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Growing medicinal herbs for profit  RSS feed

 
Logan Therrion
Posts: 33
Location: Jacksonville Beach, FL Zone 8b/9a
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I am considering trying to grow medicinal herbs as a business and I'm wondering where I might look to see which are more profitable and desirable than others. Too, I'd like to try to keep up with industry news and info so I'm more informed. So I'm looking for 1) The more reputable, popular and mature herbal journals or websites so I can keep up on what's what, and 2) which herbs should be considered for such a venture.

I have read recently that goldenseal is a good plant to grow, mostly becauase it's being harvested out of existence and also for it's benefits. And the toothache plant. I'm told that the buds sell very well. In either case I have not yet done the research to see if these will grow well here. But I'm not just considering this, so it's very early on.

I have many acres in very South GA, very near the North Florida border (about an 45 mins. from Jacksonville), and access to much more land. So space is not going to be an issue for me.

Please note that I have no desire to reap profits at any costs at the expense of the plants and the land. My intentions are quite the opposite. With the venture I am considering, I have many goals:
* To learn more about growing and understand medicinal plants (well, all plants really)
* Help propagate species that are becoming or are already endangered and hopefully make them more plentiful
* Make the land I own and have access to a more diverse space
* Hold some workshops going to get others interested in growing medicinal (et al) herb and plants
* Give my herbalist friends a locally sourced and responsibly harvested needed plants for medicines

I welcome all your thoughts on this matter. I have a great learning curve ahead of me and would very much enjoy hearing what everyone has to say.

Thanks all.

 
Joseph Lofthouse
gardener
Posts: 2572
Location: Cache Valley, zone 4b, Irrigated, 9" rain in badlands.
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I'm being called a medicine man at the farmer's market... That's because most weeks I take medicinal herbs to market with me. They sell poorly compared to vegetables: I estimate that about 1 in 100 people buy medicinal herbs. So it's definitely a niche market. I don't do it for profit, but because I want to support and encourage an alternative lifestyle, which I think that my community will be forced to adopt in the not too distant future. I want to have the plants and knowledge within the community for when we eventually need it. If I can support the local herbalists, then I am all over that. If I was going to try to make money from herbs, I think that I would have to dry them and sell them to a national market instead of to a local market.

A lot of my medicinal harvests are 'By request'. Someone will say, "I heard that you had red clover last week. Is there any more?"

The best selling medicinals for me are garlic and onions... I know that's on the cusp were food is medicine... I consider carrots, dark green leafy vegetables, peppers, and winter squash to be part of the food-is-medicine group. If I kept chickens, I'd definitely be feeding medicinal vegetables and herbs to the chickens, and selling the eggs. There are a lot of spices that could fit into the food-is-medicine category.

The most requested herbs that I don't grow are comfrey and lavender.

Tobacco has a bad name, but it's been my most popular medicinal. People have told me that they are using it for poultices, to de-worm animals, in ear-drops, and as an insecticide. It's popular among shaman for use in rituals.

I've really liked medicinal herbs, because most of what I harvest are wild-crafted... By that I mean they are growing in the lawn, or in flower beds, or similar places where I don't have to cultivate or weed them. They might do better if I weeded, but the only current labor is harvesting them, and mowing the meadow once a year.
 
Logan Therrion
Posts: 33
Location: Jacksonville Beach, FL Zone 8b/9a
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Great info Joseph, and you bring up a fantastic point. I too believe that in the near future, we are going to have to rely on plants more than we do now. I mean in a big way; in a way most cannot even imagine. So I'm with you on learning to grow everything really, and especially focus on growing for the local herbalists. I know two that are formally trained and several that aren't but have an incredible amount of knowledge.

Comfrey grows quite well where I am and soon I'll begin propagating it quite a bit. I too use it for poultices and healing lotions. That's a great plant. I was hoping I might be able to grow enough medicinal plants to sell in bulk for a good price. Not just to local herbalists but to people looking to buy such things. My goal first was to see what the most profitable plants are and then try my hand at growing them in bulk.

I have some lavender but not a whole lot. That will hopefully change soon. Echinacia is next on my list to plant en masse, as it chamomile and feverfew.
 
Joseph Lofthouse
gardener
Posts: 2572
Location: Cache Valley, zone 4b, Irrigated, 9" rain in badlands.
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I am also working on selecting for spices that I can grow here: Things like stevia, sesame, yellow mustard, parsley, sage, etc... I think that many of them could fit into the spice-is-medicine category. I live in a difficult climate for many species, but if I can plant 20 varieties and a few of them survive long enough to set seeds, then I'm well on my way to being able to grow them reliably.
 
Logan Therrion
Posts: 33
Location: Jacksonville Beach, FL Zone 8b/9a
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The hardest part for me in doing research is finding the prices of some lesser know but highly effective herbs. For example, I read notnlong ago that the buds for a toothache place were selling g close to $40 for about 40 buds. Now, I haven't fact checked that yet but this is the kind of info I'm looking for. What sells and for what price. And the toothache ant is not something you're going to see often inspite of how well it works.

I feel like if I could find that kind of info, it would help me narrow my focus on which ants to try to grow. For me its a wi /win because anything I grow is going to be fun and a learning experience. So there's no downside for me. But it sure would be nice if I could find what the highest prices for which herbs and start there.
 
Joseph Lofthouse
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Location: Cache Valley, zone 4b, Irrigated, 9" rain in badlands.
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Go to the local health food store or herbalist shop. They will have huge bags of dried herbs. They'll be selling things for $8 that would take me 4 hours to harvest by hand.
 
