Do Herbs Have a Shelf Life?
These are common questions we’re asked. And, as with many things, the answer is a bit complicated, depending on a variety of factors.
- Depends on the herb
- Depends on how it is stored
- More specifically, depends on access to light, air, and heat.
Herbs Don’t Expire…
Not like you might think of milk or meat going bad. Or a fruit or piece of bread growing mold.
Expiration dates on items are often not that useful. A typical time frame on supplements is one or two years from manufacturing. But it’s not like they are good one day, and worth throwing away the next.
Herbs simply lose potency over time. And really, time isn’t the main issue. Time is just a factor that comes into play based on the light, air, and heat they are stored in. Limit those things and they can last a long time. Herbs won’t even last a month if exposed to a lot of light, air, or heat.
The Signs of Loss of Potency
What you’ll often see is clumping up. The powder starts to join together and, sometimes, even become as hard as a rock. Or you’ll see discoloration of the herb. If there are visual changes in its appearance, then there are almost certainly chemical changes going on.
Of course, one other thing that may occur with this is that it doesn’t deliver the same effects as the fresher herb material does, because of the loss of potency.
Different Herbs are More or Less Sensitive
Some of our more sensitive herbs include:
Tongkat Ali – When oxidized it begins to clump up. When oxidized it seems to be less effective in its hormonal supporting action.
Schisandra – Just compare our Schisandra to most of the stuff you find on the market. Most Schisandra is black in color. That means it has heavily oxidized. Ours, coming from the USA and processed differently, maintains its bright red color. But left out in the air, it will lose its vibrancy of color. That also means it loses some potency.
Other Berries – Similar effects can be seen with the Goji and Seabuckthorn, and to a lesser degree, the Longan Berry Extract. These can clump up as well as lose their vibrant color.
Many of our herbs, from ant extract to eleuthero, albizia to horny goat weed, can end up clumping up, in turning to rock over time with poor storage.
Meanwhile, Shilajit is essentially immortal. It’s been around, being processed by the mountains for thousands of years. As a mineral pitch, it’s timescales are very different than our own. In that sense, it does not appear to lose potency.
But that doesn’t mean it can’t change forms. This is especially true of the resin. One thing that can happen is that it hardens up. It’s still good to take, but you may need to chip or grind it up using it as a powder instead. You can also try the double boiler system, as described in this article, Sticky Shilajit Resin Problems, to soften it up.
What About Tinctures?
Tinctures stay potent for a long, long time. By having an alcohol content over 30% the herbal constituents are very well preserved. You’ll notice that all tinctures, including our own, are typically done in amber glass.
As covered below, this further helps to refract the light and keep them long lasting. Personally, I would have no problem taking a tincture that has been around for ten years’ time.
Just don’t leave the bottles open and you’re good to go with tinctures.
How to Properly Store Herbs
If the problems are air, light, and oxygen, storage of herbs should aim to reduce all these things.Light is the easiest thing to eliminate. No matter what you put the herbs in, they should generally be stored in cabinets or drawers, where ambient light doesn’t get to them.
Secondly, we sell, use, and highly recommend Miron glass. You can see some experiments that have been done comparing this glass to normal, clear glass, or even amber glass, and just how well they preserve the herb by bouncing off almost all light.
While expensive compared to regular glass, as long as you don’t break them, they’re a long-term investment that can pay dividends in keeping your herbs well preserved. Amber and cobalt glass are better than clear glass but not as good as Miron glass.
Air or oxygen can be partially eliminated just by keeping your herbs well sealed. If you keep them in the bags, make sure the Ziploc is sealed. (Sometimes harder done then said, if the powder gets in the zipper part!)
If you put them in jars, just screw the lid on tight. And make sure the jar is the right size for the herb, meaning try to not have lots of extra space. If the herb fits in a pint jar, don’t put it in a quart jar. In all of these cases, air will still get inside, but it can be minimized.
And heat is the easiest thing to take care of. Room temperature tends to be fine. You don’t need to refrigerate any of the herbs or anything like that.
Plastic Bags or Glass Jars?
We don’t like that we’re currently using plastic packaging. Ideally, we want to get rid of plastic completely and we’re working on that. You can read about the Dangers of Plastic HEREand BPA Plastic HERE and why you should seek to minimize it.
But plastic is good at preserving the herbs, so any other option must also preserve quality, at least as close to the same degree as possible.
Then there is the expense of other packagings, as well as shipping the herbs too. Our early experiments in glass jars for the capsules proved to have some problems too as they broke during shipment. Like I said, a work in progress.
For these reasons, one thing we recommend is that you transfer your herbs from the bags into glass jars after you receive them.
