Following Plants through the Medicinal Plant Supply Chain
What do you know about where herbs come from? If you grow and collect all of your own plants and make your medicine, that is one thing. What do you do when you want to use a plant you can’t grow yourself? How do you find high quality herbs? What do you recommend to clients? What information do you look for on the label of the products you buy and how do you know you can trust it?
Where Herbs Come From
People talk about the importance of knowing where your herbs come from and how they are processed, but in fact it is often really hard to do that. A few companies are beginning to share the country of origin; to say, for example, that Nettles are from Hungary or St. John’s Wort is from Chile. But it is very difficult to get more information than that.
That’s for a number of reasons.
First, sources change. Medicinal plants, like any agricultural product, depend on the weather. Heavy rains or drought or disease or any other number of reasons might wipe out a supplier’s supply of a particular plant and a company will have to scramble to find another source. So they can’t say where a plant is sourced, not because they are hiding anything but because they don’t always know for sure where it will be sourced.
Second, the industry is tremendously complex. Supply chains are long and complicated and often differ for each species. It simply takes too much time and effort to make that information available to consumers.
Third, the botanical industry isn’t known for its transparency – and for understandable reasons. Another company might steal your supplier or your processing secret or whatever it is that gives your product an edge in the market. The best way to protect that information is not to share it.
Yet even with this complexity, there are things companies can do to ensure social and ecological sustainability in the supply chain. And even if you can’t find out where exactly in Hungary those Nettles are from, it is possible to find out whether a company is trying to implement some of those practices or not.
What Do YOU Want to Know?
I visited central Europe to begin gathering information about best practices in the botanical industry and what consumers can do to encourage companies to adopt these practices. I will continue to gather stories about the supply chain to share on an interactive website to be launched in late 2015.
As I develop this project, I’d love to hear from you:
- What information do you want to know about how medicinal plants are sourced on the international market?
- In addition to knowing that the herbs you buy are what the label claims them to be, what else matters to you in making your purchasing decisions: Pesticides? Fair wages? Resource management plans? Traceability? Methods of extraction? Cost? What else?
- I plan to present much of this information through the voices of individuals in different sectors of the industry, including collectors, cultivators, processors, traders and others. What are some of the particular stories you want to hear?
- How would you like to see this information presented? Do you have favorite interactive websites? Things you love? Things you dislike?
My goal is to provide a resource that can help create a more educated and discerning consumer market for herbal products so that we can use our purchasing power to create a more sustainable industry overall. I’d love your input as I move forward!
Source : http://www.numenfilm.com/blog/where-herbs-come-from/