Zach Muller
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Posts: 778
Location: NE Oklahoma zone 7a
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Joseph Lofthouse wrote:Go to the local health food store or herbalist shop. They will have huge bags of dried herbs. They'll be selling things for $8 that would take me 4 hours to harvest by hand.


This is usually my experience too. My herbs that i grow are fresh and potent, but its impossible once i start considering the time to harvest, and the space required to dry them, they are worth more to my system than they are worth the measly money people would pay for them. I have ordered bulk dried herbs and i know the medicinal quality isnt as high as the herbs i have grown, even if they are organic. How to explain a price tag that is significantly higher than whats available is hard no matter what your selling.

Logan the good news is lavender, chamomile, feverfew, Echinecea are all relatively easy to get going en masse if you have the space. Id suggest adding lemon balm as a versitile medicinal that grows easily.
My loose idea is to develop the actual medicines rather than trying to sell raw herbs for others to use. But im not jumping into it as a business model anytime soon, just pondering the idea.
 
Logan Therrion
Posts: 33
Location: Jacksonville Beach, FL Zone 8b/9a
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You bring up a good point Zach, about the fees charged for better quality than what can be bought. I have considered that as well as I have dabbled in other businesses where that has been an issue. And this is exactly why I posted my original question - to get this kind of information, info I may not have considered in my initial thinking on the subject.

I know it's going to be a lot of work, and I'll need space, time, and certainly, a large quantity of plants. And fortunately for me, I've already got some echinacea and feverfew going, though not quite the quantity I originally envisioned. I just love these and they are in my garden now with more on the way. I'm working on chamomile and the toothache plant next, as these grow well here.

Thank you for your response. Everyone is helping tremendously.
 
Matu Collins
Posts: 1976
Location: Southern New England, seaside, avg yearly rainfall 41.91 in, zone 6b
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The way to get people to buy medicinal herbs is to package it as tea and give them samples. I have a friend who has turned this into a profitable business along with tinctures and salves etc. The tea is the big seller. I use my own herbs and share them with friends but I have plans to build a proper drying room in the loft of my barn, then I will sell my herbs wholesale.

People recognize tea, even if they don't know what a salve is. Great for winter farmers markets!
 
leila hamaya
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Location: northern northern california
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yep ^^^ what matu said ^^^

tinctures, teas, blends, rubs, salves.
and also common culinary herbs can be powerful healers, oregano tops that on my list. common as a penny though, but a powerful healer.
theres a trendiness to getting rare and unusual herbs, if anything i would rather counter that with simpler more accessible things, but as for your question- growing the rarer ones might be better for money. or maybe not, and the most common and recognizable are what would sell.

i am working on similar things, i have been studying herbalism for a long time though.
i am starting some camellia (tea - green tea/black tea) and i have a ton of herbs growing.
you can grow camellia in zone 7 (8?) down south.

even if it all flops- herbs are great to grow anyway, they just keep getting denser and more and more each year, very easily, with less fussing over than most plants. it is totally worth it to grow lots of them, even if you dont end up selling them.

i am fond of spilanthes - the toothache plant. it has other uses besides just teeth, it's anti bacterial, anti fungal. its a bit more difficult to grow than most herbs, its a tender perennial but is very sensitive to cold, so tends to be an annual.

herbalism is a huge subject! it can get pretty overwhelming. i think the best way to learn is to take it one plant at a time.
find one you really like and get to know it very well, grow it out, see how to use it...well i suppose one at a time might be extreme, but basically it may be better to know lots about a few important medicine plants that work for you, rather than some general generic knowledge on a lot of plants, that may or may not work as well as suggested, or that you dont hardly know what to do with.

common tea herbs seems like a good place to start --- heres some ---chamomile, mints, anise hyssop /giant hyssop/agastache, lemon balm, rose, red clover flowers, you could probably grow roselle as an annual or greenhouse, also raspberry, and blackberry leaves are a good base for an herbal tea. something new i have been trying is tulsi (aka holy basil), i am really enjoying tulsi as a tea herb, interesting flavor with a bit of honey.

you may also have good luck with selling herb starts in pots, live plants. common culinary herbs like oregano, thyme, sage, as well as whatever medicinal herbs you start growing. because herbs are so easy to grow, and prolific, usually you can propagate tons of starts from an existing patch.
 
Matu Collins
Posts: 1976
Location: Southern New England, seaside, avg yearly rainfall 41.91 in, zone 6b
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Yes! I'm propagating herbs in pots as part of my business plan! I want to sell plants more than I want to sell produce.

I include my whole community as part of my permaculture design. We have a permaculture officianado leading our town's planning board and one leading our town council. So if I can get lots more people growing produce, I won't have to grow it all! #obtainayield

 
Zach Muller
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Location: NE Oklahoma zone 7a
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I had not considered blackberry leaves for a base of tea, thanks for the tip leila! I already got my holy basil seeds to try next spring, i am super pumped for that.

My theory on salves has been to spend ample time in the development phase. There are a lot of super simple recipes out there that work great, but i am very picky about textures and stuff. I dont like, greasy, oily, easily separable, waxy, unstable etc. and i think it makes the product way more desirable if it is not those things. If mostly because that is what people expect. For salves I have taken to processing the raw herbs into oils mainly, so i have a nice selection to choose from. Then i buy bulk bees wax, shea butter, and other stuff to play with the recipes during the winter months. It makes experimenting with composition a lot easier. I think people are getting more familiar with the term salve because of product lines like berts bees, but you could always just call it a balm, lip, hand, foot, face balm.

One herb that is easy from seed and in my opinion vital for skin stuff is calendula. These days i wouldn't make much of anything for skin without it, i have noticed a distinct difference when using it as an ingredient. Plus its quite tasty and makes a fragrant tea.
 
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