Over-harvest has threatened American ginseng (Panax quinquefolius), which is native throughout the eastern United States.
With growing concerns about food safety and the environment, the market for organic products has exploded. But the worldwide demand for organic wild-harvested herbs has raised another concern: Could over-harvest of wild herbs endanger some species and their habitats?
In response, international organizations have joined efforts to develop wild herb harvest standards and guidelines. The new “International Standard for Sustainable Wild Collection of Medicinal and Aromatic Plants” (ISSC-MAP) provides a framework for sustainable herb harvest (see http://www.floraweb.de/map-pro/).
Ultimately, product labels will include more information and consumers will have more choices. Third-party certification marks, such as FairWild (www.FairWild.org), also will help ensure the responsible collection of wild herbs. In the coming months, expect to begin seeing FairWild and other service marks in addition to organic certification labels on herb products, helping to preserve wild herbs and their habitats.
Steven Foster is an author, photographer and consultant specializing in medicinal plants (