1. Make sure you collect the proper species. There are poisonous lookalikes for many plants. Use a good guidebook, or, better yet, take an herb walk with a local expert to identify species growing in your area.
2. Be sure you collect the correct plant part.
3. Leave endangered or threatened species alone.
4. Ask permission before gathering on private land. Local, federal, and state parks often have limits on collecting wild plants as well.
5. If possible, spray or water plants the day before collecting, or gather the day after a rain.
6. Avoid collecting plants within fifty feet of a busy road and in sprayed or polluted areas.
7. Never take more than one-tenth of any given stand of plants, unless what you’re gathering is over growing as an invasive weed.
8. Gather leaves and flowers in the morning, after the dew has risen but before the sun is too hot.
9. Replant seeds as often as possible, unless you are trying to eradicate the plant.
10. Take a whole leaf rather than tearing a leaf.
11. Collect plants in a way that ensures the continued survival of the species. For example, if all you need are the leaves and flowers, take only some tops. Cutting a plant back can actually help to promote new growth. Leave the roots intact to continue their growing cycle.
12. Compost or use the herb parts not needed as mulch, compost, or use in herbal baths.
Brigitte Mars is an herbalist from Boulder, Colorado. She is the author of Dandelion Medicine (Storey, 1999), Addiction Free Naturally (Healing Arts, 2001), and Natural First Aid (Storey, 1999). She teaches at the Rocky Mountain Center for Botanical Studies and also hosts Herb Camp for Kids.
Click here for the original article, Wildcrafting: Medicinal Wild Plants.