If you're into reading about herbal supplements, you've probably been surprised about how many of them are from desert areas. It could be from the high desert, with cactuses and incredible heat. Or from the cold deserts, from areas like Siberia and the tundra.
These are potent herbs, containing very concentrated chemical constituents such as narcotics, glycosides, and cyanins.
What's It About The Desert That Makes It Unique?
Deserts are harsh lands with very little rainfall and very little protection. Anything that grows and lives in these areas needs to be strong and powerful. Most of the plants that grow there do grow slowly. But they do have a unique feature of producing flowers, birds, and seeds very quickly, overnight in many cases.
These plants are all about storage, holding on to moisture and their structural integrity through demanding conditions.
The phytopharmaceutical array of plants that come from desert regions is absolutely staggering. There are hundreds of plants identified for medicinal usage, even though most cultures generally rely on about ten of them as their staple, go-to remedies.
Because of the harsh conditions, many of the potent chemicals we use as medicines are concentrated in the flesh of the plants. And when harvested, they provide great relief in small dosages.
What Popular Herbs and Supplements Come From Desert Plants?
Some of the herbs you may not even realize come from desert regions. Take a look at some of these interesting plants:
- Gum Arabic
- Pleurisy Root
- Wild Licorice
- Prickly Pear
- Desert Lavender
- Passion Flower
- White Sage
- Siberian Eleuthero
- Siberian Ginseng
The list can go on and on. And some of these do surprise people when they hear some of the popular plants come from the desert. Lupine and walnuts are not often thought of as herbal medicines but definitely have herbal properties.
Others such as pleurisy root, passion flower, and white sage can grow nearly anywhere, and are popular garden flowers.
Do You Take Some Of These? Make Sure They Are Sourced Ethically
But there is one big problem.
Desert plants tend to grow slowly. It takes a while to reach maturity and have enough of the necessary active components to be worth harvesting. Native populations lived and died by the health of the plants. They cultivated many of these plants and harvest them ethically.
Unfortunately, with many people not understanding where their medicines are coming from, poachers will destroy plant populations just to earn a buck.
For example, the Peyote cactus can take nearly 15 years to grow to maturity. And for those who can use it legally, harvesting it is part of the sacred ceremony and they have strict protocol of how it can be harvested.
But that hasn't stopped the poachers. By some estimates, 80% of the available crop were poached far too young to provide any benefit to anyone. And once harvested, the plant is dead.
The same is true for Siberian ginseng, it can take nearly five years to grow a mature plant in very specific conditions. Overharvesting is threatening supply.
This is why it's so important to choose supplements from a better company. Cheap supplements are often harvested illegally, overharvested, or do not contain enough active ingredient to be useful. You're getting what you pay for, and it's not good.
Companies that source properly and are concerned about the safety and future of the plants are proud to say so. Therefore, when you choose your supplement, choose one that states they were ethically sourced or sustainably harvested.
Commercial supplements that are wild-crafted or wild-harvested are basically advertising unsustainable practices.
If you cannot speak to the person who did the actual harvesting, assume the worst. That's why it's so important to get quality herbs from a local herbalist rather than the cheapest bottle off the shelf.
If you do choose to buy a commercial product, choose a smaller company that provides better products. These will be open with their ingredients and help you navigate why their product is better, including sourcing their material.