Using flowers for medicinal purposes is a fun way to bring the natural world into our medicine cabinets. Flowers like echinacea, calendula, nasturtium, lavender, red clover, chamomile, and yarrow are relatively simple to grow (all you really need is some space, sun, and soil) and boast many benefits. They can be used in teas, topical creams and salves, herb-infused oils, tinctures, and for many other purposes to heal, calm, strengthen immunity, and heal many ailments naturally.
If you grow some of the flowers mentioned above – or others that possess medicinal properties – read on to learn how to harvest and dry them.
Harvesting flowers can be a delicate venture. It’s best to follow these guidelines when harvesting:
- Harvest at midday (they may begin to close up later in the evening and won’t be fully open again until midday) and on a dry day/when flowers are dry.
- Harvest flowers just before they reach maximum bloom, before they begin to wilt and thus lose their potency.
- Clip flowers at base, leaving no more than 1″ of the stem.
- Collect in a paper bag or other container that will keep the flowers protected for the period that you are harvesting.
- Get back to where you will process/dry them as soon as possible. Don’t allow flowers to bruise or wilt and be careful not to keep them in an airtight container as this will cause decay more quickly.
1.) Arrange flowers on dehydrator so none of them are touching.
2.) Dehydrate at 90-100°, checking every hour or so to see how they are progressing. Depending on the amount you are drying and the size & moisture content of the flowers, it can take anywhere from 2-10 hours. I dried these calendula flowers at about 100° overnight and then some, so it ended up being roughly 10 hours.
Air drying flowers is a simple method that requires little work but more time:
1.) Spread flower heads out facedown on a dish towel, paper towel, or even an old window screen laid out so there’s airflow underneath.
2.) Store them out of direct sunlight, in a space that is cool and well-ventilated.
3.) Rotate flower heads every so often until they’re dry – may take just a few days up to a week or so.
However you choose to dry your flowers, be sure – 100% – that they are dry, dry, dry before you store them.
Once flowers are completely dry, remove from dehydrator and store in a paper bag, mason jar, or other container of your choice. You can store the whole head of the flower, or pluck the petals off the flower and store only the petals. This is completely up to you! I like using the whole flower head as it all contains medicinal properties that I don’t want to lose.
Store in a cool, dark place. Some flowers will maintain their properties longer than others, but a general rule I practice is to use them within one year of harvest. They are similar to herbs and spices in that they can likely still be used beyond that period (if stored properly) but will lose potency and benefits.