs for the best medicinal effects. Join me as I explore the different methods of harvesting various herb parts and unlock the secrets to preserving their vitality and goodness.
Listen to the full podcast, Episode #197, “5 Tips to Harvest Herbal Flowers for Medicinal Purposes,” of the Pioneering Today Podcast.
Learning How to Harvest Herbs
Part of living a beautiful homemade, and homegrown life lies in creating my own cottage garden where I grow medicinal kitchen herbs and cultivate medicinal weeds. I grow herbs and flowers that I can use as natural remedies for myself and my family.
You can learn to plant, grow, and harvest herbs to use for both culinary and medicinal endeavors. Start with just a few of your favorite annual and perennial herbs and increase your cottage garden year after year.
Learn tips and tricks along the way, like how to prune herbs and perennials for maximum growth. And, of course, learn how to harvest your herbs for the best results, according to the plant part.
Practical Home Herbalism
Switching to herbal remedies at home can be intimidating, especially since most of us just grab over-the-counter medicines for ease and reassurance.
But herbal medicines can be just as easy to use once you know what to grab when you get a headache, cough or congestion, upset stomach, or the flu. You can build up your knowledge to feel confident treating common ailments for you and your family.
Join me in my practical home herbalism course to learn how to to listen to your body, what remedies work best, and even build up your own herbal medicine cabinet to have natural remedies on hand in a pinch.
This course becomes available fall of 2023, but you can now join the waitlist and get my mini herb course. You'll be the first to know as soon as the doors open for the full practical home herbalism course. I hope you join me!
Ways to Use Herbs for Medicinal Purposes
- Herbal Tea – Learn how to grow an herbal tea garden and how to make herbal tea. Some of my favorite herbs for tea are lavender, camomile, fennel, lemon balm, peppermint, and echinacea.
- Tinctures – You can use herbs to make tinctures like this echinacea tincture. I love having tinctures on hand for use at the first signs of illness.
- Salves – Salves can heal wounds and repair the skin. Try this recipe for a wound-healing salve, peppermint salve, or dandelion salve.
- Flavoring Water – Add herbs, like peppermint, to your water, and make mint water.
- Repelling Insects – Step away from using harmful chemicals and use herbs for repelling insects naturally. You can plant herbs like peppermint, lemon balm, citronella, and more to keep mosquitos at bay. Or, use essential oils for homemade lotion bars or sprays to use for mosquito repellent.
- Honey – There is a link between honey and plant medicine. Honey itself offers amazing health benefits but blended with certain herbs, the healing powers amplify. Try making ginger honey or using honey in this homemade fire cider recipe.
- Soothes Aches and Pains – Herbs like calendula and comfrey make amazing healing poultices with their anti-inflammatory properties. Try this comfrey poultice for sprains, strains, and broken bones or this natural remedy for sore muscles.
- Boosts Immune System – Many herbs contain antioxidants and other immune-boosting properties. You can add herbs like rosemary or rosehip to this homemade elderberry syrup. But adding herbs to teas, foods, salves, tinctures, and more will benefit your health by strengthening your immune system.
- Fights Colds and Flus – Plants like sage, basil, elderberry, and many more help fight against illnesses. We love using herbal home remedies for cold and flu, and 7 natural cough and cold herbal remedies.
- Sleep Aid – Drinking herbal teas like camomile before bedtime helps with relaxation and preparing your body for sleep.
When to Harvest Herbs
You always want to harvest herbs in their prime. Depending on the type and the part of the plant you harvest, this can vary.
If you want to harvest a flower like a calendula, camomile, or echinacea, harvest the blossoms when the buds first begin to appear and they begin to open up. Clip the flower in early morning.
Leafy herbs differ. You do not want leafy herbs like basil and cilantro to flower when harvesting because these herbs taste bitter once they begin flowering. The only exception to this is lavender.
Lavender is the only blossom you harvest differently from the others before it's bloomed when it's still in bud form. To learn more about harvesting lavender, see this video –> How to Harvest Lavender (the old-fashioned PIONEER method).
Harvest root herbs in the early spring or fall when the green leafy growth declines, when the plant focuses all its energy on its roots instead of on the green foliage. This means more nutrients will be present in the roots at harvesting time.
- Pruning Shears or Scissors – You can pinch off the leaves or flower petals of the herb you are harvesting, but using shears or scissors may be quicker or more efficient.
- Colander – A colander makes a great container to collect harvested herbs, but you can use any container you choose.
How to Harvest Herbs
Harvest herbs for their leaves or petals, the aerial parts of the plant, early in the morning when the dew begins to dissipate. This time of day is best because the oils in the blossom and leaves are the highest concentration.
