What about Organic Herbs?

by Jeanine Adinaro on March 4, 2010

in Chinese Culture, General Health

Bulk herbs for sale at the herb market outside Chengdu, China

Bulk herbs for sale at the herb market outside Chengdu, China

I often here the question, “Do you use organic herbs to make your products?” No. And I’ll tell you why.

Most of the herbs we need to make our products are grown in China. And the plants we need are very particular about where they are grown.Even within China, the herb quality is often dependent on exactly which county they are grown in. Variables like soil conditions, micro-climates, and rainfall all dramatically effect the quality of the herbs- i.e. how effective they are for what we are trying to use them for.

The farmers grow their herbs, or in some cases, like dandelions, harvest them from the wild. And they are sold at markets to the herb importers. Our importer is a fabulous company in California called NuHerbs that I will highlight at greater length in some other post.

Most of those farmers are on small, family run operations that have been growing these herbs for many generations. But even if they are following all the guidelines for organic production, they cannot afford to get certified for the scale at which they are producing. The farms that can afford to meet these standards are large, corporate run farms.

So the punchline is, if we all demand organically produced Chinese herbs, they will get produced, but it will be at the cost of driving small, family farms out of business. I don’t know how everyone else feels about that, but I personally think we would be losing hundreds of years of valuable family insight into herb cultivation by doing that. Not to mention destroying the livelihood of thousands of farmers. That’s nothing something that makes me feel particularly warm and fuzzy.

And for the record, this nice articulation of why we don’t have access to more organically grown Chinese herbs comes from a conversation that I had with the extremely knowledgeable Eric Brand last weekend at the Southwest Symposium. Thanks for being in the herb business, Eric!

Herb Market near Chungdu, China

Herb Market near Chengdu, China

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