Excellent! You have grown an herb or found one that you have properly identified in the wild. Now it is time to harvest it. There are many things to consider before harvesting an herb.
Do you need the herb?
If you do not have a use for the herb its simple! DO NOT HARVEST IT! It is so easy as budding herbalists to go gung-ho and harvest every herb we come across. ‘I will use it some day.’ No, this is irresponsible wildcrafting. It is important for our ecosystem to grow plants and many of the herbs we use for medicine get severely damaged and will die when they are harvested. If you do not have a plan on what to make with the herb and what to then use it for do not harvest it. Allow the plant to grow more, create little baby plants, and spread further so that the following year when you do know how to use the plant you have even more available for you to work with. Be responsible. If you don’t need it don’t harvest it.
What kind of medicine are you going to make with the plant and how much do you need?
There are many different kinds of herbal preparations out there and knowing which ones are best for each herb is a technique you will come to learn over time. For instance, marshmallow is best in water and will not create good medicine in oil. Some herbal preparations you may want to make can be found here.
Be sure to know what kind of dosage you want before you go and harvest your plant. If you want to just make one salve you do not need 1/2 lb of herb. If you want to take stinging nettles as a tea all winter long you are going to want more than a 1/2 lb. Take some time and do the math. Research the herb and make sure you are going to have enough with out taking more than you need. Remember: herbs will reduce in weight by 50-70% when they are dried. Most dosages are described in their dry weight, not their fresh weight.
If you do need a lot of an herb remember to only harvest 10% of a given area. If this is not enough herb for the medicine you need, find a second, or third location to harvest from. Protect your region and keep the plants growing happily and healthily by not over harvesting them.
Now that you know what plant you have and how much of it you are going to need, what part of the plant are you going to use and how do you harvest it? Check back next week to read up on harvesting different plant parts or join our Patreon to read it early.
Jillian Carnrick, founder and manager of The Dancing Herbalist, has a Masters of Science Degree in Herbal Medicine, practices as a nutritionist, and is a Certified Personal Trainer and Exercise Is Medicine Professional through the American College of Sports Medicine. The Dancing Herbalist posts on this blog every Thursday. For more of our posts, join us on Patreon. Jillian also presents regular live classes in The Dancing Herbalist’s home herbalist courses online. For more learning opportunities or work one-on-one with Jillian with her wellness and herbal consultations visit The Dancing Herbalist.com.