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Green Medicine > Conservation Efforts > What Can You Do?

What Can You Do To Help Conserve Medicinal Plants?

Be A Responsible Consumer

  • Read labels carefully before you purchase a product. A label tells you many things, including whether the active ingredient is a standardized extract and whether additives have been included. A label also may tell you whether the product you're buying comes from wildcrafted plants or from cultivated sources. Some plants such as yellow dock, sassafras and saw palmetto occur in sufficient abundance that careful, sustainable wildcrafting is not a concern. Others, like certain echinacea species, ginseng, and goldenseal, face varying pressure from overcollecting for commercial purposes. Decide when you feel comfortable supporting products from wildcrafted rather than commercially grown sources.
  • Learn where the medicinal products you consume come from. Visit industry web pages to learn more about their policies on conservation. Find out if and how they compensate indigenous peoples for their plant knowledge. Such compensation and respect for native knowledge is particularly important when new drugs are developed from information about plants that historically have been safeguarded by native peoples.
  • Support products whose manufacturers demonstrate commitment to the sustainability of wild medicinal plants.

Educate Yourself

  • Get to know the medicinal plants you use most frequently. Read about them in your local library. If these plants are native to your area, walk through the woods or other open spaces to find and identify them. Note how they grow in the wild. Note the plants they grow with. Sketch or photograph them so that you have a record of their habitat.
  • Research a source of cultivated plants, and create a medicinal plant garden in your backyard, at a local school, or at a public location.
  • Think globally, and act locally, first by joining a national plant conservation group such as United Plant Savers or The Nature Conservancy, and then by putting your ideals to work in your local garden club, native plant society, or master gardener program.

Take Action

  • Work to conserve habitat for native medicinal plants. One way to do this is by introducing community leaders and elected officials to the benefits of medicinal plants, as well as the importance of conserving them. The destruction of native habitat and the species it protects is the single most significant contributor to the loss of biodiversity worldwide.
  • Help monitor wild populations of medicinal plants to determine their status. Contact the Natural Heritage Program in your state to identify species that need monitoring. Natural Heritage Programs usually operate through local governments or universities. For more information visit Your local university biology program also may be able to provide helpful advice.
  • Patronize local nurseries and growers. If a behind-the-scenes tour becomes available, take advantage of it. Ask about the source of their nursery stock. Encourage their support of local conservation efforts.
  • Share what you know about plants with others, especially young children. Scout troops, 4H clubs, school groups, and Future Farmers of America are organizations where you can have an impact on the future. Write articles for local magazines and newspapers about local medicinal plants, their cultural history and what they contribute to the community.
  • Keep asking questions and seeking answers.
  • Volunteer to help with the projects of the Medicinal Plant Working Group.

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Last Updated: 4/4/02