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Consequences for the market, consumers, and local farmers
By Tyler Smith
Inhabitants of the central highlands in Peru have been cultivating a small, turnip-like herb for millennia. Maca, which thrives at elevations of up to 15,000 feet in the Andes, is a treasured heritage product of Peru, where export laws prevent the unprocessed herb from being exported. Driven by unprecedented demand for the plant, Chinese nationals arrived in the maca-growing regions earlier this year, illegally purchasing and smuggling large quantities of the crop out of Peru. The situation has turned from volatile to violent, as "Medicine Hunter" Chris Kilham explains in a special accompanying video report. Read more>>


By Hannah Bauman
In October 2014, United Plant Savers and Sacred Seeds Sanctuaries joined forces to further their missions of sacred and medicinal native plant conservation. The two organizations share a similar approach to conservancy with a wide network of gardens and sanctuaries dedicated to protecting at-risk plant life. With this merger, the directors of both organizations look forward to expanding the reach of their mutual mission — especially at the international level. Read more>>

By Hannah Bauman and Kathryn MacLean
HerbalEGram presents a new recurring article series focusing on the history of use and the therapeutic benefits of conventional plant-based foods. This month's article features the carrot, which contains high levels of carotenoids such as alpha- and beta-carotene. Beyond the common orange varietal, carrots can come in a multitude of colors — each with their own different concentrations of beneficial phytochemicals. Read more>>

Chris Kilham

Featured Book
The New American Herbal was written by Stephen Orr and published in 2014 by Clarkson Potter Publishers. The featured excerpt includes the book’s title page, table of contents, introduction, and part of Chapter 1, “An Herbal Handbook.”

Garden enthusiast and Condé Nast Traveler Executive Editor Stephen Orr fills The New American Herbal with information, recipes, and his own beautiful plant photography. “The goal of this book,” he writes in the introduction, “is to describe this vast herbal world by looking at its members as individual characters, while at the same time trying to be reasonable and manageable about the length and breadth of such a wide-ranging topic.”

This specialized look at herbs and their applications includes an extensive overview of herbs from agrimony (Agrimonia eupatoria) to yarrow (Achillea millefolium), kitchen projects such as oils and vinegars, gardening ideas, and lists of herbs used in Native American and Chinese traditions. The material in the “Herbs A-Z” section is interspersed with recipes that prominently feature herbs, including a French 75 cocktail with hibiscus (Hibiscus sabdariffa) and five-herb tabbouleh. Written from a gardener’s perspective, the text celebrates the utility and beauty of many common medicinal plants. Mr. Orr encourages further exploration with lists of recommended reading sources and his favorite public gardens.

Available for purchase from the publisher's website and other online retailers.
Media Watch

Medical Mistletoe: Can the Holiday Plant Really Fight Cancer? Smithsonian. 12-8-14. With a tradition of use stretching back thousands of years, mistletoe preparations may boost immunity and help fight cancer cells, although modern clinical evidence is limited.

How Afghanistan Vets Are Trying To Cultivate Peace Through Saffron
. NPR. 12-8-14. A group of American veterans have started growing and importing saffron from Afghanistan, and the profits could help local farmers and communities.

Ginseng Prices Kept High by Hoarding on Part of Big Pharmas
. Want China Times. 12-3-14. According to Chinese analysts, pharmaceutical companies are artificially inflating the price of ginseng by building up large inventories of the herb.

Can Mushrooms Treat Depression?
 New York Times. 11-29-14. Studies continue to suggest that psilocybin, the psychoactive compound in "magic mushrooms," may have therapeutic benefits for a range of mental illnesses.

The Race to Save the World's Chocolate
The Atlantic. 11-17-14. The world is running out of chocolate, and farmers are investing in new strains of cacao to help combat the anticipated shortage.

Cranberries: Not just for Thanksgiving
. Fox News. 11-19-14. More than a simple, ubiquitous holiday condiment, cranberries have a variety of beneficial compounds like proanthocyanidins, lutein, and quercitin, explains Chris Kilham.

The History of Abortifacients
. Jezebel. 11-18-14. Plants to "induce menses" have been used throughout history, but the changing scientific and political landscape of pregnancy and childbirth resulted in the loss of some of this botanical knowledge.

Marijuana Becomes Savior, Stigma for Revived Hemp Crop
. Bloomberg News. 11-9-14. The legalization of marijuana is a boon for hemp farmers, but the public stigma still attached to cannabis can make it difficult to market their crop.


January 16-18: 12th Annual Natural Supplements: An Evidence-Based Update. San Diego, California, USA.

February 19-21: Integrative Healthcare Symposium. New York, New York, USA.

February 19-25: Intro to Tropical Herbalism. Talamanca, Costa Rica.

March 5-8: Natural Products Expo West. Anaheim, California, USA.

April 7-9: Ingredients Marketplace. Orlando, Florida, USA.

April 13-16: 15th International Conference on the Science of Botanicals. Oxford, Mississippi, USA.

More event listings can be found on ABC's website.

Herbal IQ

A holiday favorite, sweet potatoes are thought to have which beneficial health properties? Find the answer here!