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Goldenseal accepted as threatened at CITES meeting; trade controls imposed

On June 18, a US proposal to include goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis) on the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) Appendix II list was accepted at the organization's 10th Conference of Parties meeting in Zimbabwe. Although commercial trade in goldenseal can continue, it will be subject to certain regulations beginning 90 days from the CITES Appendix II listing. The listing includes roots, rhizomes, rootstocks and bulk powdered herb only. Finished products will be exempt from CITES trade controls.

The US Fish and Wildlife Service is responsible for deciding how the CITES listing will be implemented in the US.

Goldenseal, native to the eastern United States and Canada, is under increasing pressure from overharvest for domestic and international markets as well as from habitat loss. According to the Nature Conservancy, 17 of 27 American states with native stands of goldenseal consider the plant critically imperiled, imperiled, or uncommon, and four states report some rarity. Under the Nature Conservancy's Global Ranking System, goldenseal is not considered common in any state.

With adequate growing conditions, the plant is not difficult to cultivate, and cultivation efforts are currently underway. Goldenseal is one of the most popular herbs among US consumers, and the wholesale value of the plant is reported to have increased by 600% in the last five years. According to botanist Steven Foster in 1995, as many as 150,000 pounds of goldenseal root are harvested from the wild yearly. The United States is the world's largest goldenseal consumer, but it is estimated at least 17,000 pounds of root were exported in 1994 and1995.

The organization United Plant Savers (UPS), dedicated to the preservation of medicinal plants, estimates that as many as 60 million goldenseal plants are harvested from the wild each year. UPS encourages cultivation of goldenseal, and is currently offering its members free goldenseal roots for replanting in the wild. For more information, contact UPS at http://www.plantsavers.org

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