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How can I be sure the medicinal efficacy of domestically grown herbs is equivalent to that of imports?

How did the ancient physicians judge the comparative efficacy of herbs grown in different provinces? Determination of medicinal equivalency, or relative value, is an empirical process that depends ultimately on a profession-wide consensus based on clinical evidence. We expect you to first see, taste and smell the herbs to judge their sensory properties for yourself. Your training and experience in pulse-and-tongue diagnosis enables you to observe changes in your patients from one visit to the next. Our customers gradually become more comfortable with substituting local herbs in formulas as they see good results with their patients. Eventually, as domestic production becomes more widespread, we will be able to compare herbs grown in different regions of North America to assess their relative value.

For more information on this subject, please see: http://www.highfallsgardens.net/newsletters/Can Chinese Herbs Be Produced in North America.pdf

With regard to biochemical analysis of the herbs, such testing can confirm species identification or detect the presence of pollutants. For all domestically-grown herbs tested by this means, the medicinal value is comparable to the Asian-grown counterparts. For one example, please review: http://www.chinesemedicinalherbfarm.com/Bill Schoenbart, L.Ac.thesis.pdf

My local organic farmer is willing to grow herbs for me. Why should I order from Local Herbs when I can buy from her/him and save wasteful shipping charges?

Highly distributed local production is an end goal, achievable as a result of long-term and widespread cooperation. We are talking about hundreds of species of plants, mostly perennials. Most organic farmers are annual vegetable croppers and/or graziers, and need help in shifting part of their resources toward perennial polyculture. They need incentives to plant trees, to be assured of a market when the tree eventually bears fruit in 10+ years. Experienced growers want to know how to manage risk and to calculate the profit from any one crop before they plant.

A great deal of specific horticultural knowledge is involved, including choosing correctly among varieties, the ecological setting or niche, how to plant and when to harvest. That knowledge must be shared, which takes time and effort.

It’s unlikely you can provide all these assurances by yourself. However, you can join a local task force if one has formed near you, and you can support Local Herbs as a stimulus to long-term development. Even if your local grower can produce one or ten crops for you, you will still need the produce of other regions or to import herbs from China for a long time to come.

My family owns farmland and I want to start growing herbs there. What can you offer me?

The limits on development of domestic production are not land but rather skilled, experienced and properly incentivized labor. You, as a licensed practitioner of Oriental Medicine, are unlikely to neglect your expensive graduate education and become a farmer – which is an applied science (and art form) as complex and demanding as your own. Partnership with established farmers is a better use of your time and skills. If you have farmers in your family, that’s great! Now you will need to learn how to work with them over many years while the crops grow.

The first training program in Asian Medicinal Herbs Production and Marketing, sponsored by New Mexico State University, is online and accessible at: http://aces.nmsu.edu/medicinalherbs/. High Falls Foundation, Inc. seeks funding to adapt this training program to other regions. We are working to publish more plant-specific information, to get you the details you’ll need.