Rosewood, White Sage, Vanilla... What You Need to Know About Over Harvesting

Rosewood, White Sage, Vanilla... What You Need to Know About Over Harvesting

As we try our best to reduce our impact on the environment, we are faced with one tough choice after another. We try to do away with plastic, and find ourselves buying more products made of wood, hemp, bamboo, coconut and other naturally harvested materials, in turn leading us to consider the pressure on natural resources. These resources present a viable alternative to plastic, however it takes land to grow plants and at times, this means deforestation. It’s important to remind ourselves not to disconnect these products from their plant origins so we can be sure to respect their use. Over harvesting can have devastating effects on our natural world. We all play a role in the protection of our planet, and the topic of sustainability of natural resources prompts a variety of discussions – including stock considerations here at The Apothecary.

Our beloved Redecker Dish Brush and Replacement Heads (currently out of stock) are affected by the high demand of wood and tampico fibre (the bristles of the brush). The company has been faced with low stocks of wood and the world-wide shortage of tampico. This has resulted in their inability to produce the Replacement Dish Brushes/Heads until sometime in 2020, due to high demand. Because of this, our supply of these brushes and replacement heads sold out in late fall 2019, and we won’t be seeing any until their production is up and running again. But, don’t fret! We are currently offering an alternative dish brush that is still manufactured by our dear Redecker company.  

Many plants in the aromatic world have also been affected by over harvesting. If you have shopped with us over the years, you have probably noticed that we have stopped carrying Vanilla Absolute and Rosewood Essential Oil. The price of Bourbon Vanilla from Madagascar has continued to increase due to world-wide demand and a low crop yield that occurred in 2015. Vanilla is one of the most difficult plants to cultivate. Each individual flower has to be manually pollinated and their flower only blooms for one day each year. It then takes five years for a green vanilla bean to grow and ferment. This long process means that when an increase in demand occurs, it takes time to adjust a crop to meet consumer needs. To provide insight to a vanilla crop yield: 600 vanilla flowers (hand pollinated) will grow 6kg of green beans, resulting in a final product of 1kg of dried beans. While we do not currently carry Vanilla Absolute, we are thrilled to have recently found a direct fair trade source for vanilla planifolia beans for culinary use.

Rosewood essential oil is a rare find now and will almost always be adulterated if found. The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora has created a regulation on all 250 species of Rosewood. Over harvesting of this precious wood has left few trees able to provide seeds, and wild harvesting threatens rainforests. The remaining trees that grow wild in the rainforest are almost the sole providers of Rosewood seeds, making them an endangered species; sadly, these trees are threatened by poaching and illegal trade. If you find that you have a vial of Rosewood essential oil in your collection, hold it dear to yourself as there is no way to know when the species will be stable enough for its essential oil to be on the market again. 

Last but not least, we would like to talk about White Sage and Palo Santo (and all the other sacred plants). These sacred plants have been popularized as a way to spiritually cleanse both yourself and your home, a trend which has led to high demand and over harvesting. From smudging to burning as an incense, you will find White Sage and Palo Santo sold in stores for a variety of purposes. However, there has been much speculation in regards to the use of these plants – especially in regards to their sacredness in Indigenous cultures. You may have noticed that we no longer sell either White Sage or Palo Santo, as we have made the choice not to restock these sacred plants and instead, respectfully leave the plants be. There are great alternatives that one may wish to use for smoke cleansing or to burn for incense purposes, including juniper, pine, prairie sage, cedar and others.

To hold true to our values in protecting and respecting our planet, and our efforts to reduce our footprint, we must remember to be mindful in our use of plants. Our planet only has so much to offer and it’s our only home.  

Posted by Laura on 1/7/2020 to Ask Your Aromatherapist