MPWG Related Publications
Nature's Healing Pharmacy
have played an important role in medicine. For early peoples, they
came easily to hand, and were intricately connected to diet and
healing. Through observation and experimentation, they learned which
plants promoted health and well-being.
Many plants we rely on
today were "field tested" by First Nations people hundreds,
even thousands, of years before Europeans explored this continent.
Early people used almost 3,000 different plants as medicine. Black
cohosh, a staple of Cherokee medicine, served many purposes ranging
from use as as diuretic to a cure for rheumatic pains. Bloodroot
provided the Cherokee with medicine to cure coughs and lung inflamations.
Blue cohosh, another eastern woodland plant, helped cure toothaches
for the Cherokee, while the Chippewa used the root to treat cramps.
Over time, the practice
of herbal medicine has grown more complex. Science has enabled us
to process natural substances into pills, tinctures and powders.
However, the development of a market economy also has distanced
consumers from the wild plants that are the source of medicines.
Did You Know?
- At least 175 plants
native to North America are for sale in the non-prescription medicinal
market in the U.S. Many of these are collected from the wild in
large quantities (hundreds of thousands of plants) for commercial
markets in the U.S. and abroad. For example, during the last few
years, about 65 million goldenseal plants and 34 million ginseng
plants have been harvested from the wild in the forests of the
eastern United States on an annual basis.
- In the United States,
the market for medicinal herbs is worth more than $3 billion.
Many of the plants supplying this industry are wild collected
in vast quantities because techniques to cultivate them on a commercial
scale have not been developed. Consider the implications of such
popularity for these plants.
- More than 60 million
consumers in the U.S. take herbal remedies. More doctors are recommending
herbal medicines and, some health insurance plans offer coverage
for alternative health treatments such as herbal remedies.
- The more we use medicinal
herbs on a commercial scale the more important it is to ensure
that they come from sustainable sources, so that these plants
will continue to exist in wild places.