There are many reasons to be paying attention to our plant allies’ sustainability and the state of biodiversity in today’s world. Sustainability is important to having healthy communities, natural resources, and simply to have a non-toxic environment to live in. It doesn’t matter if you live in the city or in the mountains; we must protect the Earth’s biodiversity and plant sustainability. This will always be a hot topic because our healthcare and clean air are directly related to the sustainability of plant life. Here at WishGarden Herbs, we are always thinking about our direct role in plant sustainability, specifically in our neck of the woods! 

Osha Root, or Ligusticum filicinum, is a great example of how Wish Garden has taken steps to improve our bioregional biodiversity. Our most popular product called Kick-Ass Immune was reformulated in 2015 because Osha’s population had been highly impacted here in the Rocky Mountains due to overharvesting and environmental changes.  This delicate plant is harvested for its medicinal roots; however, Osha’s roots can take years to establish up high in the Rocky Mountains.

The Osha plant is essential to the bear’s environment, hence the common name of the plant; Bear Medicine or Bear Root. When coming out of hibernation, Bears have been observed to find and eat Osha Root to support their sluggish metabolism or when they aren’t feeling well. Just like our giant animal neighbors, we reach for this root at times of feeling unwell! Therefore, WishGarden decided to change the formula to be more sustainable, using herbs such as Lovage. Osha can still be found in the formula, but a lesser amount is used in order to preserve its population. Recently, we have also established a relationship with a farmer here in Colorado, who has amazingly figured out how to cultivate this tricky and fragile plant. We are excited to be the first herbal company to be able to transition to using a cultivated source of Osha.  

The transition to replace compromised herbs with sustainably cultivated herbs can be a long road. I talked with our director of sourcing, Don Kassner, and he explained the transition from Osha to Lovage. We discussed how at the beginning of his quest for Lovage, Wish Garden first sourced the amount we needed for our popular formula from Europe. However, looking to keep our sustainably responsible promise, Don soon found a domestic cultivated source of Lovage! The Carbon footprint of sourcing herbs across the ocean is not sustainable and Don’s sourcing story is a perfect example of how important sustainability is here at WishGarden. 

Have you seen Yerba Mansa in Wish Garden’s formulas? Yerba Mansa, or Anemopsis californica, holds a special place in South Westerner’s hearts. Swamp root is the common name because this desert plant is unique in its growing habitat and requires bloggy wet water banks to thrive. Increasing hot temperatures and drought conditions contribute to Yerba Mansa’s delicate population. In the last two years, Wish Garden has sourced this plant from a cultivator because of increasing demands. However, Wish Garden still has a long-standing relationship with our Yerba Mansa wildcrafter in Northern New Mexico. This Native American wildcrafter has been trusted for many years and knows how to responsibly wildcraft Yerba Mansa as has been done in his culture for hundreds of years. Supporting our expert herbal wildcrafters is important in keeping indigenous people’s culture alive and we can trust that their methods are handled with respect to Yerba Mansa. 

Sustainability can sometimes mean we make sacrifices for our most beloved plants and critically think about their use in our lives.  White Sage has become increasingly popular and smudging is common in modern American households. White Sage, or Salvia apiana, has aromatics and plant compounds that are irresistible, therefore smudging has become very popular. However, this plant has been sacred to Native Americans and their culture’s ceremonies and prayers for hundreds of years before today’s smudging trends.

The United Plant Savers has discussed the problems with White Sage’s popularity, Saying “White sage is abundant in its local habitat as a keystone species of its plant community, but that habitat is under threat due to development and it is fragile, apparent by the many endangered and threatened species that rely on its habitat. Most important to note is that it can be grown, and if it is to be in any form of commercial trade and certainly on the scale it is now, the only sustainability claims should be that it is coming from a cultivated source, and a buyer should always visit the farm to verify the claim.” (Leopold, 6/24/19). 

We are now seeing a dramatic decline in White Sage’s current population which threatens Native American’s cultural practices and our Southwest’s biodiversity. One can find a smudge stick in almost every retail shop, but did the shop check the wildcrafter’s permit to harvest the plant? Was it cultivated? From where? These are the questions we should be asking and holding White Sage resellers accountable for. It is crucial that we protect our most popular plants because the lust for them can lead to their extinction, bringing a decline in our region’s biodiversity. I challenge you to make a pledge and ask these questions when purchasing white sage or better yet, stop buying it to protect its delicate population. Garden or Common Sage or Salvia officinalis is a wonderful substitute for White Sage. Common sage is easily cultivated and abundant with much of the same irresistible aromatics and compounds! In addition to smelling great, Common sage is a multi-use herb for supporting healthy hormones and a culinary favorite in Autumn.

Now is more important than ever to protect our plants and think about how our plant rituals are affecting their habitat. After all, we do need them for our survival. 

Lauren Ann Nichols attended The Colorado School of Clinical Herbalism and received her certificate in medical herbalism. She is the owner of Herbal Vice, a small batch skin care company, and grows the herbs used in her products. She is currently a customer service representative at Wish Garden Herbs. 

For educational purposes only. This information has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease, or sell any product.

Citations:

Leopold, Susan https://unitedplantsavers.org/what-is-going-on-with-white-sage/ , 4/16/21