Medicinal herbs: a Carolina cash crop: growing our local farm economy.When you think about agriculture in North Carolina North Carolina, state in the SE United States. It is bordered by the Atlantic Ocean (E), South Carolina and Georgia (S), Tennessee (W), and Virginia (N). Facts and Figures
Area, 52,586 sq mi (136,198 sq km). Pop. , you probably don't think of fields full of echinacea echinacea (ĕk'ənā`shēə), popular herbal remedy, or botanical, believed to benefit the immune system. It is used especially to alleviate common colds and the flu, but several controlled studies using it as a cold medicine have , California poppy California poppy: see poppy.
Annual garden plant (Eschscholzia californica) in the poppy family, native to the western coast of North America and naturalized in parts of southern Europe, Asia, and Australia. , or valerian valerian, in botany
valerian, common name for some members of the Valerianaceae, a family chiefly of herbs and shrubs of temperate and colder regions of the Northern Hemisphere; a few species, however, are native to the Andes. . You might conjure up images of tobacco, soybeans, livestock, or specialty vegetables. That image may very well be changing. Medicinal herbs are poised to offer a bit of healing to the struggling fields of North Carolina agriculture. An innovative project based at North Carolina State University's Mountain Horticultural Crops Research and Extension Center in Fletcher, NC is creating a network of medicinal herb growers across the state and connecting them with buyers throughout the region. This is giving a boost to North Carolina's struggling farm economy and building the regions natural products industry all at the same time.
In March of 2004, the Medicinal Herbs for Commerce project selected seventeen farmers across the state to receive technical assistance, seed, and a small grant to produce at least one acre of California poppy (Eschscholzia Eschscholzia is a genus of 12 flowering plants in the Papaveraceae (poppy) family. The genus was named after the Baltic German botanist Johann Friedrich von Eschscholtz (1793-1831). californica), dandelion dandelion [Eng. form of Fr.,=lion's tooth], any plant of the genus Taraxacum of the family Asteraceae (aster family), perennial herbs of wide distribution in temperate regions. (Taraxacum officinale Taraxacum officinale,
n See dandelion.
despite a widely held view, NOT the cause of Australian stringhalt in horses; called also dandelion. See hypochoeris radicata. ), purple coneflower coneflower, name for several American wildflowers of the family Asteraceae (aster family). The purple coneflowers (genus Echinacea), found E of the Rockies, have purple to pinkish petallike rays; some cultivated forms have white flowers. (Echinacea purpurea), or valerian (Valeriana officinalis). Farmers kept detailed records of their production methods and experiences as part of a research endeavor to assess the potential of medicinal herbs to be a viable alternative crop for North Carolina. This year, thirty additional farmers will be selected to participate in the program. Many participating growers are current or former tobacco farmers. Most have never produced medicinal herbs before. Although not all of them are certified organic producers, they are encouraged to follow the National Organic Program standards with their herb crops. With the support of NCSU NCSU North Carolina State University faculty and staff, these farmers are exploring herbs as a way to diversify their farms for increased economic viability. This year, growers will refine their techniques of production, cultivating, drying, and post-harvest handling so that the bioactive constituent (medicinal) content of the plants and yields per acre are maximized. Some are exploring additional herbs such as Sweet Annie (Artemisia annua), skullcap skull·cap
n Latin names:
Scutellaria laterifolia, Scutellaria baicalensis; (Scutellaria lateriflora), and German chamomile chamomile or camomile (both: kăm`əmīl', –mēl') [Gr.,=ground apple], name for various related plants of the family Asteraceae (aster family), especially the perennial Anthemis nobilis, (Matricaria recutita).
Farmers involved in this project are compiling valuable information about techniques best suited for the variety of growing conditions across North Carolina. A farmer producing Echinacea purpurea in the mountain region has a different set of environmental conditions to contend with than a farmer producing the same crop in the coastal plain region. That means the methods they will employ throughout the production and harvest process will vary. This is particularly true when it comes to drying the herbs. Although some medicinal herbs are sold fresh to buyers, many buyers are looking for dried product. In order to meet this requirement, many participating growers have used bulk tobacco drying barns to dry their herbs. Information on methods for commercial production and handling for many of these crops hasn't previously been documented for this area, and the experience gained by this project is already proving useful for other growers.
