Notes from the Field - Traditional Medicinals

Notes from the Field

Dispatches from our travels.

We’re often asked where our herbs come from. Our herb sourcing requirements send us all over the world to find high quality herbs collected or cultivated responsibly, from the forests of Eastern Europe and the arid plains of Kazakhstan to the mists of the Pacific Northwest. We’re also working closely with our growers and wild collectors to address their unique economic, social, and environmental challenges, creating partnerships with deep roots and common goals. We believe that when we all work together toward high quality, environmental stewardship, and social responsibility, then everyone benefits – from the farmer who plants the seed to the folks who harvest the herbs to the customer who enjoys the tea.

Here are some dispatches from our recent travels.

Echinacea in the Pacific Northwest
Respect for the Elders of Bosnia
Slippery Business Practice
Water in the Thar Desert
The Courage of One Woman
Rajasthan Bound


Echinacea in the Pacific Northwest
Saturday, September 24, 2014

Today we visited a pristine farm in the Pacific Northwest where the majority of our organic Echinacea has been harvested for over 30 years. We love the fresh mountain air and the sight of a snow-capped Mt. Adams overlooking the fields.

Echinacea is widely used in herbalism to support a healthy immune system. The photo to the right reflects the flowers just how we want them for harvest – in full bloom.

Not to mention, we think Echinacea is one of the most beautiful plants when fully flowered. For quality purposes we require Echinacea herb to be harvested in flower, which helps ensure that we get the constituent levels we need for our teas. We also look for an absence of weeds, a strong stand of healthy plants, and the correct species – all things you see in this field. You can find this herbal beauty in our Echinacea Plus®, Echinacea Plus® Elderberry and Throat Coat® Lemon Echinacea teas.


Respect for the Elders of Bosnia
Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Last week Nioma Sadler (Advisor from WomenServe) and I had the opportunity to travel to Bosnia, the source of much of our elder flower, linden flower, and raspberry leaf. We had the privilege of visiting several of the collectors in the country and one of the most memorable visits was to a collector who gathers elder flower. We followed the collector as he bounced up the steep hills covered with wildflowers and bordered by shrubby stands of elder bushes with saucer-sized bunches of little white flowers. As we walked over dozens of species of medicinal plants in the meadows, he enthusiastically plucked elder flowers, nettles, and hawthorn leaves to show us.

He and his family collect elder flower under the FairWild program, so that in addition to receiving a fair price for the flowers, other money is paid by TM to a special fund that is used to improve the lives of collectors. Funds last year were used to purchase roto-tillers that can be used by collectors in the villages to do garden work (everyone in the Bosnian countryside has at least one big patch of potatoes) and help haul large sacks of collected herbs back to their homes. In these photos you can see the collectors, the new rototiller, a whole bunch of elder flowers, and some of the beautiful Bosnian countryside.



Slippery Business Practice
Friday, May 24, 2013

This week I had the pleasure of traveling through Kentucky, West Virginia and Ohio with Zoe Gardner (R&D Manager) and Ted Keys (Procurement Manager) following the collection of wild cherry and slippery elm barks, two important ingredients in our very popular Throat Coat products. The very rural Appalachian hill country people have been collecting these barks (and other medicinal plants) for generations and are dependent upon this hard work for their livelihoods.

The very hot and humid forests they collect in are dense with underbrush and alive with poison ivy, ticks, mosquitoes and deadly snakes (timber rattlers and copperheads). The collectors work from sun up until sun down filling large herb bags with bark and then hauling the heavy sacks down the mountain. They have been medicinal plant collectors since they were children and they know well the value of the high quality teas we make from these barks. These mountain people care for the environment they live in and they are careful to harvest the barks in a manner which preserves the forest and allows the trees to re grow the bark which has been peeled off.

Zoe got a firsthand lesson in this practice of sustainable bark collection (pictured harvesting slippery elm) from a woman who learned the trade from her mother and grandmother. Her husband and three adult sons also collect with her each day.

As part of the training, the woman explained to Zoe that she spoke to each of the trees before taking the bark, explaining that their purpose was being fulfilled by providing an important ingredient for wellness teas and much needed income for her family. It was a great honor to spend time with this woman and watch her collect the barks we cherish.

This practice of communing with plants and making the very best wellness teas is what makes Traditional Medicinals so special!


Water in the Desert
Thursday, December 6, 2012

Pictured here is a naadi (community pond) that Revive! Project has developed. It now holds water year round and supports a thousand families and all of their farm animals. We have completed four naadis and two more are under restoration. The impact is life changing.





The Courage of One Woman
Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Before we introduced our organic senna Revive! Project to these very rural Rajasthani villages, girls did not attend school and 85% of the female population was illiterate. A fundamental component of our initial purchase agreements with the senna farmers was that their daughters must attend the schools we were committed to build. Today we have built three schools, have three more under construction, and about 300 girls are now becoming educated.

With female literacy comes gender equality. Early on one of the older daughters of our farmers asked to receive training to become a teacher.

This bold request was initially frowned upon by many but she and her father were persistent in spite of long established social barriers.

This year ViImila Devi (see photo) completed her training and was installed as the first primary teacher at the Balika (girl in Hindi) Elementary School. Already she has gained a reputation as being a good teacher and has earned the respect of her community.

At Traditional Medicinals we have a vision for empowered supplier communities and together we are creating a new model for social business.


Rajasthan Bound
Thursday, November 22, 2012

As members of the company’s Herb Supply Chain Group, we have the opportunity, honor and privilege to travel to some of the communities where we source herbs for our products. As part of this work we visit and inspect farms and wild collection areas and the farming/collection communities in these often rural regions of the world. The travel is long and accommodations usually rustic, but the people are genuine and always so welcoming.

Six years ago we launched the Revive! Project™ in Rajasthan, India to secure high quality organic senna herb. This remote area in the Thar Desert is home to very impoverished farming villages, and through the company funded Revive! Project, Traditional Medicinals has been able to bring renewed health and promise to these hard working farming families and their children.

Through the company’s efforts we have been able to improve the senna’s quality and quantity available for our Smooth Move® tea. These achievements allow us to fund both investments in the senna farming communities and agricultural research focused on continued senna quality improvements. This is the social business model the company is developing, combining organic agriculture and supplier community empowerment.