But, as shown in the “time capsule” from the video, the mylar bags our herbs are currently packaged in, are very good and preserving the herbs. Contrast the opened bag of Cordyceps, which hardened into rocks, to the still sealed Reishi. The latter of which was still powdered, and I’m now consuming it because it was so well preserved.
So, if you’re not going to start consuming an herb immediately, keeping it sealed in the outer bag is a good way to go.
What Not To Do
It might be helpful to contrast this to some things you should avoid.
Do not leave bottles or bags open and lying around.
- While sunlight is great for you, do not leave herbs sitting in the sun. Read more HERE.
- Don’t take forever to consume your herbs. Consume in a timely manner.
Hopefully, this article has given you the details you need to better preserve the quality of your herbs. If you have any additional questions and comment, please post them in the comments below…
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CEO at Lost Empire Herbs
Logan Christopher is co-founder and CEO of Lost Empire Herbs, which aims to bring performance herbalism into everyday people’s lives. He started studying plants and fungi as a result of his interest in peak performance and strength training. This includes performing feats of strength such as pulling an 8,800 lb. firetruck by his hair, supporting half a ton on top of himself in a wrestler’s bridge position, and routinely ripping decks of cards in half with his bare hands. After visiting the Amazon rainforest, he received a calling to be an “Emissary of Nature” and thus bring humankind back into alignment with nature for health and well-being. You can read more about this in his book Powered By Nature.
Latest posts by Logan Christopher (see all)
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- Balanced and Herbal Oatmeal Recipe - December 3, 2022
How Long Does Herbal last? ›
The bottom line
Dried herbs and spices have relatively long shelf lives that range from 1–4 years, although the exact length of time varies depending on the type of spice and how it's processed and stored.
Herbs and spices do not spoil; however, they do lose their flavor and potency over time. Next time you go through your spice cabinet, look at the expiration dates! Typically spices last 2–3 years, but make sure to check the “best by” date.How long do liquid herbs last? ›
Herbal tinctures are long-lasting--about 3 years--and preserve the freshness and potency of medicinal plants. Alcohol-based tinctures have a long shelf life if stored in a cupboard or out of direct sunlight and refrigeration is not necessary to enhance the properties of your food.How long do herbs in capsules last? ›
Most herb supplements if made correctly will have a very long shelf life. Liquid tinctures at least 10 years and powdered herbs 5 to 7 years. Capsules and tablets have a shorter shelf life of 2 to 5 years.What herbs last a long time? ›
How to best store hardier herbs like rosemary, dill, sage, thyme, chives, and oregano. While the soft herbs are more delicate, hardier herbs like rosemary, dill, sage, thyme, chives, and oregano, have a bit more flexibility and do not dry out as easily.How long is the shelf life of dried herbs? ›
Dried ground herbs like basil, parsley, and oregano last for 2-3 years. If they are dried and stored in their natural, whole form (e.g., basil or bay leaves), then they should last a little longer, about 3-4 years. Most seeds like anise seeds have a shelf life of 4 years.When should you throw out herbs? ›
Not sure how long you've had the spices, and can't find an expiration date? It's now time to use your senses: the spice should still have a strong smell, taste potent, and have a rich color. A lack of any of these things means that the spice or dried herb is past its prime and not worth keeping — toss it!Which fresh herbs last longest? ›
|Herb||Herb Type||Average Lifespan|
Place a few sprigs or leaves in freezer wrap or in an airtight freezer container. Spread on a tray or cookie sheet and place in the freezer. When frozen solid, pack into airtight containers. To use in soups or stew, dice washed herbs and pack into ice cube trays.How long do herbs last in Mason jars? ›
Ground spices (including cinnamon and ground pepper) stay flavorful for one to three years. Hold onto dried green herbs (such as basil and oregano) for six months to three years, watching for fading color and flavor to guide you.
