Want to do your part to preserve biodiversity? Plant a garden of medicinal herbs.
Medicinal herbs—life-sustaining plants that provide a first line of medical care in developing countries, besides inspiring many modern pharmaceuticals—are in peril. These herbal treasures face possible extinction from global climate change, loss of habitat, and overharvesting. As the CEO of New Chapter, one of the world's leading formulators of dietary supplements and herbal formulations from certified-organic ingredients, I'm a witness to this alarming loss of biological diversity.
A study by Botanic Gardens Conservation International found that many of the 70,000 currently known medicinal plant species are at risk. Some experts advocate seed banks as the best way to protect imperiled life on our planet. Although seed banks certainly have value and should be supported, they have limitations:
Organic gardens and gardeners can complement seed bank efforts, and with this in mind, I established the Sacred Seeds project, administered by the William L. Brown Center at the Missouri Botanical Garden. In Costa Rica at Finca Luna Nueva ("new moon farm"), New Chapter's biodynamic farm, we have created the Semillas Sagradas ("sacred seeds") Sanctuary, dedicated to protecting medicinal plants of the neotropics. I'm proud that Semillas Sagradas is one of the New World's most comprehensive collections of medicinal herbs. Come visit us! Finca Luna Nueva offers an eco-lodge and conference center in a rainforest paradise.
Wherever you live, you are part of a unique ecosystem. Seasonal rhythms, the region's elevation, rainfall, soil conditions, fauna, and the history of traditional medicine all contribute to an expression of biodiversity that deserves to be protected. I encourage you to plant a Sacred Seeds garden that includes food crops and medicinal herbs that were significant to the indigenous populations of your region, as well as the plants that sustained your ancestors. Once you've established your garden, please consider yourself a Seedling—a founding participant in this movement to save earth's biodiversity and the traditional medical knowledge that sustains us.