Shelf Life of Dried Herbs
Answered by: Conrad Richter
Question from: Cindy
Posted on: August 12, 2001

I found you web site and was wondering if you might be able to assist me. I am looking at selling dried herbs. I would be purchasing them in bulk and them packaging them in smaller quantities for my customers. I would be grateful if you could direct me to where I might find information on the shelf life of dried herbs and botanicals. I have heard that the ones you purchase in the grocery store, for consumption, should be changed every 6 months, but wondered if there are different time frames for different herbs or what?

There is no listing of the shelf life of herbs that we know of. The knowledge does exist, because it is of great interest to herbal companies, but not in published form all in one place as far as we know.

Generally, this topic comes under ‘stability’ and herbal products typically would have to show the regulators data on the stability of the active constituents in their products. It may be possible to compile some of this information if it could be obtained publicly from the regulators; but we don’t know how much of this information regulators are allowed to release.

For aromatic herbs that rely on volatile components for flavour and aroma, the general guideline is to discard herbs after one year from harvest. If you are buying from a wholesaler and not direct from a grower, a six month policy might make sense if you cannot determine the harvest year. For other herbs whose active constituents are not volatile, the six month policy might be too conservative for some because they last for several years without any loss of potency.

The only way to know for sure is to send your herbs for testing. But that is not only prohibitively expensive for small retailers, it is difficult to implement properly without specialized knowledge of testing methods and their limitations.

A key is storage. If your product is displayed in a brightly lit location, perhaps even exposed sunlight, where temperatures and humidity can rise occasionally during warm weather, it will deteriorate much more quickly than if stored in a cool, dark location. At Richters, all of our dried herb products are stored in these conditions, in opaque, plastic-lined containers.

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