India and Sustainable Herbs Project Update

Pukka Herbs and Phalada working together to create a Fair for Life tulsi project in Karnataka State, India.

“We’re not just here to go shopping.” Sebastian Pole

We had such a rich, informative visit to organic farms, fair for life projects, and primary processing facilities in Karnataka State, India with Ben Heron and Sebastian Pole of Pukka Herbs. I can’t do justice to everything we experienced here, except to say I left deeply impressed by the depth of commitment required to source medicinal plants responsibly – to do, as Sebastian said, more than go shopping. Years of time and money, hours of driving along bumpy roads, walking fields, trouble shooting, problem solving and so much more is involved. By traveling with Ben and Sebastian, we were able to see firsthand the ways this time pays off in the quality of the fields we visited and the depth of trust we witnessed.

Following herbs through the supply chain with the Sustainable Herbs Project

Transparency in the Herb Industry

Ben and Sebastian don’t pretend that they or Pukka have all the answers. Nothing is so simple. But to me their willingness to let us tag along, cameras in tow, listening in as they talked about buffer zones and crop rotation with farmers was as inspiring as everything else we saw. Companies like Pukka Herbs and Traditional Medicinals (I know naming companies gets dicey. Though there are others, I include Traditional Medicinals because Josef Brinckmann has been an incredible source of contacts, information, and advice on this project from the outset) are working hard to bring more transparency to an industry known for its secrecy. This in turn lets us all know more about where our herbs come from so we too can do more than just shop when we buy herbs. We can support values that do – they really do – make a difference on the ground.

Ongoing Herbal Education

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The other best way to do more than shop is to educate ourselves to both grow and prepare our own remedies. And so I want to highlight a free webinar this Wed. night. Rosalee de la ForĂȘt and John Gallagher will be talking about herbal remedies for cold care this Wed. night. Rosalee is a fantastic teacher and offers clear, concise information based on both the chemistry and the energetics of plants. Take a moment to check it out!

SHP Next Steps

Now that we’re finished most of the traveling (we might try to include another trip or two in the US), I’m glad to finally be settling down to the logging and editing portion of the project. I’ll be editing short video clips, 2-5 minutes or so, to include on the multi-media website (i.e. interactive documentary) that is being developed by a student team at the Digital Arts, Leadership and Innovation Lab at Dartmouth College. I have lots more footage than will ultimately make it onto the site and so I’ll also explore other venues for sharing this and making it accessible to as many people as possible. I’ll continue to post up dates on our progress here.



  • Reply February 9, 2016

    Michelle Coburn

    It’s great that there are places in the world that we can support sustainable growers, and build local economies responsibly. However, I’m wondering, why is it necessary to go all the way to India, isn’t there a market or opportunity to build and develop these growers and farmers right here in the US? Would it be that much more expensive, once you back the transportation, shipping and exchange rates, etc. out of the formula?

    • Reply February 9, 2016

      Ann Armbrecht

      I completely agree – and all good questions. It’s something we’re exploring as well and will post more about it soon! I have to say I was surprised in India to see the difference responsible sourcing can make and really had a feeling that we have a responsibility to support those efforts too, not only domestic growing in our own bioregions. SO much of our consumption here in the west is wrecking the world… giving nothing but low paying toxic jobs to people (I type this now on a mac…)… leaving trash and waste behind. And it gave me hope to be somewhere where that isn’t the case. I guess to me it doesn’t seem like it’s one or the other. But needs to be both. I don’t think there are any easy answers…

  • Reply March 8, 2016

    Megan Brown

    I couldn’t agree more, it really doesn’t need to be one or the other. I can’t wait to see the footage of these visits. It excites me and gives me hope to think about you and your family out there telling this story. You’re an inspiration, truly. Thank you

    • Reply March 8, 2016

      Ann Armbrecht

      Thank you, Megan!! I really appreciate your support and your belief in this project.

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