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AHPA Issues Third Tonnage Survey of Wild-Harvested Plants
AHPA Issues Third Tonnage Survey of Wild-Harvested Plants

Calculating the size of the herb industry has always been a daunting challenge. Numerous surveys and market research firms have attempted to measure the amount of retail sales in various channels of distribution. There are fairly solid econometric data from the food, drug, and mass market retail segments – as reported in the Market Report section of this magazine on many occasions – while developing data from other retail segments (e.g., the health food sectors, multi-level marketing companies) are more difficult to get meaningful statistics.

Obtaining statistics on the actual amount of bulk herbal material grown or wild-harvested within the United States is also a challenge. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Foreign Agricultural Service maintains statistics on imported herbs and spices but there is no systematic process for measuring wild-harvested (a.k.a. wildcrafted) or commercially cultivated herbs used in the medicinal plant market. In the past few years the American Herbal Products Association (AHPA) has published two Industry Tonnage Surveys in its attempt to begin to quantify the wild-harvested raw materials used in the manufacture of various herbal products. Information dealing only with the harvest of wild goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis L., Ranunculaceae) in 1998 was published in 19991 and selected data on the 1999 harvest of numerous additional plants were published in the second survey2,3 in 2000.

AHPA’s third survey4 is the most extensive compilation to date. It quantifies annual harvests of certain North American herbal commodities sold in commerce in the United States, with a focus on the 2000 and 2001 harvests for plants that may be taken from the wild and used as ingredients in herbal supplement products. The new survey also includes previously published data from the 1997—1999 harvests in its compilation of harvest data on 24 botanical commodities representing 20 different plant species (see Table 1). This information includes the amounts of both cultivated and wild-harvested material, and of both fresh and dried material for these commodities. Goldenseal wild harvest and cultivation information from 1999—2001 is detailed separately and constitutes almost a third of the 19-page report.

Table 1. Wild-Harvested Plants Surveyed in AHPATonnage Survey

Common Name aletris


black cohosh


blue cohosh

cascara sagrada


false unicorn


lady’s slipper



saw palmetto

slippery elm



Virginia snakeroot

wild yam

Latin Binomial

Aletris farinosa

Trillium erectum

Actaea racemosa syn. Cimicifuga racemosa

Sanguinaria canadensis

Caulophyllum thalictroides

Frangula purshiana

Echinacea angustifolia, E. pallida, E. purpurea

Chamaelirium luteum

Hydrastis canadensis

Cypripedium spp.

Lomatium dissectum

Ligusticum porteri

Serenoa repens

Ulmus rubra

Drosera spp.

Usnea spp.

Aristolochia serpentaria

Dioscorea villosa

In July 2003 the new survey was sent via email to all 221 AHPA members, plus 20 non-members who had been identified as involved in the bulk trade or cultivation of the 24 plants being surveyed. AHPA received 59 responses (24% response rate; 49 AHPA members, 10 non-members). Of these 59, 21 indicated that they were "primary raw material producers" (individuals or companies that obtain plant material directly from a wild or cultivated source or by contracting, purchasing and/or consolidating these plants from another individual or company who harvests them directly and who was not likely to fill out the survey). Thirty-eight respondents noted that they do not produce these plants, so no additional information was provided by the latter. The published survey reflects the information provided by the 21 respondents.

The first part of the survey contains two tables and discussion of the data in these tables. The first, "Aggregate Harvest of DRIED Plants 1997—2001, in pounds," contains data representing five years’ information on the cultivated and wild harvests on 24 plants (including 6 listings under the genus Echinacea: E. angustifolia root and herb, E. pallida root and herb, and E. purpurea root and herb, family Asteraceae), plus various other wild-harvested plants (see table). American ginseng (Panax quinquefolius L, Araliaceae), both wild and cultivated, is not included in the survey.

A second table, "Aggregate harvest of FRESH plants, 2000—2001 (pounds)," contains 18 plants, including 5 echinacea species and parts (E. pallida herb is not listed), and the same plants as listed in the first table, with the exception of aletris, cascara, lady’s slipper, sundew, and Virginia snakeroot. The tonnage in this table is significantly lower than the quantities reported in the first for the obvious reason that most herbs sold in the market are dehydrated after cultivation or wild-harvest.

The cultivation of goldenseal is given special attention as international trade in this native American herb has been designated by CITES (Convention in Trade in Endangered Species) Appendix II as being in need of close control.5,6 According to data presented in a third table, the harvest of cultivated fresh and dried goldenseal root in 1998-2001 constituted 22% (fresh) and 2% (dried) in 1998, 36/24% (1999), 22/21% (2000), and 26/17% (2001) of the total harvest. In 1999, AHPA president Michael McGuffin predicted that cultivated goldenseal would constitute about 15—30% of the goldenseal harvest over the coming years,7 based on the trends of the market and the initial goldenseal report by AHPA.1 These predictions appear to have been accurate. According to the new survey, an average of approximately 140 acres of goldenseal are in cultivation with a yield rate ranging from 150—600 pounds per acre in woodland (wild simulated or so-called "woodsgrown") farming and 150—1,000 pounds per acre for intensive farming.

AHPA intends to conduct the next 2-year survey for the 2002 and 2003 harvests in the first quarter of 2004 and to continue biannual surveys for at least the immediate future.

Bound color copies of the 2000—2001 Tonnage Survey may be ordered through the AHPA bookstore at $60 for AHPA nonmembers. It is available free of charge to AHPA members through the member’s-only section of the AHPA website.


1. American Herbal Products Association. 1998 Goldenseal Survey Results. Silver Spring, MD: American Herbal Products Association, March, 1999.

2. American Herbal Products Association. 1999 Tonnage Survey Report. Silver Spring, MD: American Herbal Products Association, Sept. 2000.

3. McGuffin M. AHPA’s 1999 herb tonnage survey: summary and analysis. HerbalGram 2001;51:70.

4. American Herbal Products Association. Tonnage Survey of North American Wild-harvested Plants, 2000-2001. Silver Spring, MD: American Herbal Products Association, 2003.

5. Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) of Wild Flora and Fauna. Proposal for the inclusion of Hydrastis canadensis, Appendix II. Convention in Trade of Endangered Species, 1997.

6. Bannerman J. Goldenseal in world trade: pressures and potentials. HerbalGram 1997;41:51.

7. McGuffin M. AHPA goldenseal survey measures increased agricultural production. HerbalGram 1999;46:66.