Medicinal Garden Herbs
At the end of the season, it's time to preserve the herbs left in our gardens for use over the winter--or really, at any time during the growing season! If you didn’t grow herbs in your garden or pots this year, you can buy quality organic herbs to use in the same ways I have outlined below.
Thyme I prefer to gently dry. Cut the thyme off about an inch above the ground. Make sure the herb is dry already (not after a rain or with dew on it). Either tie into small bundles with string, or separate the stems and lay them out on your dehydrator racks. Slowly and gently dry at low, low temperatures and monitor closely if in the dehydrator. Temps that are too high or drying for too long and you lose the volatile oils that are important in the medicine of the plant. If you tied the bundles with string, hang them in an area that gets good air flow (not your basement). I hang mine on my kitchen cabinet knobs or on a coat rack in my entryway that I am not using. Leave them for a week or so. Once dry, remove leaves from the stems using clean hands by gently rubbing them off. Store in an air tight container, like a mason jar.
Using Thyme as Medicine
As a face steam for cough or plugged sinuses - put 1” of water in a pot, bring to low simmer so its just steaming, add a tablespoon of dried thyme leaves, put a towel over your head and lean over the pot. Be careful as you first do this so your face doesn’t get too hot. Move your face away or closer based on temperature. Breathe in the steam and feel the loosening and draining begin. Do this up to 3-4 times per day, as needed.
As a tea - 1-2 teaspoons dried leaves per cup boiling water, steep 10 minutes, covered.
Use Thyme For:
dry or wet coughs
congestion of sinuses or lungs
intestinal spasms and general gastrointestinal problems
Properties of Thyme
stimulates immune system
penetrates and loosens thick stuck mucus in sinuses and lungs
anti-spasmodic (for coughs and gastrointestinal)
Sage is a really fun herb to preserve for the winter! Get some good quality honey from farmers market and have a clean and dry mason jar ready. Cut your sage off about an inch above the ground, making sure you harvest when the herb is dry (no rain or dew). Remove the leaves from the stems and compost the stems. Put the fresh leaves in the mason jar, press them down and fill to about half full. Choose the size of the mason jar based on how much leaves you have. Cover the leaves with honey and stir well. Once the leaves are coated in honey, fill the rest of the jar with honey, leaving about an inch of air space between the lid and honey. Make sure the lid is on tight and place in a sunny window or countertop and flip the jar once or more a day. Kids love to be in charge of this! Flipping the jar upside down allows the herbs to mix into the honey. The herbs will slowly rise to the top, and the jar can be flipped again helping it mix. The sunny window helps keep the honey warm, but a countertop will do just fine too. I let this go for about a month, then pour into a fine mesh strainer over a bowl and let gravity and stirring do the work of separating the honey from the sage leaves. Do this in batches if necessary until done. Store honey in a room temp or warm place, or near your tea kettle so you don’t forget about it. The honey is good indefinitely. The leaves that are left will still have honey stuck to them, this is good as the honey will preserve the leaves. Put the leaves back into the mason jar and then into the refrigerator. This will keep several months.
Sage as Infused Honey and Leaves for Tea
fresh sage leaves (no stems)
honey from farmers market
clean and dry mason jar and two-piece lid
fine mesh strainer
large light weight bowl
To Use Sage as Medicine
sage infused honey - eat a spoonful or use in hot water as tea
sage leaves coated in honey - use to make sage tea by adding several leaves per cup with hot water and steep for 10 minutes covered.
Use Sage For:
Properties of Sage:
dries moisture and brings up oil, soothing tissue
a caution to nursing mothers - sage can dry up milk production
not for use in pregnancy