Ask An Herbalist: Do fluctuating temps degrade herbals & using wood heat when wood stoves are not allowed.

Sara Asks:


Hello April!

First of all, thank you for taking the time to read what I have to ask.

I can see your overwhelming amount of attention on social media daily, so it means a lot to know that you will be reading this and possibly answering it.

My question is would you happen to know if storing my dried herbs in extreme fluctuating temperatures will harm them or cause them to lose potency in their properties?

I live off grid on the the Westernmost ridge of the Appalachians and we have very fluctuating temperatures, Where can go from 70 to the 20's in a matter of hours. (Like many places nowadays)

My partner and I don't have heat in our cabin that we built and we hunker down into the cellar where we have one wall mounted propane heater. (Insurance doesn't allow a wood burner inside a log cabin in PA )

My dried harvests keep growing each year and there isn't much room in the cellar for us two and our pets let alone an herbal apothecary!

I would like you to know that I have tried to research my question in books and on the internet before I wrote to you, and came up with nothing.and I suppose there is a good reason for it- most people have heating And cooling in their homes and need not worry about extreme conditions!

Thank you so very much for taking the time to read this,

and thank for being so honest and true with all that you do and say.


Love and light to you,






Hello Sara,

Thank you for reaching out to me!  I really have been needing to get back to answering these questions after a  couple of chaotic months and this one I think is a perfect place to start!


Well you're probably having a hard time finding research because you're looking up fluctuating temperatures with dried goods but what I would consider is not thinking of these as dried good so much as something that's being stuck in a freezer, unthawed, stuck in a freezer, stuck in a freezer on and on. We know that that is not ideal for vegetables or meats and even prolonged freezing really degrades nutritional value as well as medicinal value of herbals and all other plant materials. So basically while it will not destroy them it most certainly will have an effect on the nutritional and medicinal value.


But I understand the predicament you're in and I'm pretty sure I can help with that actually!


Now I know all this will be relative to being able to afford it but it might be something you could save up to do or at the very least have a look into.


There are quite a few things we can do in these states that don't allow wood burning stoves in a hand hewn cabin and still have wood heat. The first option is to build an outdoor wood furnace. This is basically where you stick a wood stove inside of like a thick-walled fire proof building usually made out of cinder blocks or the like and you burn the wood stove inside of said building capturing the heat and piping it into your home. It’s really fantastic because you can burn these stoves really hot and really load them down and just basically have an on-demand furnace for your home. You can also buy them pre-made and you can even work it to where you have them heating water for you. You may have already looked into this but it's definitely worth a mention in case you haven't. Here are a few links that will talk about outdoor wood furnaces and how to build them and such.

So although I live in Oregon neighboring states and a few types of Home structures here have similar laws of no wood stoves allowed one really good way that folks have gotten around this is that most places that don't allow wood stoves do allow pellet stoves! A pellet stove still burns wood it’s just in pellet form which is actually pretty great because it’s a waste by product being used up (saw dust) so you're not actually contributing to more deforestation, this is also ideal if you do not have a sustainable amount of timber on your property to harvest each winter.


There are even non-electric models (like this one) so it would take you nothing to run besides gravity. In our new home that we moved into last November ( New to us, anything but actually new LOL) we opted to rip out the old kerosene heater and put in a pellet stove, for one it was cheaper than a wood stove especially since we moved in winter and the price of wood at that point in time would have been basically giving an arm and a leg. but also because this house is a piece of shit LOL and the county would have never approved a wood-burning stove. But with a pellet stove we didn't even have to give notice that we installed.


Basically the reason that these stoves can be burned in most structures where wood stoves are not allowed is because they put out little to no emissions meaning there's no creosote buildup to cause a  chimney fire. Which is what they are worried about in a log home, which is understandable. It's a single double walled vent that goes through your wall and  emits a tiny amount of smoke. Anyhow I don't know if this is something that would get you around your current loophole but it sure is worth looking into as well as the outside wood burning furnace.


As someone who has lived off grid I can tell you the thing that becomes the most taxing over the years is the loss of quality of life in regards to basic human needs such as heating, running water and not only running water but warm running water! Because you end up focusing more on surviving versus living. While you might not be able to have all these things at once it is worth taking one step at a time to achieve any you may not have over time. Plus if you went with one of those routes and were able to heat your entire home you would have room for your Apothecary and all of your dried goods would not go through freezing and unfreezing!


While I know most of this was about potentially heating your home and that's not necessarily the question you asked I hope you found some of it helpful none the less!


Kindest regards,



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