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New Mexico State University

New Mexico State University

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Workshop Teaches How To Grow and Market Native Medicinal Herbs

The workshop, sponsored by New Mexico State University's Sustainable Agriculture Science Center at Alcalde, aims to encourage local cultivation of native herbs that are normally gathered from wild stands.

Charles Martin, agricultural specialist with NMSU's Sustainable Agriculture Science Center at Alcalde, examines cholla and prickly pear at the science center herb garden, where researchers are studying about 60 different medicinal herbs. Martin will discuss the medicinal qualities of native Southwest herbs such as these during a free workshop March 10 in Santa Fe. (NMSU Agricultural Communications photo by J. Victor Espinoza)

"Herbs like yerba mansa and oshá are generally harvested from the wild, and mostly just for home remedies," said Charles Martin, an agricultural specialist at the science center. "These herbs are underused because their medicinal qualities aren't widely recognized in the national herb market. We want to encourage local growers to cultivate native species and begin marketing them outside the Southwest."

Even local herbalists frequently overlook the medicinal qualities of some native species that could be grown and marketed, Martin said. "Prickly pear is a great example," he said. "That cactus is so prolific it's often considered a weed or a nuisance, but it has medicinal value."

At the workshop, Bill Quiroga–-owner of Arizona-based Native American Botanics Corp.–-will discuss markets for native medicinal herbs. Quiroga contracts local growers to produce or gather herbs, which he sells locally and nationally.

Teena Hayden, a researcher from the University of Arizona at Tuscon, will talk about growing native herbs in greenhouses. Hayden will show how to supply water and nutrients directly to plant roots to improve production.

Katy Blanchard, an herbalist and grower from Abiquiu, will discuss a line of medicinal herb teas she developed from native plants that Indian tribes use for traditional remedies. Participants can sample the teas at the workshop.

Dan Rael, a ranger with the New Mexico State Forestry Division, will discuss harvesting wild herbs on public lands. Mitch Coven, owner and manager of the Vitality Works tincture factory in Albuquerque, will talk about federal efforts to regulate medicinal herb production and sales. Martin will discuss efforts to form a New Mexico Herb Growers Association.

The workshop runs from 8:15 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. at the Santa Fe County Fairgrounds at 3229 Rodeo Road. For more information, or if you are an individual with a disability in need of an auxiliary aid or service to participate, call Martin at (505) 852-4241 or Pat Torres at (505) 471-4711.