Ayervedic Medicinal Plant Garden, India. Photo by: Chris Kilham © 2010

What is Sustainability?

As it applies to medicinal plants and products made from them, sustainability involves providing natural resources for human health needs in a manner that supports the health and diversity of the natural environment, and incorporates labor and wage practices that enable all people in the system to flourish. In a sustainable system, all life is supported and allowed to prosper.

On Sustainability and Medicinal Plants

You hear an increasing amount of talk these days about sustainability. But what does it mean? In a sustainable system, all parts or members thrive and prosper. As this applies to medicinal plants, it means that users of the plants get good, viable remedies, the natural environment is enhanced and protected in the course of utilizing or trading in those plants, and people who work with the plants are able to flourish.

Basic principles of sustainability are embodied in the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). This treaty, created in 1992, establishes guidelines for protecting environmental resources and sharing benefits with native people, as a result of utilizing biological resources from various countries.

According to the Convention On Biological Diversity (CBD), if you develop a product from a biological resource such as a traditional herb, then you have an obligation to engage in practices and programs which protect the environment and the natural habitat of that plant, and an equal obligation to provide benefits to any native people whose traditional knowledge and expertise have helped to make such a product possible. CBD is a groundbreaking treaty, signed by 168 governments, but not the United States. The Convention recognizes that biological diversity is about more than plants, animals and micro organisms and their ecosystems – it is about people and our need for food security, medicines, fresh air and water, shelter, and a clean and healthy environment in which to live.

At Medicine Hunter we work with many projects that comply with the broadest definitions of well-being and sustainability. Specifically, this means that we are employing all reasonable means at our disposal to ensure that the cultivation and harvesting of botanicals, and the subsequent processing of them, is performed in a manner which does no harm to the environment, and causes no damage to the supply of various species used. Furthermore, our compliance with CBD means that we promote fair wage programs for the native people who work with these plants, as well as sharing benefits with those people upon sales. Hopefully in the future we will see a great increase in sustainably produced medicinal plant products.

It is entirely possible to sell profitable products, and still implement fair wages, protect environmental resources, and share benefits with native people. As time goes on, we will further communicate the specifics of our ongoing sustainability program, and how our programs and activities benefit traditional people and the natural environment.