Ninety-nine percent of the herbs used by American companies do not come from the United States. They are imported from Eastern Europe and from many Third-World countries such as India, China, and Mexico. Unfortunately, many of these countries use large amounts of insecticides and pesticides when growing their herbs. DDT (dichloro-diphenyl-trichloroethane), banned for over thirty years in the U.S., is still commonly used in Asia, and organophosphate nerve-gas-based insecticides are commonly used throughout Eastern Europe. Mexico, incidentally, has cleaned up its act considerably over the last ten years, initiating a program in 1997 to phase out DDT and chlordane.
Also, many of the areas in these countries where herbs are grown are heavily polluted. The herbs are inundated by polluted rain and irrigated by polluted rivers. In the countries that previously comprised Eastern Europe, for example, there had been no environmental laws for decades. Rivers were used as open sewers, with everything from chemical toxic waste to radioactive waste dumped into them.
Does that mean you should never buy herbs grown overseas? Not at all! There are several reasons you may buy herbs from China, for example. First, it is absolutely possible to find high-quality organic or wild-crafted herbs grown there, if you know where to look. Second, sometimes it is the only place to find certain herbs such as those used in traditional Chinese medicine, for example, or Ayurvedic herbs from India, or rainforest herbs from South America. The key here is that when you purchase herbs overseas, you need to be that much more diligent in your sourcing. Note: some herbal companies grow their own herbs, which is great - but it will limit their formulas to only those herbs that can be grown in that particular climate and biosystem. If you want the best the "world" has to offer when it comes to herbs, you have to source your herbs from around the world.
Unfortunately, most American companies use overseas herb sources, regardless of the problems just mentioned, to save money, not to produce better formulas. Buying on the cheap, however, means buying low grade, contaminated herbs. Good quality organic and wild-crafted herbs can cost twenty times as much, or more. A favorite example of Jon Barron's is ginseng. High-quality, wild-crafted, or organic ginseng costs $400-$600 per pound, depending on the season. And yet you can buy low-grade ginseng for as little as $5 a pound and stick it in a formula. Both grades are designated "ginseng" on the label, but which grade do you think actually works? Which grade do you think most companies use?
But as a consumer, how can you know where a company sources its ingredients, and if those sources are high quality?
In the end, buying herbal products is a bit like buying fine wine. Pick a company that produces products that you know and trust - and stick with them. Although it may cost more, a bottle of Chateau Mouton Rothschild will always taste better than a bottle of Ripple. And thanks to Jon Barron's ability to work with companies that provide high quality herbs, Baseline Nutritionals ® has earned that level of trust from thousands of customers all over the world.