Building Healthy Worlds: What Can I Do?

“How and where we spend our money is a political choice, a social choice, and an environmental choice. It is incumbent on us to make these choices and they aren’t easy and we don’t always get them right.” – Sebastian Pole

What Can I Do to Build Healthy Worlds?

As I come to the end of my journey following herbs around the world, I believe even more strongly that the best herbal medicine is made by yourself or by someone you know and trust using plants they have grown. Healing is far more complex than taking a product – and growing and preparing remedies yourself offers potent medicine that you can never find in a bottle.

That said, most of us do buy products. And most people, when they hear about the Sustainable Herbs Project, want me to tell them what products to buy. My goal has always been larger than recommending products or companies. I want to provide the resources needed to use our purchasing power to create worlds that are healthier, not just for ourselves but for the entire herbal products supply chain. We need to change the whole world, not just parts of it.

Building Healthy Worlds: What You Can Do

Where to Begin?

“Consumers that aggressively question and challenge the manufacturers of the goods that they use about their manufacturing and sourcing practices, their contributions to the world, can in fact make a huge difference in the directions that those companies take and the practices that they employ within their companies.” – Drake Sadler, CEO Traditional Medicinals

I have focused on companies not so everyone flocks to buy their products, but to use their standards to raise the bar of the industry overall. First, educate yourself about the issues involved. Next, find the companies you like – and support them by buying their products. Choosing what companies to support begins with defining your values.You might want a company that supports conservation and traditional knowledge for sourcing wild collected plants. Or domestic herb growing and bioregional herbalism. Or fair trade practices for small landowners around the world. Figure out what your values are, then find companies whose values align with your own.

Once you’ve done that, challenge those companies to go further. Let them know you will support them (by continuing to buy their products) as they take these risks of implementing more rigorous standards.

A few questions to ask herb companies:

  • How do they source raw material?
  • How often do company employees visit suppliers? During these visits, do suppliers simply give presentations/farm tours or do the suppliers and companies really delve into challenging issues? Watch Relationships through the Supply Chain to see firsthand how staff from Pukka Herbs works with their suppliers in India.
  • Are herbs wild collected or cultivated? How does the company verify this?
  • How much are wild collectors paid? Do herb growers have contracts? How much are they paid (etc.)?

The industry will only change when all of us, especially herbalists and the herb community, engage in the process of making it change.


Building Healthy Worlds

No Time for Research?

If that’s more than you can think about now, here are some key takeaways:

  • Pay more. Inexpensive products do a huge disservice to the entire supply chain. Not only are cheap products not likely to work, lower prices put pressure on companies who are trying to do it right but still have to compete in the marketplace.

A few other general guidelines about what to look for in spending that additional money:

  • Buy organically produced (wild harvested or cultivated) and processed herbs.
  • Buy fair trade certified (Fair Wild, Fair Trade, Fair for Life) whenever possible and encourage companies to invest in these certifications so more Fair Trade certified medicinal plants are available.
  • Pay more for herbs grown locally by small farmers with whom you can have a relationship.
  • Perhaps the most important thing you can do is grow an herb in a pot in your window so you understand what is involved. Learn how to use the plant as a tea or to prepare a tincture or salve. Better yet, grow two plants.

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