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Ayurvedic herbs: under threat

For thousands of years humans have turned to the power of wild herbs to help with their health. Because of their effectiveness, herbs from many different traditions have grown steadily in popularity around the world, with today nearly 50,000 wild species thought to be used to support this increasing commercial demand.

Because many Ayurvedic medicinal herb species take a long time to reach maturity and regenerate, demand can very quickly outstrip supply – leaving plant populations critically exhausted and unable to renew themselves.

The result has seen several Ayurvedic plant species become depleted; some disappearing from their natural habitats altogether, with many herbal specialists estimating that nearly 20% (that's 10,000 species) of all herbs are now threatened.

Ayurveda’s endangered herbs

Ashoka and guggul, for instance, both of which are slow growing trees in high demand (the former for its bark, the latter for a resinous gum extracted from the trunk), are now listed as endangered on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) Red List.

Under the Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species (CITES), to give you another example, four species are listed as threatened: sarpagandha, jatamansi, kutki, and kushtha – all of which are harvested for their roots.

How we’re helping

We want to do something about this at Pukka – it’s not only our duty as a user of Ayurvedic herbs; it’s our passion as firm believers in the wisdom of the Ayurveda way.

We’re privileged to be able to work alongside our partners, protecting and regenerating Ayurvedic species that are under the increasing pressure of extinction. Two Ayurvedic herbconservation projects that we’re a part of, are: kutki in the Himalayas and guggul in Rajasthan.

They are important drops in the ocean, but are far from the end of our efforts: we’re also building partnerships with organisations like Fairwild and WWF to help protect the ecosystems the above mentioned endangered species grow in. Its the only way we feel happy to do business the Pukka way; giving back to the Ayurvedic herbs that have given us so much.

We’d be delighted if you’d be a part of our Pukka mission to help conserve Ayurvedic plants too. It’s easy to help, it starts with the choice you make.

What you can do

Empowering people to choose wisely is at the heart of Pukka beliefs; we want to bring you the information and the understanding of Ayurvedic herbs so you can make a choice about what you’re using – and, in doing so, help protect those species in danger.

One of the most reliable ways of ensuring you’re buying from a sustainable source is to buy herbs that are certified organic. The international organic standards are not just about ensuring chemical are not used on plants, they are also a sign that what you’re buying is traceable back to its origin.

The organic stamp is also your a symbol that the herb growers have conformed with all international regulations in the sustainable supply of herbs, including IUCN’s Red List and CITES.

For Ayurvedic herbs such as kutki and guggul, it has never been more important to put organic in your cup and organic in your fridge. With Pukka you can do both.

Here’s to the future; here’s to conservation.

Meet the author

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Sebastian Pole, Co-founder and Herbal Director

I’m Co-founder and Herbal Director at Pukka Herbs. As well as formulating all our organic products, I run my own herbal practice in Bath which I’ve done since 1998. I’m a registered member of the Ayurvedic Practitioners Association, Register of Chinese Herbal Medicine and the Unified Register of Herbal Practitioners. All this with the aim of using the principles of Ayurveda (the ancient art of living wisely) to help create positive change and positive health. Inspired by my time in India, I love cooking a vegetarian feast and rely on regular yoga practice and herbal supplementation to keep me well. I am passionate about running a business that inspires positive change and brings the benefit of the incredible power of plants to everyone we connect with. I live on a two acre garden-farm in Somerset where I grow a rainbow spectrum of medicinal and nourishing plants for my bees and family to live from.

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