Herbal remediesThey are always handy for any situation. They won’t do me much good, though, if I can’t find what I need when I need it! Here’s how to store and organize your natural remedies, herbs, and more.
How to store your natural remedies
My stash grew as natural remedies began to take over conventional medicines. I’m pretty proud of my natural medicine cabinet, but it does take some maintenance. Nobody wants to discover a rancid, forgotten salve at the bottom a pile.
By organizing my herbal medicine, I can ensure that I not only find what is needed but also don’t waste any of it.
If you’ve ever heard of the KonMari method (or even if you haven’t), it can apply to organizing and storing natural remedies, too. It doesn’t mean we have to store things in a specific way, but some of the general principles are the same.
- Get rid of unnecessary natural remedies and declutter
- Clean out items and arrange them in groups
- Organize what’s left
Unlike the strict Marie Kondo method, I’m not thanking my rancid salve before throwing it out, though. And my cough syrup may not spark joy, but it’s still useful and necessary. First things first, let’s talk about cleaning out our home remedies.
Get it All Together
It’s hard to organize what you can’t see or don’t know you have. I recommend gathering all of your dietary supplementsYou can find all your herbs, essential oils, natural remedies, and other useful items in one place like the kitchen table. This way, you can easily lay it all out and see what’s there and how it will fit in the space.
Don’t keep expired or unusable items. Here’s a quick guide to the shelf lifeSome natural remedies:
- Dried herbs Chamomile flowers and delicate herbs will last for between 1 and 2 years. Powdered herbs lose potency quicker and last 6-12 month. Roots and bark (like the echinacea root), can last for 2-3 years. Just because an herb is older doesn’t necessarily mean it’s lost its potency. If the plant material has good color and a good scent, it’s still useful, though maybe not as potent.
- Fresh herbsThese herbs will last for about one week in the fridge. Use fresh herbs immediately or dry them.
- Glycerites:Tinctures made from glycerine (called glycerites) will last for about one year.
- TincturesHigh alcohol content tinctures of alcohol will last for 2-5 years.
- Essential oilsCitrus oils last only 1-2 years as they oxidize quicker. Base note oils that are thicker last for longer (up to 8 year) and can even improve with time, such as patchouli and vetiver. Here’s a handy chart from Plant Therapy with general essential oil shelf life recommendations.
- Salves and creamsIt depends on the ingredients and whether you used a preservative (or something to slow oxidation, like vitamin E oil). Generally, DIY salves It will last from six months to three years. If it’s starting to separate, or looks or smells off in any way, be safe and pitch it.
- Supplements, homeopathic remedies, vitamins: The expiration date on the bottle can vary so make sure to check.
- Keep water-based ingredients in your fridge and use them within one week. This includes homemade sunscreen and lotion. If you’re using a natural antimicrobial preservative, creams and lotions will last a little longer on the shelf.
Locating a place to store your natural remedies
We want our remedies to be in an area that’s easy to access and makes sense for what we’re using them for. The dresser can hold essential oils for the bedroom diffuser. I keep lotion bars and magnesium oil in my bathroom. my nightstand for when it’s time to wind down at night.
While convenience is important, we must also consider storage conditions. Natural remedies aren’t the same as FDA-approved prescription drugs, and they need to be treated with special care. Essential oils and herbs should always be kept out of direct sunlight and heat. The health benefits of these healing herbs degrade if they’re not stored well.
Here are some areas where natural remedies should not be stored:
- Appliances that emit heat and moisture such as the stove, refrigerator, or dishwasher should be placed above or near them. This tiny cabinet just above the stove is not the right spot for herbs!
- In the bathroom or near the shower. Bathrooms can get really steamy and warm and don’t mix well with certain natural remedies.
- Little ones should not be able to reach them. While I’m not going to freak out if a toddler gets into the dried peppermintCertain natural health products (such as essential oils) should be kept out reach of curious little hands.
With these parameters in place, you can choose what is most practical for your family. Maybe that’s a bookshelf, a free-standing cabinet, or a kitchen cupboard (or 3!). Even if they’re not all going to be stored in the same place, pick areas and containers that will fit the different items in your home apothecary.
Regular vitamins and supplements come with labels. However, homemade items require labels. It’s important to date and label everything, so we know what it is. You may think you’ll remember that a sleep tincture was in that bottle, but as you collect more items, it can quickly get confusing if herbal products aren’t labeled.
- Note the name and the date you bought or harvested the herb.
- Make sure to list the ingredients and the date that you made the herbal remedy.
- Both address labels and masking tape are good options. It is usually easier to remove masking tape if you intend to reuse the container and re-label it for the next time.
I learned how important it is to label everything to keep things organized, especially with children! In my interview with Cas from Clutterbug.
Time to organize your natural remedies
Once you’ve found a place to put your natural remedies and discarded what’s bad, it’s time to start organizing. You can either group items by the most used, alphabetically or all similar items together (e.g. all dried herb in one place). You could also group items if certain family members have their products.
Containers for organizing natural remedies
There are a lot of different options, and it doesn’t have to be expensive. It’s always best to store herbs, essential oils, and tinctures in glass bottles for the best shelf life. Mason jars or weck jars are all good options. If dried herbs are not in their original bags, you can arrange them in a row in small bins.
- Tiered shelves are a good use of space so you can see what’s in the back rows. Tiered shelves are great for storing supplements, vitamins, tinctures and essential oil bottles.
- Organizing containers, like these plastic binsThese are great for drawers.
- Homeopathy bottlesThese are very lightweight and often fall all over my cabinet. So I like to keep them in their own little bin.
- Be sure to store tincture bottles and essential oils in an upright position so they don’t leak. Over time, rubber on tincture dropsper bottles’ tops will start to wear. For tinctures that are going to be left out for a while, it is possible to remove the dropper cap and replace it with a screw top lid.
Place the items you use most (such as daily vitamins) at the front or in the most convenient places. Items that I don’t use as much go to the back. This is an example syrup for dry coughs is super convenient when I need it, but my kids don’t have a sore throat every day. When I want to boost our immune systems during the winter months, I’ll make sure our elderberry is easy to grab.