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AHPA Publishes 2004-2005 Wild Plant Tonnage Survey

The American Herbal Products Association (AHPA), the leading trade association in the United States dealing with herbal products, published its Tonnage Survey of North American Wild Harvested Plants, 2004–2005 in February of 2007. This is the fifth tonnage survey published by AHPA, quantifying the annual harvests of certain North American plants that are used in herbal products and harvested to some extent from wild, uncultivated populations.1

The 32-page report provides aggregate quantities of harvest data for 26 botanical commodities derived from 22 different plant species, and the data are divided into dried and fresh plant materials collected through both cultivation and wild-harvesting practices. The data in the report are based on the voluntary survey responses of 26 primary raw material producers of the botanical commodities featured in the report. Much of the information from AHPA’s earlier surveys is also included in the latest report, in the interest of context.

“The long range trends that are now apparent tell a continuing story of our use of these important botanical commodities,” said Steven Dentali, PhD, AHPA’s vice-president of scientific and technical affairs.2 “Several valued species are now farmed rather than solely gathered from the wild by collectors, which helps to ensure their future. The visible trends also appear to support the existence of responsible collection practices in the face of continuing loss of habitat.”

According to the survey, the combined wild and cultivated harvest of dried black cohosh (Actaea racemosa, Ranunculaceae, syn. Cimicifuga racemosa) root and rhizome was estimated at 160 tons in 2004 and 72 tons in 2005.1 The authors of the report offer the following explanation for this precipitous decline: “The decision made in February of 2004 to stop the estrogen-only portion of the Women’s Health Initiative study, and an increased interest in herbal alternatives might help account for the sustained harvest of black cohosh for 2004. It is reasonable to suspect that excess inventory built up from the 2003–2004 years could have led to the tonnage drop of 88 tons in 2005 relative to 2004, though this information was not solicited in the AHPA survey and is not known to be the case.”

The 2003 figure for dried cultivated and wild-harvested saw palmetto (Serenoa repens, Arecaceae) berries from the previous tonnage survey was revised to 1,700 tons (originally noted as “very nearly 1,200 tons”) in the new survey based on additional data. Latest figures show 1,460 tons of dried saw palmetto berries in 2004 and 2,900 tons in 2005.

Other species addressed in the survey include cascara sagrada (Frangula purshiana, Rhamnaceae, syn. Rhamnus purshiana) bark, various species of Echinacea roots and above-ground parts, slippery elm (Ulmus rubra, Ulmaceae, syn. U. fulva) bark, false unicorn (Chamaelirium luteum, Liliaceae) root, wild yam (Dioscorea villosa, Dioscoreaceae) root, and lady’s slipper (Cypripedium spp., Orchidaceae) root. Harvest quantities of the featured plants were typically much lower for fresh plant materials, as the majority of herbal materials undergo dehydration before entering the market.

The report provides multiple tables and detailed information on the cultivation and wild-harvesting of goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis, Ranunculaceae), including future projections of goldenseal cultivation. AHPA’s first tonnage survey was devoted entirely to goldenseal,3 and the third survey included a lengthy section on goldenseal that comprised nearly a third of the report.4

(Previous tonnage surveys have been summarized in past issues of HerbalGram.5,6,7) The latest figures show that combined cultivated and wild-harvested dried goldenseal root and rhizome rose to 42 and 41 tons for 2004 and 2005, respectively, from 21 tons in 2003.1 The harvest of fresh wild goldenseal root dropped to nearly insignificant levels compared to previous years.

According to the survey, “Cultivated material represents a more significant proportion of the total harvest of goldenseal root than for any of the other widely used botanicals discussed in this report (arnica [Arnica montana, Asteraceae] and Venus flytrap [Dionaea muscipula, Droseraceae] aside), with the exception of some echinacea commodities. This is true for both fresh and dried roots.” The survey also includes a chart that indicates that 41% of dried goldenseal roots were cultivated and 59% were wild harvested in 2005.

The tonnage survey is available to AHPA members, free of charge. Non-members may purchase the report for $35. Prior years’ tonnage surveys may also be purchased from the AHPA bookstore at:

AHPA and the American Herbal Pharmacopoeia (AHP), a leading nonprofit herbal research organization dealing with setting and publishing standards for quality control of herbal materials, jointly released a draft document in December of 2006 that is intended to provide guidance to growers and collectors of herbs used in consumer products.8 The 39-page document, titled Good Agricultural and Collection Practice for Herbal Raw Materials (GACP), provides guidelines to help ensure that herbal raw materials are accurately identified and not adulterated with contaminants, are in full conformity with all of the quality characteristics for which they are represented, and are cultivated and harvested in a manner that is environmentally sustainable. According to an AHPA press release, the GACP has relevance to herbal raw materials in all herbal products—including foods, dietary supplements, drugs, and cosmetics—and is applicable to both large and small herbal raw material producers and to producers who collect their herbs through cultivation or wild harvesting.9 The draft document may be periodically revised based on feedback by farmers and collectors who use the guidelines in their facilities and operations. The AHPA-AHP GACP document is available online at http://www. and at

  1. American Herbal Products Association. Tonnage Survey of Select North American Wild-Harvested Plants, 2004-2005. Silver Spring, MD: American Herbal Products Association; 2007.

  2. AHPA’s fifth tonnage survey published [press release]. Silver Spring, MD: American Herbal Products Association; February 22, 2007.

  3. American Herbal Products Association. 1998 Goldenseal Survey Results. Silver Spring, MD: American Herbal Products Association; 1999.

  4. American Herbal Products Association. Tonnage Survey of North

    American Wild-Harvested Plants, 2000-2001 Silver Spring, MD: American Herbal Products Association; 2003.
  5. McGuffin M. AHPA goldenseal survey measures increased agricultural production. HerbalGram. 1999;46:66.
  6. McGuffin M. AHPA’s 1999 herb tonnage survey: summary and analysis. HerbalGram. 2000;51:70.
  7. Blumenthal M. AHPA issues third tonnage survey of wild-harvested plants. HerbalGram. 2004;61:65-66.
  8. AHPA, AHP. Good Agricultural and Collection Practice for Herbal Raw Materials. December 2006. Available at: http://www. Accessed January 5, 2007.
  9. Good Agricultural and Collection Practice Draft Now Available for Comment. December 8, 2006. AHPA Update page. American Herbal Products Association Web site. Available at: aspx?tabid=69&aId=333&zId=16. Accessed January 4, 2007.