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September 21, 2017

AIMC Event: Growing Local Chinese Herbs with Peg Schafer

At Acupuncture and Integrative Medicine College (AIMC), we strive to provide the best education to prepare our students to become successful and accomplished practitioners of acupuncture and herbal medicine. Part of our curriculum takes place in our expansive herbal pharmacy where students complete an intern shift under the supervision of a licensed acupuncturist and herbal pharmacist to learn the skills they need to administer herbal medicines.

Our Pharmacy stocks herbs with medicinal properties to address a wide variety of health conditions. While many of these herbs originate in China, by growing them locally, it’s possible to get access to these helpful plants and alleviate the environmental toll of importation. Here in California, many practitioners of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) equate local Chinese herb growing with one person in particular: Peg Schafer.

Peg Schafer runs the Chinese Medicinal Herb Farm in Petaluma, California. She has a thorough understanding of herb quality, cultivation, and conservation, as well as issues affecting Chinese herbs and has lectured at colleges of East Asian medicine, and many different conferences and farming events. Peg also authored “The Chinese Medicinal Herb Farm: A Cultivator’s Guide to Small-Scale Organic Herb Production”. AIMC was honored to have the opportunity to visit Peg’s Farm and learn from her expertise.

AIMC student gathering herbs from the garden

AIMC

Visiting the Chinese Medicinal Herb Farm

Peg’s farm, which has been in existence for 20 years, functions partly as an experimental garden for medicinal herbs. She is able to grow and test new herb varieties and breed new seeds for medicinal use. It is also an opportunity for testing medicinal potency, and cultivation techniques for different types of herbs. Peg compiles the results in her extensive database on the cultivation of herbs of medicinal and economic interest. The farm maintains over 300 Asian medicinal plants and over 260 Asian medicinals have been trialed from germination through harvest.

Our students are most familiar with Chinese herbs in the dried, powdered, and pill forms we regularly dispense in our herbal pharmacy. Our campus herb garden offers a small selection of common medicinal plants, but Peg’s farm is special in that it contains several hundred different varieties of Asian botanicals under cultivation. During our visit, we were able to see what the future of California grown Chinese herbs looks like on Peg’s farm.

What We Learned

During the tour, Peg emphasized that growing our own medicinal plants in this country is especially important as they are not/will not always be available from China. Plants are over-harvested during times of need and even become endangered. Other medicinal herb concerns include sourcing and quality control. Importation of these plants can mean exposure to chemicals and pesticides.

Another important purpose to growing Chinese herbs locally is to reduce the environmental impacts of importation. Taking out the transportation needed to ship these herbs can significantly reduce our carbon footprint. Plants that have been cultivated and grown in the local environment and soil are part of a more holistic approach to medicine which is what TCM is all about.

After the tour, students remarked on what extensive knowledge Peg has and how wonderful it is to see such an extensive collection of plants from which we derive our medicinal herbs. Plants were for sale and many of us returned home with new ideas on how to incorporate Chinese herbs into our lives!

Ready to Learn More About Chinese Medicine?

Our visit to the farm is just one example of the events AIMC students are able to participate in throughout their education. Visit our calendar to see what additional events are scheduled. And don’t miss your chance to learn more from Peg In March at our 2020 Herbal Climate Solutions conference. We can’t wait to learn more from her expertise and how we can harness the power of plants and herbal medicine to combat climate change.

If you’re interested in learning more about East Asian medicine or acupuncture as a career. check out our program curriculums and contact us to learn more.

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Acupuncture & Integrative
Medicine College, Berkeley

2550 Shattuck Avenue
Berkeley, CA 94704

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