As the day progresses and the sun is in full force the majority of the oils leave the blossoms and leaves and retreat to the root and stem, leaving the leaves and blossoms with less nutrients.
Use the following tips for harvesting the leaves, seeds, flowers and roots of most common herbs:
- Annuals – Harvest annuals by cutting the stems just above a leaf node, and encouraging new growth. Basil, cilantro, and dill are examples of annual herbs growing and producing medicinal leaves throughout the growing season. Be sure to harvest these leafy herbs before they flower to keep them from becoming woody and tasting bitter.
- Perrenials – Perennial herbs like sage, thyme, and rosemary come back year after year. When it's time to harvest perennial herbs, opt for the cut and come again approach. Snip a portion of the plant, leaving at least one-third of the growth intact. This ensures that the plant can continue thriving. Remember, moderation is the key to maintaining the plant's vigor and longevity.
Watching herbs bloom into stunning flowers is an enchanting experience and an opportunity to harvest their seeds. Allow the flowers to blossom and, as they start to wither, collect the seeds before they disperse naturally.
Be sure to dry the seeds thoroughly before storing them in airtight containers, ready to sow in the next planting season or to share with fellow gardeners. Learn how to plant medicinal herbs from seed for the next season.
Many herbs produce edible seeds like coriander, fennel, anise, and dill. Harvest herbs grown for their seeds at the end of the growing season, when the flower starts to dry up shake the flower head into a paper bag. The seeds will fall into the bag.
Herbs like calendula, echinacea, and camomile produce incredible medicinal properties in their petals, as well as in their leaves and roots.
Harvest the flower buds at their peak to use for medicinal purposes. You do not want to gather any blossoms that show signs of:
- Brown spots
- Age spots
- Droopy pedals
The real treasure lies beneath the soil for certain herbs, such as ginger and turmeric. Oftentimes, the roots contain the highest concentrations of nutrients, especially at the end of the growing season.
Wait until the plant has completed its growing cycle and the foliage starts to wither. We harvest the root after the first frost when the flower and plant matter die back. You also want to make sure the roots of the plant are well established before harvesting. In general, this takes three years.
Carefully dig around the base of the plant and unearth the roots or rhizomes. Be sure to leave some behind to support the plant's regrowth. Rinse and dry the harvested roots before storing them for culinary and medicinal purposes.
There are several options to preserving herbs, but I prefer to dry herbs. To preserve herbs for medicinal use, I dry them on the stem. I don't harvest each individual leaf or blossom.
I often use a Nesco dehydrator because it allows you to adjust the temperature to a very low setting. If you plan on using your herbs medicinally, you do not want to overheat them. Dry herbs on the lowest setting, around 95° F.
Spread small bundles of herbs in a single layer on the dehydrator rack and set it to the lowest setting. You want to make sure the herbs are fully dry before storing them. Learn how to dry fresh herbs at home and the best methods for drying herbs for stronger medicinal properties.
You can also freeze herbs, by placing them in ice cube trays with water, lemon juice, or oil. Many people blend up the herbs with olive oil and spoon the mixture into the trays to freeze. Once frozen, put the cubes in a freezer storage container. This method works best for culinary herbs.
Once you learn these methods, you can use herbs in your teas, salves, tinctures, creams, powders, and more.
Herbs do not like moisture, sunlight, or flies. Store herbs in a dry, dark area. I often use a paper bag. I place the fully dried herbs in containers, like glass jars, and store it on the shelf. Try not to disturb the herbs much. You want them to retain as much of their oils as possible.
After drying the herbs, I carefully remove each petal or leaf for the stem and place them whole in the storage container. You do not want to crumble or chop them up if you can help it. This helps preserve nutrients.
Other Articles You May Enjoy
- Plant These Medicinal Herbal Flowers from Seed
- 8 Medicinal Plants You Need to Add to Your Garden This Year
- 5 Tips to Harvest Herbal Flowers for Medicinal Purposes
- How to Prune Herbs & Perennials for Maximum Growth
- How to Grow an Herbal Tea Garden at Home (+Favorite Herbal Tea Blend Recipes)
- 8 Medicinal Herbs and Their Uses for Growing an Herbal Tea Garden
- Herbal Medicinal Tea – How to Make Your Own
- Echinacea Tincture – How To Make It & Use It
- How to Use Herbs and Natural Remedies at Home
- Herbal Home Remedies for Cold and Flu
- 7 Natural Cough and Cold Herbal Remedies
- How to Make Elderberry Syrup + Additional Add-Ins
- Homemade Traditional Fire Cider Recipe & Benefits
- 15 Homemade Natural Herbal Bath and Body Gifts