How to Help Save Medicinal Plants

Many people are becoming more interested in the food and medicinal value of native plants. We do know a lot about the qualities of many native plants and many are being cultivated.

However, there are other native plants whose qualities are, as yet, largely unexplored. With increasing pressures on our natural environment the habitats of many plants are under threat as are many species of plants themselves.

Some suggestions for helping to save medicinal plants

Begin with self-education.

Get to know native medicinal plants on sight. As you walk through the woods, wilderness or other natural spaces in your area take a plant identification guide with you as a resource. Learn about the plants that you see on your walks. Read about medicinal plants in your local library or on internet sites or take a course about herbs and their properties.

Work out what some of your favourite plants need in order to grow. Then find a source that has cultivated these plants, and create your own herb garden.

Then take action.

Join a plant conservation group, such as your local garden club, native plant society, or master gardener program. If these organizations do not have a plant saving program, consider setting one up. Work with local developers and builders to collect native species before construction begins. Then replant them in nearby native habitat where they can grow undisturbed.

Contact seed saver organizations to find out how to save seeds. This will help ensure that medicinal plants are available for future generations.

Help to observe wild populations of medicinal herbs to help determine their status. Contact the Natural Heritage Program or conservation group in your region to identify species that may need monitoring. Your local university biology or ecology program also may be able to provide helpful advice.

Don't buy or use products that contain endangered or threatened plant material. Buy cultivated medicinal plant products. Product labels indicate whether plants come from wild or cultivated sources. If the labels donít contain what you need to know, contact the manufacturer.

References

Maruca, M. 2003, Conserve Medicinal Plants, USDA Fish & Wildlife.

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