Like many others, North Carolina farmers face difficult times, whether due to the changing dynamics of tobacco following the recently passed tobacco buyout bill, or simply due to the ever-increasing challenge of making a profit as a farmer in the global marketplace. High-value specialty crops like medicinal herbs, may present an opportunity for farmers to diversify their operations for increased profit. This, in turn, helps keep our farming communities and working landscapes intact.
Regional buyers of herbs have played an integral role in the project by offering invaluable advice to the growers and purchasing the crops produced. Medicinal Herbs for Commerce also works closely with the NC Natural Products Association, a non-profit education and research organization supporting NC's natural, products community. Together, these partners are creating momentum for a strong natural products industry in North Carolina.
Medicinal Herbs for Commerce is part of the North Carolina Specialty Crops Program, a cooperative program between the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences College of Agriculture and Life Sciences is the name of several colleges at different universities that offer instruction in agriculture and the life sciences.
NC Farmer's Medicinal Crops You can grow them too!
California poppy (Eschscholzia californica)
Part used: Flowering aerial parts and root
Medicinal use: Used as a mild sedative sedative, any of a variety of drugs that relieve anxiety. Most sedatives act as mild depressants of the nervous system, lessening general nervous activity or reducing the irritability or activity of a specific organ. in the treatment of anxiety and insomnia
Growing tips: Direct seeding works best for this annual or short-lived perennial plant. It does not transplant well and does not tolerate disturbance of the taproot taproot
Main root of a primary-root system. It grows vertically downward. From the taproot arise smaller lateral roots (secondary roots), which in turn produce even smaller lateral roots (tertiary roots). . It thrives in dry conditions with full sun and well-drained average to poor soil. Space 4" apart in full sun, and be careful when cultivating/weeding near it to minimize root disturbance.
Harvest tips: Pull entire plant out of the ground, clean lightly to remove soil and other debris, and dry immediately or use fresh. Several harvests of the aerial parts are possible by cutting plant back by about forty to fifty percent and then waiting for re-growth.
Purple coneflower Echinacea purpurea)
Part used: Aerial parts or root
Medicinal use: Used to stimulate the immune system, treat the initial stages of cold and flu symptoms, and has antiseptic properties. Traditionally used to treat snakebites.
Growing tips: One of three Echinacea species used for medicinal purposes, (the others are Echinacea angustifolia and Echinacea pallida), this herbaceous her·ba·ceous
1. Relating to or characteristic of an herb as distinguished from a woody plant.
2. Green and leaflike in appearance or texture. perennial can be propagated from seed, transplants, or divisions. It has a fibrous root system A fibrous root system (sometimes also called adventitious root system) is the opposite of a taproot system. It is usually formed by thin, moderately branching roots growing from the stem. and can tolerate high heat and dry conditions. It prefers a well-drained alkaline soil in full sun but does not compete well with weeds. Space 12-18" apart.
Harvest tips: For use of the aerial parts, plants are cut either in leaf or bloom stage and dried immediately using constant airflow at a steady, high temperature to lock in the color. Two or three aerial part harvests per season can be expected. For root harvest, dig root in the second year of growth, clean well and dry at a lower temperature in order to allow them to dry from the inside out.
Skullcap (Scutellaria lateriflora)
Part used: Aerial parts
Medicinal use: Used as a sedative in the treatment of anxiety, insomnia, nervous irritability, and some forms of depression. Also used for headaches, as a diuretic diuretic (dī'yərĕt`ĭk), drug used to increase urine formation and output. Diuretics are prescribed for the treatment of edema (the accumulation of excess fluids in the tissues of the body), which is often the result of underlying and as an antispasmodic antispasmodic /an·ti·spas·mod·ic/ (-spaz-mod´ik)
1. preventing or relieving spasms.
2. an agent that so acts.
Growing tips: This herbaceous perennial plant likes moisture, fertile soil, and cooler temperatures, so plant in a low-lying area with full sun or partial shade with 8-12" spacing. It can be cultivated by seed, cuttings, or root divisions, and spreads like mints.
Harvest tips: Harvest when it begins to flower, clean soil and other debris off plant, and dry immediately. One cutting in the first year followed by two cuttings in consecutive years can be expected.
Libby Hinsley is the Assistant Coordinator for the Medicinal Herbs for Commerce Project at North Carolina State University's Mountain Horticultural Crops Research and Extension Center in Fletcher, NC. You can reach her at 828-684-3562, x157 or firstname.lastname@example.org.