Friday, April 27, 2012


Poke in late spring
The lushness of May is upon us - it's time for the spring harvest of medicinal plants. Since most won't be used right away, preservation of herbs for future use is critical. Careful drying will provide mold-free medicines for next fall and winter's teas and tinctures.

Sage and spearmint
The aerial parts of plants with strong stems can be dried by tying in a small bunch and hanging for a couple weeks in a warm room or shed with a little sunlight and air movement. They may take longer to dry with cool or wet weather, and should be left hanging until leaves are crispy.

Other plant parts can be dried by evenly spacing them on a window screen laid in warm dry room with good ventilation. We use our outdoor sauna seats because the slats allow better air movement up through the herbs. Thick roots like black cohosh and poke need to be sliced to half an inch or less in thickness to assure inner drying. Berries may need longer drying time or more warmth for complete drying. Store herbs in air-tight jars only after thorough drying. Any moisture left in incompletely dried plants will allow fungi to do it's stuff, spoiling what would have been your year's supply of herbal medicine.

Drying poke berries and roots

Poke provides a particularly potent plant medicine, if potentially poisonous. It's a powerful anti-catarrhal (mucous reducer) for respiratory problems and a strong lymphatic known to help arthritis pain and stiffness. Toxic cathartic (diarrhea producing) effects can be minimized by avoiding leaves and stems, drying berries and roots before use, and only taking small doses (1-3 drops of root tincture, one berry every other day).

Dried poke berries and roots

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