Garden Herbal Harvest
Updated: Sep 21, 2021
Our botanical garden is so prolific this year! We grew German Chamomile (Matricaria recutita), Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia), Cilantro/Coriander (Coriandrum sativum), Peppermint (Mentha x piperita), Rose Geranium (Pelargonium graveolens var. roseum), Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis), Yarrow (Achillea millefolium), Thyme (Thymus vulgaris) and many other herbs. We have already processed many aromatic plants into dried herbs, hydrosols, and infused oils.
Whether you have a garden or are growing potted plants, there are many ways to prepare your bountiful harvest for use throughout the year.
Drying- for culinary use or as herbal teas. After you harvest the plant material, you can place them in a basket with a cloth or paper towel in the bottom to soak up any moisture, hang them up, or place them in a paper bag.
Once well dried, put it into a glass jar and label. It is best to store dried herbs in a dark and cool environment to prolong the shelf life. These can be used for tea, spices, infused oils, ground up for facial products or distilled for hydrosols and essential oils.
Distillation- steam distillation for all aromatic plants can be processed for both essential oils and hydrosols. There are many glass and copper home garden distillers on the market. They range in size from 5-100 liters.
Stovetop Hydrosol- this is another easy and inexpensive way to distill any aromatic plant. The distillation equipment is simple and is usually found within your home; stainless steel pot, stainless steel bowl, ceramic bowl, brick, and ice. This process results in a lovely hydrosol with a minimal amount (0.02-0.5%) of essential oil.
Flower Essences- if you still have fresh flowers in your garden, processing them into flower essences can be a fantastic way to soothe the emotions and instill a healthy balance throughout the year. A helpful book reference for this process is Flower Essence Reparatory by Patricia A. Kaminski and Richard A. Katz.
Infusion or Maceration is another extraction method used for plants and herbs that cannot be steam distilled or extracted through pressing the seeds or nuts.
The flower heads are collected and covered in a vegetable base. Olive or jojoba oil is the best base to cover the plant material and draw out the beneficial nutrients. Neither of these oils will oxidize nor become rancid, as so many other carrier oils do. See the detailed step-by-step process of infusion below.
Examples of plant matter used for infusions:
Arnica (Arnica montana) The flowers are used in the maceration process, while the plant's roots are used for homeopathic remedies. Arnica oil is used to reduce pain and inflammation for fractures, sprains, bruises, strained muscles, tendons, bruises, contusions, and swellings. It is excellent to relieve muscle and joint inflammation in massage oil or used as a compress when it is used as soon as possible on injuries with unbroken skin. Precaution: Arnica oil should only be used externally, not internally. Do not use on cuts or open wounds. Do not use Arnica during pregnancy or while nursing. Do not use Arnica if you have a daisy allergy. If taking blood-thinning medication, consult a physician.
Calendula (Calendula officinalis) Calendula looks similar to Marigold but should not be confused as such. Calendula has incredible anti-inflammatory and has vulnerary properties and is particularly useful for imbalances of the circulatory system. Its anti-inflammatory properties make it useful in balms and salves for wounds, bruises, bedsores, and skin rashes. It is excellent for skincare, particularly eczema.
St. John’s Wort (Hypericum perforatum) St John’s Wort is helpful as an anti-inflammatory for wounds, mild burns, soothing inflamed nerves, hemorrhoids, varicose veins, sores, ulcers, muscles, as well as sprains and bruises. Precaution: Photosensitivity - do not apply before going into the sun or tanning bed.
Rosehip (Rosa canina) Rosehip oil is highly beneficial in tissue regeneration to reduce facial wrinkles, premature aging, burns, and scars following surgery. It is believed that these important functions in regeneration and repair of the skin tissue are due to high levels of both gamma-linolenic acid (47.4%) and linolenic fatty acids (33%).
Oil Infusion Process:
STEP 1- Clean and dry the herbs or plant material for a day or two. Method- Dry the plants by putting them in a basket with a cloth or paper towel in the bottom to soak up any moisture, hang them up, or place them in a paper bag.
STEP 2- Once the plant material is dry, you chop, crush, or grind into small pieces or powder.
STEP 3- Place the crushed or ground-up plant material into a glass jar, then cover with a base of olive or jojoba oil. Allow a small amount of room at the top.
NOTE: Use jojoba oil for any delicate aromatic plant material or to be used as a carrier oil for facial care products. Olive oil is fine for other plant matter such as arnica or calendula. STEP 4- This mixture is then left in a dark and warm environment for four to six weeks, shaking the mixture daily 100 times until the base oil has absorbed the properties and essential oils from the plant material. When you see the plant material starting to degrade, it is time for the next step.
STEP 5- At the end of four to six weeks, the oil is drained off and filtered. Use a funnel and strainer or a coffee filter.
STEP 6- Bottle- It is always best to store the finished product in a dark amber bottle.
STEP 7- Label- Include the common and botanical name of the plant and date of filtering on the bottle.
The result of this infused oil is lovely carrier oil to add to your essential oil blends and aromatherapy products.
Alcohol Infusion: This process is used for non-aromatic herb plants like Motherwort (Leonurus cardiac) and Echinacea Root (Echinacea purpurea) that will be used as an herbal tincture. With this process, you can use freshly harvested plant material and do not have to dry it first. Follow the same instructions that have been given for the oil infusion.
Enjoy Your Bountiful Harvest!