Guidelines for producing, processing and harvesting Medicinal and Aromatic Plants  

1.General introduction

1.1 Scope
The guidelines for the Good Wild Crafting Practice of Medicinal and Aromatic (Culinary) plants are intended to apply to the harvesting and primary processing of all such plants collected, traded and used in the European Union. Hence they apply to the production of all herbal materials utilized either in a direct or processed form for humans and/or animals. They also apply to all methods of production including organic production in accordance with the European regulations.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), more than 21.000 species of plants in the world are used for these productions. Only about 100 plants are regularly cultivated, whereas the remaining plants are harvested in their natural habitat.
Wild crafting production is mainly developed in the regions with a low technological and economical development, particularly in Asia, Africa, Middle and South America and East European Countries.

The main reasons why wild crafting of medicinal and aromatic plants are:
a) The long growth periods for ripening and consequently for the harvest, in particular regarding trees and bushes (Horse-Chestnut, Birch, Linden tree, Hawthorn, Elder, Bearberry, etc.)
b) The plant cannot normally be cultivated (symbiotic relationship with other plants: e.g. Mistletoe, Moss etc.)
c) Difficult to germinate, in finding the seeds, in transplanting, etc., which does not justify the time and the costs necessary for an attempt of using the plant for cultivation purposes. (e.g. Baptista tinctoria )
d) The quantity required of the plant is too small to justify the economic costs of cultivation.
1.2 The Environment
Wild crafting of medicinal and aromatic plants very often negative situations, especially in developing countries.
All the involved parties in the harvesting of wild plants must ensure that they avoid damage to existing wildlife habitat.
In particular the harvester must avoid:

  • Extinction of particular species in certain zones or certain rare genetic populations due to over-exploitation. Where possible, the principle of "collection rotation" to facilitate biological propagation and resource renewal should be employed.
  •  Destruction of the entire plant, due to carelessness and inexperience on behalf of the harvester, when in most cases it would be sufficient to harvest only a part of it.
  • Confusion (due to ignorance or bad faith) in the harvesting of different species that  are  at first sight similar.
  • Collection of endangered species, according to local regulation. For plant intended for export from the country of collecting the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) certificate must be obtained.

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