Wednesday, April 07, 2010

One of the Most Important Issues of Our Time

Both Scientific American and the Times of India are reporting that ninety-three percent (93%) of the medicinal plants required for the practice of Ayurvedic, and hence, Tibetan medicine are threatened with extinction. 

This is the conclusion of a Botanical Survey of India study that assessed a total of 359 prioritized wild medicinal plant species. In result, 335 of these were "Red Listed" as endangered or threatened.

Actually, if one wished to narrowly examine Tibetan traditional medicine as practiced in Tibet, the 93% figure would be higher -- possibly as much as 98% -- owing to over-harvesting for the Chinese domestic market. You must understand that only the smallest fraction of Tibetan medicine manufactured in Tibet actually stays in Tibet. I have seen estimates ranging from 5% to 12%, and certainly none higher. The great bulk goes to the Tibetan medical shops in China's largest cities.

I confess to being a bit simple-minded on this issue. It is my belief that knowledge of healing plants is a direct gift from the Medicine Buddha. If we fail to preserve the involved herbs, then even if the knowledge remains, it will be useless to us.

I do recognize that some medicinal plants cannot be relocated, or re-established outside their native habitat. Some (most, in strict practice) owe their unique medicinal properties to a combination of environmental factors. Still, relocating endangered plants is a necessary step.

It is a paradox that you can go down to (shudder) Harbor Freight, and buy a really splendid greenhouse for around USD $600 or $700 -- just one more product the Chinese factories are dumping below manufacturing cost -- and you can put that greenhouse in your backyard and use it to grow medicinal herbs.

Short of that, we need to set up herbal seed banks and suchlike, to insure that these precious treasures will always be available to us. 

If I were young, this is something I would probably do. Since I am no longer young, all that is left is to encourage those of you who are able to do something fundamentally worthwhile. Truly, the preservation of these plants is one of the most important tasks of our time.

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1 reader comments:

Anonymous said...

I am located in the south island of new zealand . Would like to help in keeping such a sacred treasures with us.
Could somebody please assist me in this task . As to where does one source the seed and plants from? Wisdom to maintain health and longivity of these medicinal species. Contact me via Email