How Long Do Dried Herbs Last? Leave a comment

Over time, we collect quite a bit of herbs. From harvesting plenty from the garden to buying for that one recipe, you might have quite an array of herbs in your house. But how long do dried herbs last? To make sure you’re getting the most out of your stash, here’s when to toss them and when to keep them.

how long do dried herbs last

Herbs are wonderful, magical things. I dedicate most of my garden to herbs, allowing me to harvest fresh herbs and dry them to use in my home apothecary. Beyond cooking, I use these herbs for teas, tinctures, balms and salves, cleaning products, and beauty and self-care products.

Herbs can have such distinct and useful tastes, smells, and herbal properties. And you really don’t need much to get the full benefits of the herbs.

Because you often only need so little, you can be left with a bunch of herbs. If you’re wiping off dust from the top of bottles or reaching for a rarely used herb in the back of the cabinet, you’re probably wondering how long do dried herbs last anyway? Can I still use this?

Let’s talk about the shelf life of herbs, whether you’re using them for cooking beauty recipes or for their medicinal value.

The Shelf Life of Herbs

First things first, we’re talking about herbs rather than spices here. Herbs come from the leaves, while spices come from the rest of the plant, including the seed, stem, or root.

Dried herbs usually last one to three years if used for cooking or eating. However, that depends on factors such as how and where they’re stored and whether or not they’re whole or powdered.

Herbs last longer when in whole form. Once they’re grounded, they’re more exposed to the elements.

Mason jars filled with dried herbs
If you’re using herbs for cooking, feel free to give them a taste! They won’t go bad like typical food; they’ll just lose their flavour.

Can Dried Herbs Go Bad?

Herbs do not go bad in the same sense that other old food might. There will often be no signs that they have gone rancid or mouldy. There is no harm in having old herbs, but you just may not be experiencing the benefits.

The biggest tell with dried herbs is the colour and smell. Notice any signs of discolouration or a faint smell. If the smell is faint or non-existent, the herb has likely lost its potency.

If you’re dealing with a powdered herb, look for clumping. This is a sure sign that moisture has entered.

If you bought the herbs, the original container or packaging might have a date listed. This could be an expiration date or a sell-by date. The herbs will last much longer than the date listed, but it will give you an indication of their age.

can dried herbs go bad
Label your herbs with the name and date.

Do Medicinal Herbs Expire?

Things are a little different if you’re using herbs for medicinal purposes or for their herbal properties. Once again, you won’t be harmed by using old herbs, but you may not see the benefits.

The older herbs get, the less potent they get. If you’re using herbs for medicinal reasons or in beauty products, I recommend going with dried herbs that are less than one year old. These will have the best potency for your products.

It’s also important to remember that different herbs have different life spans. For instance, lemon balm loses much of its medicinal value soon after harvest. So, I never use dried lemon balm, only fresh lemon balm, for its herbal properties.

Hops and other dried herbs for making a dream pillow
Ensure your herbs are fully dry before you store them. You don’t want any moisture getting trapped inside the storage containers.

How to Keep Dried Herbs Fresher for Longer

You can prolong the life of your dried herbs by using these tips.

Keep them away from light, both artificial and natural, by keeping them in a cupboard or drawer.
Have tight lids. You want to seal them as tightly as possible to keep the oxygen and moisture out.
Store your herbs in a cool place. Room temperature is quite alright, but if you live somewhere warm, you may want to store your herbs somewhere colder than the rest of your house. But not the fridge! The fridge has too much moisture and light.
Use glass storage. Plastic is more permeable to moisture and plastic.
Only open your herbs when you need to use them. You want to keep as much oxygen away from the herbs as possible.

apothecary shelves stocked with dried flowers, herbs, and more
Keep those lids tight and secure to keep your herbs as fresh as possible.

More Helpful Herb Tips

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