There is a growing awareness of the harm that is being done to the environment by Western demand for medicinal herbs and spices. This is what Mountain Rose Herbs wrote recently in a blog post "At Mountain Rose Herbs, we have been in a years-long process of shifting our procurement policies away from wildharvested herbs in favor of cultivated ones whenever possible. This policy was necessitated by the increasing impact of overharvesting on some of the most popular herbs and spices around the world." You can read the whole blog post here https://blog.mountainroseherbs.com/ethical-issues-in-the-herb-industry-wildharvesting-vs.-cultivation.
There are further issues with the ways in which herbs are grown, harvested and processed. In many places around the world, this is not regulated and can lead to some disturbing practises. Bags of herbs that are sitting open on the road side next to stinking rubbish piles. "organic" herbs such as brahmi grown in polluted Indian waterways. Herbs that are "mis-identified" or simply mixed in with other herbs by mistake. The end result being that many of the herbal products that you may be buying may not be the best quality or even the herb that you thought you were using. I have even heard about a NZ importer of herbs finding plastic, cigarette butts and other rubbish in the herbs that they had imported.
The Sustainable Herbs Foundation is an amazing resource for learning more about this and for advocating for change. Here is a quote from their website"
"The herbs we ingest to be well are inextricably connected to the processes that produce them. This is true for all herbs. It is especially true for herbs we take for our health."
I think that we all need to be conscious of the impacts that our buying decisions have. Buying locally grown is a really good start. Be aware of the consequences of our actions (if we harvest all the elderflowers then we won't have elderberries). Do we really need to buy the latest fad ingredient that comes from the mountains in Peru?
Here is an Action Plan from the Sustainable Herbs Foundation