As if I don’t have enough issues with Traditional Chinese “Herbal” Medicine… Now we have another case of the planet not being able to keep up with us demanding humans. It seems that the demand for “Himalayan Viagra” (I kid you not), a fungus grown and harvested on the heads of caterpillars found in the mountains of Nepal, is vastly outstripping supply, creating a knock on effect on the Nepalese who risk life and limb to gather it. Given that other notorious traditional Chinese remedies include rhino horn and tiger penis – both creatures being critically endangered – you can see why I wonder how sustainable this is. **
It is a wider issue, however. As the climate changes, it will affect the growing patterns of traditional European herbal remedies, such as arnica or black cohosh. And unless and until the provision of herbal remedies is based on organic permaculture principles, there is a question mark over its sustainability. I fear that it will take dedicated herbal gardeners to keep the supplies going, as there is no guarantee of a wild (and unpolluted) population of any given plant at any given time.
This, to me, demonstrates very clearly how climate change can affect every aspect of human life. It’s not just about the weather – it’s health care, migrating populations, food provision, business – it really does impact on everything. As a species, humanity really cannot afford to just pretend it isn’t happening and hope it goes away. It won’t, and unless we take active steps to do something about it now, it will only get worse. If you have an interest in herbal medicine, try growing your own remedies using organic and permaculture principles. If you sell herbal remedies, consider your suppliers and where their stock comes from, and try to encourage long-term supply.
It may just be that this is something people haven’t considered, but I really hope someone, somewhere, has and is working very hard to make sure that traditional medicine can survive for many years to come. The rate we’re going, it may soon be the only medicine that still works.
** As a disclaimer of sorts, I have found other Asian remedies such as acupuncture to be very effective – and by extension, acupressure works as well if you are not keen on needles.