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Conservation of Medicinal Plants

With the current growth of public interest in the use, and value, of medicinal plants, our thoughts turn to the conservation of these plants. Increasing demand does not guarantee ongoing supply, for a variety of reasons. Preservation of the knowledge of plant growth and harvesting requirements, habitat loss through natural or man-made disasters, destruction of forests, overharvesting, and climate change are just some of the issues guardians of medicinal herbs and plants need to consider.

There is a growing list of herbs, plants, and trees that are now considered endangered or at risk. Echinacea, Slippery Elm, American Ginseng, and Goldenseal are just some of these.

Environmental pirating of herbs, plants, and trees and the loss of indigenous rights to ownership of native plants for short-term financial gain by pharmaceutical companies is a very real threat to the sustainability of medicinal plants. The World Health Organisation (WHO) recognizes the value of traditional systems in herbal medicine. The intellectual property rights of local populations exist and must be protected wherever and to whomever they belong.

So what can we do to assist sustainability and conservation of medicinal plants? When we purchase herbs we can ask:

  • is the herb sustainably harvested?

  • is it locally grown?

  • are there substitutes for endangered species?

  • is the growing environment supported?

  • how is biodiversity maintained?

  • what is the country of origin?

Look for labels and companies that advertise "Sustainable Harvesting"; insisting on such practices by the public will go a long way to preserving our precious supplies of medicinal plants, herbs & trees.

Picture of our morning harvest of Calendula flowers.

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