Archive for the ‘Environmental’ Category

Part of being an herbalist to me is being in touch and intertwined with the environment and all living organisms.  In order to do this I feel that it is important to know the plants that you are harvesting and to be aware of the impact it has on the environment they grow in.

It is estimated that 12 percent of plants world-wide and 29 percent of plants in the United States are so rare that they could become extinct (1).  That is a huge number in the scheme of things.  What a travesty it would be to no longer have the presence of such beneficial plants as Ginseng, Goldenseal, Black cohosh and even Echinacea.  With a growing number of people becoming interested in using natural alternatives the notion that these plants could disappear is not that absurd.

However, if we as herbalist, both skilled and un-skilled, make a conscious effort to protect these plants by practicing ethical harvesting we can help to ensure that these plants will be around for generations to come.  Some things that you can do when harvesting are: (2)

  • Positively identify plants before harvesting and make sure that they are not on the endangered species list or the watch list of potentially endangered species.
  • Never harvest more plants that you can use yourself. 
  • Be aware of the environmental impact you create when you do go into certain areas to harvest.
  • Familiarize yourself with the growth habits of plants.  If a plant takes twenty years to mature it can be extremely detrimental to the species to harvest in the wild.
  • Research proper harvesting methods for each plant.
  • Keep a journal which identifies the plant, area of harvest, state or condition of the plant and number of plants available and number of plants taken.  This can be crucial information on how your harvesting practices are affecting the area when you return to harvest at a future date.
  • Never take so many plants as to leave a visible disturbance in the area.
  • Always work slowly and deliberately when harvesting as to not disturb plants in the surrounding area.
  • Always keep in mind what harvesting that plant will do to the other living organisms who depend on that plant for food and shelter.

Other things that you can do to help protect our plants in the wild are:

  • Support organizations which help to protect endangered plants such as native plant societies and the United Plant Savers.
  • Grow some of your own medicinal herbs
  • Teach others about ethical harvesting practices
  • And once again, only harvest what you need or can use.


(1)  Gladstar, R. (2000), Planting the future – Saving our medicinal herbs, Healing Arts Press, Rochester Vermont

(2)  Tilford, G.L., (1998), From Earth to herbalist, Mountain Press Publishing Co., Missoula, Montana.

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For those of you who celebrate Christmas it is likely that you got a bunch of “Stuff” for Christmas or you got some “Stuff”.  What about all of the “Stuff” that you got during the year.  We have become a nation of huge “Stuff” getters and users and disposers of “Stuff”.  We have become the “Disposable” generation.  Disposable diapers, paper plates, product packaging, etc.  All of this “Stuff” we use to make our lives easier, which we then turn around and dump it in landfills.  We work longer and harder to buy more “Stuff” which we then turn around and throw it away so that we can buy more “Stuff”.  It’s a vicious, vicious cycle.

  Do we really need all of this “Stuff”?  Where does all of this “Stuff” go when we no longer “need” or want it?  If you are someone who is interested in learning how to become more sustainable, someone who wants to help protect our natural resources you definitely need to watch this short film about “Stuff”.  You will never think of “Stuff” the same way again.

The Story of Stuff

Here are just a few ways you can reduce your consumption of “Stuff”:

  • Recycle and reuse – think of new ways to use old items
  • Avoid paper plates and plastic utensils.  Eat off of real dishes and use real utensils
  • Don’t use disposable diapers…try cloth
  • Buy used –  When you do need to buy something check out thrift stores and garage sells.  Not only are you recycling, but you will probably find what you need for a lot less money.
  • Every time you buy something ask yourself, “do I really need this or do I just want this”? 
  • Shop local which helps to reduce fossils fuels which are consumed when transporting goods.
  • Grow a garden.  Even if you live in an apartment you can still grow quite a number of vegetables and herbs in containers.
  • Buy a refillable water bottle instead of buying bottled water.  Not only are they safer for your health, but it will also save you money and cut down on trash.
  • Buy energy-efficient appliances and light bulbs.
  • Support companys that are sustainable and fair trade.

If you think about it recycling not only saves you money, but it also helps the environment.  The less “Stuff” you have to buy, the less money you spend, and the fewer hours you’ll have to work leaving you more time to spend with family and friends.  It’s a win, win situation.

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Yes, you heard me right….with the right anabolic steroids you can grow a chicken in 40 days.  But wait a second….if we consume food that is treated with steroids won’t they affect us as the consumer?  According to information obtained from Cornell University, ” there are six different kinds of steroid hormones that are currently approved by FDA for use in food production in the US: estradiol, progesterone, testosterone, zeranol, trenbolone acetate, and melengestrol acetate. Estradiol and progesterone are natural female sex hormones; testosterone is the natural male sex hormone; zeranol, trenbolone acetate and melengesterol acetate are synthetic growth promoters (hormone-like chemicals that can make animals grow faster).”

The European Union no longer allows the use of these steroids due to concerns that they may pose a risk to pregnant women and children and because of the impact on the environment from the transfer of hormones through animal excrement.  The EU has also banned imports of meat from Canada and the U.S. because of the continued use in animals to promote growth. (Assessment of Potential Risks)

What about the use of pesticides on the food we consume?  There are numerous studies which indicate that pesiticide exposure may contribute to serious health conditions such as breast cancer, non-hodgkins lymphoma, diabetes, and parkinsons disease.

 Check out this preview of the movie, “Food, Inc.,” which discusses how big business is putting profit ahead of safety when it involves our food supply.  You may never look at your food the same way again.

Food, Inc. The Movie

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Today we are heading off to Alabama to do some hunting. I will be hunting herbs with my trusty soon to be 7 year old herbal apprentice while my husband hunts the big game. Part of being an herbalist to me is about using and appreciating the resources around me. A friend offered up some picking of his turnips this past weekend so we headed out and picked enough for us to can and to share some with friends and neighbors. I spent most of the day Saturday working on canning greens and deer meat. Talk about a lesson in social studies. Canning those foods gave me an appreciation of how hard our forefathers and mothers worked. By the time the day was done I was completely exhausted. However, you can’t get that kind of satisfaction from a grocery store. I know of a wonderful batch of wild roses in an area in Alabama that we are visiting. I hope to bring back some rosehips to savor and preserve. Wild harvesting either foods or herbs makes me extremely thankful and also makes me realize the need to protect our environment. Sustainability, preservation, environmentalism….those are also what being an herbalist means to me.

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