How long do herbs last in plastic bags? ›
Soft and hardy herbs can last up to 3 weeks in the fridge if stored correctly. To help out my tender herbs (like cilantro and parsley), I change their water and trim their ends every few days. I also make sure they're completely covered by the plastic bag at all times.How long do dried herbs last in plastic bags? ›
You can also use mylar bags or food storage vacuum seal bags to vacuum seal your herbs for long-term. Just don't use the mylar bags that have a zippered seal. Many herbs can last up to a year or more, so long-term storage does have a more finite label when it comes to herbs.Is it OK to take expired herbal supplements? ›
Taking an expired vitamin or supplement is highly unlikely to cause you harm. Unlike food, vitamins don't go “bad,” nor do they become toxic or poisonous. At this time, there haven't been any documented cases of illness or death resulting from expired vitamins.How long will vacuum sealed herbs last? ›
"After sealing, I place them in the refrigerator." Using a sealer, like Nesco White Food Vacuum Sealer ($45), allows you to remove air from storage bags, which eliminates freezer burn, spoilage, and waste. The vacuum method keeps your herbs fresh for up to a year.How long can herbs be stored? ›
How Long Do Fresh Herbs Last? Excess moisture and oxygen can cause fresh herbs to wilt and brown in a matter of days, especially if they're left in a grocery bag in the crisper drawer. If properly stored, fresh herbs can last two to three weeks in the refrigerator and months in the freezer.What is the most powerful herb? ›
Turmeric is certainly the most powerful herb on the planet. It is from the ginger family that is primarily grown in India, China and Indonesia. It contains various compounds with medicinal properties. For example, turmeric contains Curcumin which is a powerful antioxidant that boosts the body's own antioxidant enzymes.What spices have longest shelf life? ›
Spices don't spoil but over time they do lose their strength. When stored properly spices retain their potency longer than you might think. Whole peppercorns, nutmegs, cloves, cinnamon sticks and whole seeds, such as coriander, cumin, and cardamom all last longer than their ground counterparts.Do herbs lose potency when dried? ›
When stored at room temperature, in a dry and dark place, dried herbs will keep for a long time. However, they do have an expiration date. Over time dried herbs lose their potency and should be used within a year of purchase.What is the shelf life of herbs and spices? ›
Ground spices lose their freshness the quickest and typically don't last past six months. The best freshness test for ground spices is to give them a whiff — if they smell like nothing, then it's time to say goodbye. Whole spices, on the other hand, can be fine for up to five years.Do dry herbs rot? ›
The good news is that dried herbs and spices don't really go bad bad, as in they won't go moldy, rot, or make you sick. However, dried herbs and spices do lose their flavor over time, which makes using them — and storing them — a waste of time.
Should you wash herbs before eating? ›
Before you go racing to the garden or farmers market and then put those delicious herbs into your next dish, you should always be washing your fresh herbs before cooking with them. No matter the type of produce you are going to be eating, herbs, fruit, etc., you should always carefully wash it before consumption.Should you wash herbs after picking? ›
Tips on Keeping Herbs Fresh After Harvest
Never leave them in sunlight. Although you can gently shake the herbs to remove excess soil, don't wash the herbs until just before you ready to use them. However, if you're set on washing the herbs, be sure to blot excess moisture. (A salad spinner is perfect for the job.)
It's important to wash and dry fresh herbs before storing them. Washing your herbs helps remove any bacteria (or critters!) that may eat away at your leaves. You also want to avoid any excess moisture on the leaves of the herbs when storing them to prevent rot.Why do supermarket herbs not last? ›
One of the most common reasons supermarket herb pots don't last long is because they're root bound. This means the roots have overgrown the pot they're in and have begun to grow in circles trying to find more space, water and nutrients.Can I freeze fresh herbs? ›
For long-term storage, tender herbs like mint, parsley and cilantro can be removed from their stems and frozen into ice cubes. Pack ice cube trays with chopped or whole leaf herbs, cover with water and pop into the freezer.What is the best way to preserve fresh herbs? ›
The two best ways to preserve extra herbs are drying and freezing. There's no need to waste any herbs, whether you bought those small (and pricy) store containers or need to cut your garden herbs before fall frost. Here's how to preserve your herbs for that garden-fresh flavor all year long.Is it better to freeze herbs in oil or water? ›
Finely Chop Your Herbs
If using the food processor, add 2 tablespoons of a neutral-tasting vegetable oil or olive oil—the oil will help preserve the flavor of the herbs as they freeze, and frozen oil melts faster than plain water, too.
Is your garden overflowing with basil? You can dry it or freeze it, but freezing retains the fresh taste better. Before you start, wash basil in cold water and dry; a salad spinner works well for this step.Can herbs survive in mason jars? ›
Most herbs can be grown in containers indoors and many of the non-woody, tender varieties such as cilantro, parsley, basil and marjoram can thrive in smaller pots, even in mason jars. Making a garden out of canning jars is perfect for a windowsill, is tidy and looks great.What is the best container to store dry herbs? ›
Store in Airtight Containers
Oxygen will degrade herbs over time, so storing your dried herbs in airtight containers is best. Glass jars or metal tins with screw top lids work well, as do jars with clamp on lips (Fido style). Avoid using plastic if possible, as it may leach chemicals into your herbs.
