Growing medicinal plants in your forest is an interesting activity that has the potential to both generate income and conserve wild plant resources. There is a ready wholesale market for about two dozen native forest plant and shrub products (leaf, fruit, bark, root). This said, few offer real income possibilities in the wholesale marketplace. Most native forest medicinal plants are best marketed through direct linkages with consumers (herbalists, interested public, health food stores), where quality and production practices can be a valuable selling point. Of course you may be interested in growing medicinal crops in your forest simply for personal use and pleasure.
Some of the most commonly sought after native forest medicinal plants include American ginseng, goldenseal, black cohosh, and bloodroot. Less common, yet still marketable, are blue cohosh, cranesbill, star root, Virginia snakeroot, stoneroot and wild yam.
To decide if producing medicinal plant crops from your forest is a realistic option, consider two possible starting points. First, perhaps there are plants, shrubs and/or trees already on your property that you could manage in ways that would improve their productivity and yield quality. A second alternative is to identify what particular medicinal plants, shrubs, or trees might be suitable for your site, and to begin establishing these as plantings. In reality, you will likely want to combine the two approaches.
The information in this unit will help you determine a few of the medicinal plants you might grow in your forest or woodlot. It also provides some guidance in how to do it. Before you begin to explore this information however, keep in mind that there is no guarantee that cultivating many medicinal plant crops in forest settings will be successful or profitable. It is therefore suggested that you adopt two guiding principles as you learn about and experiment with forest medicinal crops. First, proceed slowly in investing in planting materials. Try things out, see how they work and adjust your plans for expansion accordingly. Second, make an effort to learn from others who are experimenting. Find out who else is working with these crops. Share your experience and encourage them to share with you. In addition to improving your own success, your insights will help to expand the knowledge base about farming medicinal forest crops.