The Cultivation of Medicinal Herbs

Potted Rosemary on Patio

The following is excerpted from Rosemary Gladstar’s Foreword to the book, From Earth to Herbalist, written by Gregory Tilford (1998.) I think it offers clear insight into how our futures are dependent upon the successful integration of nature & cultivation, health & medicine.

Rosemary Gladstar is a renowned herbalist, author & founder of United Plant Savers.

“People all over the world are alarmed at the destruction of the Amazonian rain forests. Are you aware that similar ecosystem ravagement is threatening the environment closer to home?  Every day 2,400 native plant species, including many medicinal plants, are in imminent danger of extinction in the United States. Habitat destruction through unsustainable logging and agricultural practices and sprawling urban development are the major causes of the dwindling plant populations, but the ever-increasing worldwide demand for herbal products also plays an unfortunate role…

When herbalism first resurfaced in the United States in the early 1970’s as part of the “back to basics” movement, we herbalists entered the field whole-heartedly, harvesting a seemingly endless supply of wild American medicinal plants…
Those humble early days of herbalism…changed American medicine, as witnessed by the burgeoning interest in botanical medicine today…
While positive on one hand, the current herbal renaissance in American health care brings with it an ever-growing demand by consumers for herbal products…
Until recently, large-scale cultivation of medicinal herbs was rare.
China embarked in 1950 on an ambitious and successful program to integrate Traditional Chinese Medicine into the country’s public health policy, and soon faced a severe shortage of wild populations of popular medicinal plants due to over-harvesting. To compensate, China began a massive effort to cultivate medicinal plants and now has more than 1 million acres of medicinal plants under cultivation. But their wild resources remain in dire straights….In North America, goldenseal, American ginseng, and echinacea are among the commercially popular medicinal plants at risk of extinction in the wild due to habitat destruction and over-harvesting…
If we choose to use plants as medicine, we then become accountable for the health of the wild gardens. We begin a cocreative partnership with the plants, giving back what we receive-health, nourishment, beauty, and protection. We have reached a time in history where ignoring this relationship with the resources we use would be disastrous.
Herbalists have profoundly influenced the survival and resurgence of herbal medicine in this country…It is time for us to have as profound an influence on the preservation of the plants we use, so that on a sunny afternoon many years from now, our grandchildren may take their grandchildren’s children out to show them the plants their ancestors used, still growing in great abundance in the native wild gardens. It is a dream worth waking for.”

Rosemary Bushes in Park

So–another note from Big Mama:
Let’s get out and cultivate some medicinal plants. The future of herbalism is in our hands and the eager hands of our children.
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