The American Herbal Products Association (AHPA), the national trade association and voice of the herbal industry, today issued two new brochures covering sustainable harvest and good stewardship best practices for oshá
) and saw palmetto
). These brochures are part of AHPA’s ongoing educational efforts for the herbal community. Both brochures can be downloaded for free from the AHPA website
According to Holly Johnson, Ph.D., Chief Science Officer, AHPA, “We aim to help ensure that the wildcrafters, and other stakeholders involved with collecting botanical materials from wild populations, have access to information that will enable them to act as good stewards of the land. Adherence to these practices will help ensure a sustainable future for medicinal plant species and continued consumer access to beneficial herbs for generations to come.”
Johnson, along with Holly Chittum, M.S., AHPA’s Project Scientist, managed the initiative, working collaboratively with experts from AHPA’s Botanical Raw Materials and Sustainability committees.
Research to determine appropriate sustainable harvest levels in wild oshá populations received funding from a grant from the AHPA Foundation for Education and Research on Botanicals (AHPA-ERB Foundation). Data from the multi-year longitudinal study1 conducted by Kelly Kindscher, Ph.D., and his group at the University of Kansas, informed analysis of the impact of wild collection on oshá populations.
The results of this research enabled AHPA to develop best practices as described in the brochure to protect from over-collection and other threats that could limit the long-term viability of oshá populations. These data can also be used to establish science-based policy on long-term sustainable harvest parameters for this medicinal plant species.
Oshá generally grows at high elevations from ~6,000-11,700 feet, in a range that encompasses the Rocky Mountains from southern Montana and Wyoming through Colorado, Nevada, Utah, New Mexico, and Arizona, further reaching south into the Sierra Madre of Mexico. Harvest is not allowed in any National Park, and whether collecting on private or public land, permission and/or permits are required before digging oshá. Permits are obtained through the USDA Forest Service District Offices.
Permit types and fees vary depending on the collection needs and location. Forest service personnel will help determine the needs and costs for obtaining the proper permits.
One example of good stewardship harvesting guidelines as outlined in the brochure is harvesting only 1/3 of mature and/or flowering plants, while leaving 2/3 of mature plants and all juveniles to propagate as a means of sustaining native populations, as established by field research1.
Saw Palmetto Brochure
Saw palmetto berries have been traded continuously in international commerce for at least the last 50 years, with the biggest markets found in the U.S. and Europe. Although populations occur in several states in the southeastern U.S., the majority of saw palmetto fruit is collected in Florida, where the species grows in every county. Therefore, the brochure information is Florida-focused, providing current information for legally and sustainably harvesting saw palmetto fruit.
The brochure includes details on how to obtain a permit in Florida, warning that harvesting this botanical is illegal without a permit. While the permits are free, they must be renewed annually. In addition, the AHPA brochure provides a six-point good stewardship checklist reminding harvesters that, among other things, the harvest should take place when at least 60% of the fruits are yellow, orange, or black and all green berries should be left on the plant.
AHPA consulted with the Florida Department of Agriculture, the agency that issues the permits for harvesting saw palmetto in that state, as a collaborative resource for developing and disseminating the information contained in the brochure, according to Johnson. “AHPA’s brochure lists contact information for the agency and we expect the agency will post a link to the brochure on its website as a way to further distribute the material to a broader, relevant audience. We share the goal of ensuring the rules are followed and that overharvesting does not occur,” she said.
Both brochures are available in English and in Spanish, recognizing the large Hispanic-speaking population of wildcrafters. For the Spanish translations, click here for the oshá brochure and here for the saw palmetto brochure.
Michael McGuffin, President, AHPA, noted that over the years, the American ginseng brochure has been extremely popular with the herbal community. “It is a longstanding tradition of AHPA and its members to highlight sustainability in our businesses. That commitment extends to working with our members to help wildcrafters and others expand their specialized area of collection by supplying sustainability guidance and best practices that will protect their own franchise as well as the plant species,” he said.
AHPA’s Sustainability Committee was formalized in 2019 to increase awareness of sustainability within the herbal products industry, create a forum for industry leaders to discuss related issues, provide educational opportunities for herbal products companies, and promote sustainable and equitable operations and sourcing practices.
The AHPA-ERB Foundation has committed funding for a multi-year study to improve the understanding of harvest impacts on natural and forest-farmed populations of goldenseal, and to develop recommendations for harvest methods, intensities, and cultivation that support the long-term viability of this species. AHPA anticipates the study results will be the foundation for another brochure in this series.
According to McGuffin, “We expect to continue this series of sustainable best practice brochures for wild harvested North American herbs of importance to our members and the herbal community at large.”
Kindscher, K., Martin, L.M. & Long, Q. The Sustainable Harvest of Wild Populations of Oshá (SLigusti- cum porteri) in Southern Colorado for the Herbal Products Trade. Economic Botany (2019) 73: 341. https://doi.org/10.1007/s12231-019-09456-1