How long does basil in a jar last? ›
How long will fresh basil last after picking? If you follow my method above and store fresh basil properly in a jar of water covered loosely with a plastic bag, it should last fresh for 1 to 2 weeks.Can you store herbs in Ziploc bags? ›
Basil should be kept at room temperature, but other soft herbs should be loosely covered with a plastic bag and then placed in the fridge. Hard herbs on the other hand, should be wrapped in a damp paper towel, then loosely covered with plastic wrap or placed in a ziplock bag before going in the fridge.Should herbs be stored in airtight containers? ›
Store your herbs in clean, airtight containers, away from heat and light, and handle them thoughtfully. Amber glass jars with airtight lids are ideal. You might also keep them in a cupboard or drawer, cover the jars with large opaque labels, or use a curtain to cover them when not in use.Can herbs be stored in plastic containers? ›
Avoid using plastic containers as it may leach chemicals in to your herbs; instead use glass bottles. Keep these jars away from sunlight; instead store them in a dark and dry place. Sunlight may ruin the potency of the herbs. To extend their life, you must store them in cool and dry place.Can you vacuum seal herbs to keep them fresh? ›
Vacuum sealing is one of the best ways to store tender leafy herbs. Blanched herbs should be frozen to stay fresh for even longer. Some frozen herbs - like coriander and parsley - become limp upon thawing. The flavor is still intact, but this makes the plants less useful for garnishing.How long can you use after expiration date? ›
Most shelf-stable foods are safe indefinitely. In fact, canned goods will last for years, as long as the can itself is in good condition (no rust, dents, or swelling). Packaged foods (cereal, pasta, cookies) will be safe past the 'best by' date, although they may eventually become stale or develop an off flavor.Do unopened supplements expire? ›
They don't “go bad” like food, but the ingredients do break down over time, which decreases their potency. The FDA does not require supplement manufacturers to include an expiration date on their products. But some manufacturers, like Nature Made, voluntarily put the expiration date on the vitamin container.What is zinc good for? ›
Zinc is a trace mineral, meaning that the body only needs small amounts, and yet it is necessary for almost 100 enzymes to carry out vital chemical reactions. It is a major player in the creation of DNA, growth of cells, building proteins, healing damaged tissue, and supporting a healthy immune system.What spices last indefinitely? ›
- Bay leaves – Good for added flavor for soups and stews.
- Black Pepper – Peppercorn will last indefinitely.
- Chili Powder.
- Cayenne Red Pepper & Crushed Red Pepper.
- Cumin – Beneficial for aiding digestion & diabetes prevention.
The date on the bottle is useful for keeping track of freshness (and remember, freshness equals flavor), but you can still technically use a spice even if it's past that expiration date. Because spices are dried, there's no moisture to cause spoilage.
How long does it take herbal medicine to start working? ›
Herbs are more effective at regulating digestion, reducing anxiety, clearing heat, etc. As herbs are natural and holistic upon the human body. The effects of the medicinal herbs takes time, usually around 2-3 weeks.How long do herbs take to work in the body? ›
Take the herbs for at least 2 weeks to begin experiencing the effects. I am not a fan of needing to take an herb for 6 months to experience noticeable benefits, but you first have to start taking them regularly. I usually expect to see some improvements within the first 2 weeks.How long do herbs last in containers? ›
Ground spices (including cinnamon and ground pepper) stay flavorful for one to three years. Hold onto dried green herbs (such as basil and oregano) for six months to three years, watching for fading color and flavor to guide you.Can cinnamon expire? ›
The good news about spices is that they virtually last forever. It's rare, if not impossible, for a spice to go “bad.” The biggest threat of time is that it causes spices to lose potency and flavor. Ground cinnamon that's three years old will not carry as much flavor as cinnamon that's only three months old.Do herbs work better than medicine? ›
Used correctly, herbs can help treat a variety of conditions, and in some cases, may have fewer side effects than some conventional medications. Never assume that because herbs are "natural," they are safe. Some herbs may be inappropriate for people with certain medical conditions.Do herbs work better on an empty stomach? ›
Generally, herbs should be taken on an empty stomach, either half an hour before or one hour after a meal. Some herbs should be taken at specific times. For example, tonic herbs should be taken before a meal, cleansing herbs should be taken on an empty stomach, herbs related to sleep should be taken at bed time.What are the negative effects of herbal medicine? ›
Herbal medications can mistakenly be perceived as safe because they are natural products. They may produce negative effects such as allergic reactions, rashes, asthma, headaches, dizziness, agitation, dry mouth, seizures, fatigue, tachycardia, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. Severe side effects have also been reported.What herbs cleanse the whole body? ›
- Burdock root. Burdock is a strong tasting, bitter herb. ...
- Milk thistle seed. Shanti Tea offers milk thistle seed and the leaf, and you could certainly do a mixture of both. ...
- Stinging Nettle. Nettle leaf has a mild, sweet, slightly grassy flavour. ...
- Dandelion. ...
- Spirulina. ...
- Turmeric root. ...
- Green tea. ...
- Red clover.
The top herbs for happiness include holy basil, St. John's wort, chamomile, ashwagandha, ginseng, Rhodiola, lemon balm, Mucuna, saffron, and maca. These herbs boost mood by providing antioxidant and anti-inflammatory action, modulating the HPA axis, improving sleep quality, and increasing neurotransmitter activity.