August 14, 2019
The movement to grow Chinese herbs organically and locally is an important step towards creating a sustainable herbal medicine on our planet.
For many Chinese trained herbalists here in the West, the question of the ethics and sustainability of using herbs grown in China and flown to the US, rather than local herbs, is a big one. The Chinese Herbal Materia Medica has an incredible array of amazing healing plants. However, as the popularity of Chinese herbalism is rapidly growing throughout the world, we need to examine whether or not is sustainable for us to continue using them. Right now, the vast majority of Chinese herbs are grown in China, and supplying the whole planet with herbs grown in just one country is not feasible in the long term. Already, herbs such as Tan Xiang (Sandalwood), Chuan Bei Mu (Fritallaria bulb) are overharvested and threatened. Furthermore, shipping herbs internationally requires the use of airplanes, which is one of the biggest carbon producing activities we can engage in. And, less stringent agricultural regulations to protect herbs grown in China from contamination and pollution are also a concern- are we contributing to polluting water and soil by purchasing these herbs? All of these are important reasons to examine our dependance on herbs grown in China.
Local organic farming, particularly here in California, where so many plants are easily and readily grown, offers a solution to the dilemma of unsustainably sourced herbs. Herbs which are grown close to where we live arrive to us fresher and have better quality. Many herbalists also believe that working with local herbs is more powerful because those plants, being attuned to our particular climate, help us better adapt to local environmental changes and our own seasonal rythmns- which is what Chinese Medicine is all about! While the movement to grow Chinese herbs locally is still small- it is growing! Here in the AIMC Herb Pharmacy we are pleased to now stock local, organic Bo He (Chinese Mint). We hope to continue growing our stock of local organic herbs and support the farmers who are leading this movement.