AHPA survey to track latest herbal harvests

By Lorraine Heller

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Black cohosh, Medicinal plants, American herbal products association

The American Herbal Products Association (AHPA) is calling for input into its sixth botanical tonnage survey, which tracks annual harvests of North American herbs used as ingredients in dietary supplements.

The group’s biannual survey acts as an index of botanical consumption in the region, and aims to ensure continued sustainable harvest of herbs.

This year, it will track 27 botanical commodities, including popular supplement ingredients such as saw palmetto, black cohosh, slippery elm, cascara sagrada and Echinacea angustifolia.

Earlier this month, AHPA sent out a letter to its members in preparation for its 2006-2007 Tonnage Survey, calling for all harvesters and users of raw material botanical commodities to list quantities supplied or purchased.

The group has also taken measures to avoid double data input, which had flawed its early efforts to conduct such surveys around 15 years ago. The current survey tracks quantities of fresh and dried botanical compounds.

“While harvest information is already available in its components to individual companies, it is a more powerful tool when tabulated to include our total usage,”​ said AHPA.

“By working together in this manner, AHPA and the community of companies who are in the business of herbs can gain valuable information that helps us all to plan for sustainable growth and stability.”


As part of its last survey, which tracked tonnage of American harvested plants in 2004-2005, AHPA highlighted the sustainability of herbal harvesting as a key movement in the industry.

The survey brought to light a continuing trend in the herbal industry of the move toward cultivated wild herbs, instead of just wild sources, so as not to deplete stocks.

"Several valued species are now farmed rather than solely gathered from the wild by collectors, which helps to ensure their future,"​ said Steven Dentali, AHPA's vice president of scientific and technical affairs on the release of the survey last year. "The visible trends also appear to support the existence of responsible collection practices in the face of continuing loss of habitat."

Included in the species surveyed were: aletris; arnica; bethroot; black cohosh; bloodroot; blue cohosh; cascara sagrada bark; false unicorn root; lady's slipper; lomatium; osha; saw palmetto; slippery elm bark; sundew; usnea lichen; Venus flytrap; Virginia snakeroot and wild yam root.

AHPA’s earlier survey, which tracked harvests in 2002-03, found that the most harvested dried plant in this period was saw palmetto at 1200 tons, coming exclusively from wild sources. Black cohosh was the second most harvested plant, with 159 tons from wild sources and 0.2 tons from cultivated sources.

Also in the top-five were slippery elm (100 tons from exclusively wild sources), cascara sagrada (83 tons from only wild sources), and Echinacea angustifolia root (32 tons from wild, 23 tons from cultivation).

To participate in the current survey, click here.

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