Chi­nese herbs take root in NY

China Daily (Canada) - - FRONT PAGE - By JACK FREIFELDER in New York jack­freifelder@chinadailyusa. com

There is lit­tle doubt that Chi­nese herbal medicine — along with acupunc­ture — is catch­ing on in the US. The in­creas­ing num­bers of prac­ti­tion­ers ap­ply­ing for li­censes don’t lie. But as with any grow­ing mar­ket, the prob­lem be­comes sup­ply.

When you go shop­ping for your gin­seng, wolf­berry or hon­ey­lo­cust, how can you be sure you’re get­ting the good stuff — or even the real thing?

“The sup­ply, safety and qual­ity of Chi­nese herbal sub­stances is in­creas­ingly prob­lem­atic,” said An­drea El­liot, an acupunc­tur­ist and herbal medicine prac­ti­tioner in Hud­son, New York.

“Many of the herbs be­ing im­ported from China can be of poor qual­ity, so on our side we’re do­ing source mor­phol­ogy with an in­cred­i­ble amount of care to make sure we are cul­ti­vat­ing safe herbal medic­i­nals for our pa­tients,” said Amanda Kreiss, found­ing direc­tor of Chicago-based In­ner Ecol­ogy.

“The prices are fluc­tu­at­ing wildly and the sup­ply does too,” she added.

Jean Gi­blette, a plant con­ser­va­tor in up­state New York, has been grow­ing and study­ing sev­eral va­ri­eties of Chi­nese medic­i­nal herbs for more than 20 years at High Falls Gar­den, her farm in Philmont, New York.

Last month, Gi­blette re­ceived a $40,000 grant from the New York Farm Viability In­sti­tute (NYFVI) to pur­sue a one-year project, “En­gag­ing Grow­ers for New York Pro­duc­tion of Chi­nese Medic­i­nal Herbs”.

The grant will al­low 30 farm­ers through­out New York State to test and grow herbs used by thou­sands of cer­ti­fied Chi­nese herbal medicine prac­ti­tion­ers in the state.

“Where Chi­nese herbal medicine is con­cerned, we have the added ad­van­tage that our plant sets, our flora, in North Amer­ica and Asia are closely re­lated — the most fa­mous ex­am­ple of this is Asian ver­sus Amer­i­can gin­seng,” Gi­blette said.

She said New York could grow ap­prox­i­mately 150 species of Chi­nese medic­i­nal herbs, but for this project, there will be a pri­or­ity list of about 50 mar­ketable crops, in­clud­ing: licorice root, Chrysan­the­mum flow­ers and Korean mint leaves.

“The NYFVI grant is go­ing to be a lever for us in more ways than one, but we have to be very care­ful and only work with seeds and plant ma­te­ri­als that are ver­i­fied in terms of iden­tity and qual­ity,” she said. “So this is an im­por­tant step in a long process.”

Since its estab­lish­ment in 2005, NYFVI has funded more than 250 projects, di­rectly en­gag­ing more than 1,400 in­di­vid­ual farms. This year’s pool of grants to­taled 21 projects and more than $1.5 mil­lion in state fund­ing.

“Herbal medicine re­ally ad­dresses a wide va­ri­ety of com­plaints, so there’s a lot that can be ac­com­plished. It is very well un­der­stood in China, but it’s less un­der­stood here. So it’s some­thing that you have to in­tro­duce to peo­ple,” said El­liot.

Gi­blette ex­plained that West­ern medicine is symp­tomwhereas Chi­nese herbal medicine has a the­o­ret­i­cal model of how the body works op­ti­mally.

“It’s about hu­man be­ings broad­en­ing out our diet to cre­ate op­ti­mal func­tion and re­sis­tance to dis­ease, so it’s re­ally nu­tri­tion-ori­ented,” she said.

Ac­cord­ing to the Na­tional Cer­ti­fi­ca­tion Com­mis­sion for Acupunc­ture and Ori­en­tal Medicine the num­ber of states with li­cense to prac­tice laws is now up to 45 and the num­ber of acupunc­tur­ists li­censed to prac­tice in the US has in­creased five-fold over the past 20 years to more than 27,000.

“Now, Chi­nese herbal medicine is be­ing taught in over 50 grad­u­ate col­leges here in the United States,” Gi­blette said. “And all of the devel­op­ment of the pro­fes­sion since 1970 has been fu­eled by out-of-pocket pay­ments by pa­tients.”

A farmer shows off some freshly har­vested lily bulbs. Lily bulbs are among the hun­dreds of herbs used by prac­ti­tion­ers of Chi­nese herbal medicine.

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