Revised November, 2021.
Herbs are aromatic, fresh or dried leaves used for food flavoring and aroma purposes. Culinary herbs may be sold as live plants, fresh or in dried form.
Many herbs are perennials while some are annuals. Herbs can grow in a field, in raised beds and in a greenhouse. Production is labor intensive since herbs are planted and harvested by hand. Once herbs are hand picked, they are washed, weighed and packaged. Herbs can also be dried.
Possible marketing outlets include direct marketing through roadside stands and farmers' markets. Herbs may also be sold to restaurants, grocery stores, gift shops and natural food stores. Other value-added herb products may be produced such as herbal teas, butters and sauces.
Culinary Herbs, University of Kentucky.
Links to common herbs
- Lemon Balm
- Mints: Peppermint, Spearmint, Wild Mint, Corn Mint, Wild Water Mint, Curled Mint, Bergamot Mint, Round-Leaved Mint, Horsemint, America Horsemint.
- Sweet Marjoram
- Summer Savory
Links to culinary herbs
- Enterprise Budget for Herbs, Iowa State University Farm Food and Enterprise Development
- American Herbal Product Association - The national trade association and voice of the herbal products industry.
- Census of Horticultural Specialties (2009), National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS), USDA, 2010 - The census provides the only comprehensive, detailed data on U.S. floriculture, nursery and specialty crop production at the national and state levels.
- Crop Profile for Basil in New Jersey, 2008.
- Culinary and Aromatic Herbs, North Carolina State University - This links to several how-to herb sites available through this university.
- Culinary Herbs, University of Kentucky, 2006.
- Essential Oils and Culinary Herbs, Purdue University.
- Field Grown Herbs, Centre for Alternative Land Use, Bangor University, U.K., 2006.
- From Garden to Table: Harvesting Herbs for Healthy Eating, North Dakota State University, rev April 2012.
- Healing Spirits Herb Farm and Education Center, Avoca, New York - This herb farm in western New York produces over a ton of dried herbs and a half ton of fresh herbs and ships throughout the United States.
- Healthy Cooking with Fresh Herbs, University of Nebraska - This guide reviews when to pick, wash, store, and freeze herbs.
- Herb Production in Organic Systems, National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service, 2007 - This publication addresses organic production of herbs and harvesting wild herbs.
- The Herb Society of America - This organization educates people on the cultivation of herbs and their uses. The Web site features herbal profiles and guides.
- Herb World Online - This herb growing and marketing network is an informational service for the herb industry.
- International Herb Association - A professional trade association providing educational, service and development opportunities for those involved in herbs.
- Mountain Rose Herbs, Eugene, Oregon – This business offers certified organic bulk, dried herbs and other products..
- Organic Price Report, Rodale Institute - This online tool tracks selected prices from the fruit, vegetable, herbs and grain sectors, comparing organic prices to conventional prices in markets across the country.
Medicinal herbs, some of the oldest medicines known to man, continue to be a major market and constitute a multi-billion dollar industry.
Herbs may be grown in a field, raised bed, greenhouse, containers, hydroponically or in the forest. Production requires a few acres of land. Herb crops may be sold wholesale, through farmers’ markets or through direct sales.
Herbs are a subset of botanicals, which are plants valued for medicinal or therapeutic properties, flavor and/or scent. They are sold in many forms: liquid or solid extracts; fresh or dried; tablets, capsules, powders or tea bags. Leading uses for herbal remedies include colds, burns, headaches, allergies, rashes, insomnia, premenstrual syndrome, depression, diarrhea and menopause.
Approximately 1,500 botanicals are sold as dietary supplements or ethnic traditional medicines. The U.S. Federal Drug Administration (FDA) regulates herbal supplements as supplements, not as food or drugs.
In 2020 the United States Prescription drug spending grew by 4.9% to $535.3 billion. This growth was fueled by the Covid-19 pandemic. U.S. prescription drug sales were $338.1 billion in 2017. Sales of herbal products and dietary supplements totaled more than $6.9 billion in 2015, according to the American Botanical Council. As of 2015, more than 68 million U.S. consumers take herbal remedies.
The aging U.S. population is a contributing factor to the increase in supplement sales. Baby Boomers are seeking a more holistic approach to their health care.
There is widespread use of supplements, especially among senior citizens, according to Moshe Frenkel, MD, an assistant professor in the Department of Family Medicine at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston. Use of supplements among consumers over age 65 has doubled, according to Frenkel. Most of the supplement use is self-initiated and is done without physician approval. Frenkel says some supplements are okay, while others may have harmful effects.
With growing interest in medical alternatives, physicians and pharmacists are taking herbs, dietary supplements and other self-care options into account. For example, the American Pharmacists Association published the 16th edition of the Handbook of Nonprescription Drugs in April 2009. The textbook includes a comprehensive examination of all self-care options, including nutritional supplements and herbal medications.
Enterprise Budget for Herbs, Iowa State University Farm Food and Enterprise Development
AphA Publishes 17th Edition of Handbook of Nonprescription Drugs, American Pharmacists Association, 2012
Dietary Supplements: Onward & Upward?, Nutriceuticals World, April 2012.
Dietary Supplements, U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
Herbal Sales up 3.3% in 2010, American Botanical Council, 2011.
Nature's Healing Pharmacy, Green Medicine, Medicinal Plant Working Group, Plant Conservation Alliance.
Supplement Sales Continue Strong Growth Tragectory in 2010, Nutrition Business Journal, 2010.
2020 pharmaceuticals demand shifts. Pharmacists advancing health care.