(Hydrastis canadensis)

At a recent meeting of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) Golden Seal, (Hydrastis canadensis) was proposed for listing and accepted on the organizationís Appendix II list. Golden Seal is one of the most heavily harvested wild flowers of the USA as itís roots provide an powerful herbal remedy which, over the last decade has gained an extremely high reputation as a natural antibiotic in the natural health community. Its' popularity has prooved to be its downfall - not even the healthiest of habitats can sustain an annual harvest of 150 000 pounds of root material. Considering the ever increasing threat, not just from irresponsible wildcrafters, but even more so that of habitat destruction due to ruthless development, logging and mining in ecologically sensitive areas, it is hardly surprising that this precious plant has become a rarity.

For some strange reason finished products will be exempt from the trade regulations, whilst roots, rhizomes, rootstocks and bulk powdered herbs will be subject to regulations which will be inforced by the US Fish and Wildlife Service.

Undoubtedly regulations designed to protect endangered species should be supported, though mere trade restrictions, as most conservationists will agree, will hardly address the real issues. Inevitably such regulations will increase the market prices, thus incourraging poachers and illegal trade. In the case of Hydrastis, the real problem is not the herbal medicine market, but greed - both of commercial and small scale harvesters who do not follow any code of ethics in their endeavours, and worst of all, the ever more encroaching forces of civilization that wage destruction on fragile habitats and rape the Earth. What is needed is a serious discussion of ethics concerning the practice of wildcrafting and proper conservation measures, i.e. curbing development and destruction of habitats whilst simultaneously encourraging regulated sustainable use and actively pursuing replanting efforts of endangered species.

But when has common sense ever won a battle against greed? Unfortunately all who use herbal medicines for their health care needs have to pay the price for the greed of a few. The best anyone can do to address the issue with positive action is to grow their own herbal medicines, organise planting parties and raise awareness about habitat loss in their local areas.

Sources of plants, seeds and information:
United Plant Savers (UPS) is currently encouraging its members to grow Hydrastis canadensis by giving away roots for propagation and planting.

B & T sells rootstocks and seeds of this and other endangered plants.