Medicinal Herbs Becoming Extinct

Last year, we at Alchemilla Ultra-Pure Skin Care were very fortunate to move to a wonderful small farm in Oregon on which, as many of our customers and fans know, we now grow herbs for use in our organic skin care products.

Immediately we arrived at our new property we began the process of converting a rather barren and disorderly landscape into a wonderful fruit- and flower-filled garden.

In contrast with what existed here almost 24 months ago – that is, a severely compacted and infertile piece of land that had seen its day – there now exists rows of fluffy, humus-rich soil that sustain a flourishing crop of organic medicinal and beautifying herbs:  Herbs that we grow in line with various organic and biodynamic principles and the rather famous rhythmic planting calendar; herbs that we use in our organic skin care products.

During an online research session last year, at a time when we were figuring out what would be most appropriate to grow on the property in our first year, I accidentally (but delightfully) discovered an at-risk medicinal herb plant conservation organization known as United Plant Savers (UpS for short).

By reading information on their website, I was astonished to discover that mainly to over-harvesting by humans, many beautiful and useful North American native medicinal herbs are at-risk of extinction in the wild!

Given my love for medicinal herbs and, well, all plants in general, this disturbed me greatly, yet it also inspired me to immediately look at ways we at Alchemilla could participate in helping to conserve these precious plants.  Ideally, we wanted to incorporate our help to coincide with our goal as a skin care herb grower and manufacturer.

Our first and most obvious decision was to switch from using American Ginseng (Panax quinquefolius) to using Siberian Ginseng (Eleutherococcus sinticosus) in our product formulations.  We have learned that these two herbs are completely interchangeable and have almost identical active properties.

Our second decision was to become a UpS ‘Partner in the Green’ to raise awareness via sales of our Organic Skin Care Trial Kits.

Our third decision was to find ways of incorporating as many at-risk medicinal herbs into our landscape as possible – whether they form part of our domestic garden or the outer crop areas.  As a start, we seeded and planted an assortment of Echinacea (purpurea and angustifolia) and saw those come right through to flower throughout the garden in their first year (in fact most of them are still in flower right now).

This third decision has been rather more challenging, however we do look forward to building our inventory of at-risk plants throughout the property next season to add to the Echinacea.

Although relatively small compared with the hundreds of acres of some herb farms, we do have a broad variety of planting conditions throughout the property – dark shade under very tall cedar trees, bare bumpy pasture where llamas used to roam, boggy wet soil, dry shade, full sun, raised beds, solid clay and rich humus – and we’re pretty sure we have a micro-climate of sorts, due to last year in winter us having snow all over our property one morning, yet our neighbours having none.  So it’s really quite a place and we’re certain it will be able to sustain quite a variety of at-risk herbs!

Of course, growing these medicinal plants at the Alchemilla property is probably not alone going to save these plant species.  We need more humans to become aware, especially those who might want to harvest from the wild, that by pulling that medicinal plant species up from the ground or snipping off its flowers before it has a chance to seed, one might be speeding up its altogether disappearance from planet earth.

In the years to come, Alchemilla will be looking at ways to help UpS increase awareness of at-risk medicinal herbs so that together, and with those who care to join us, we can prevent any of these precious medicinals disappearing from our landscape forever.  One dream is that plant-loving Alchemilla customers throughout North America incorporate one, maybe two (or maybe ten) different at-risk medicinal species into their backyard gardens!

To become a member of United Plant Savers, or learn more about at-risk medicinal plant species, visit the UpS website.

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