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Popular herbs are in peril, WHO warns

The $60 billion herbal products industry faces devastation if harvesting and collection methods of herbs are not improved, the World Health Organization says.

In recently released guidelines, WHO highlights the dangerous predicament of an increasing number of species due to poor harvesting and replanting methods, as well as over-harvesting to meet increasing demand.

?If not controlled, these practices may lead to the extinction of endangered species and the destruction of natural habitats and resources,? WHO stated.

Ginseng, goldenseal, echinacea, black cohosh, slippery elm, kava, pygeum bark and devil?s claw top WHO?s most-at-risk list.

Formulation of regional good agricultural and collection practices (GACP) are also recommended along with ?GACP monographs for medicinal plants and related standard operating procedures.? WHO also gives guidelines for post-harvest operations.

New Jersey-based herbal ingredient specialist Sabinsa agreed there are supply problems and highlighted the importance of greater harmonisation along the supply chain, from the raw ingredient growers to suppliers to product manufacturers. Sabinsa sources most of its raw materials from India, where it has set up a co-op to guarantee control over plantings policy, ensure availability and improve quality of raw materials.

?We know from experience that wasteful harvesting is commonplace,? said Sabinsa senior executive vice president Todd Norton. ?The problem is that a lot of harvesting has been going on in a low-skill manner and with no bigger plan in mind. That?s why raw materials-buyers like ourselves need to play a more active role in what is being grown and how it is being grown.?

A spokesperson for California-based Draco, which sources most of its herbal ingredients from China, agreed strong supplier relationships are vital.

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