I often have people walking up to me and being so glad to see natural, herbal products for their aches and pains. Then they see the price and get upset that it costs so much. I am here to tell you people that herbs are expensive!
While it is easy to see that they are expensive it is a much better value than you see at first glance. Take Rose Essential Oil for example. This blog here points out how much goes into just 5ml of this essential oil, nearly 100 dozen roses! Ya that is a lot! So at up to $150 for 5ml you better believe it is majorly worth the cost for the strength and quality of the oil.
Now essential oils are one thing but what about salves that I see for sale at farmers markets?
Many individuals making salves use a ‘folk’ method. What this entails is filling a jar, usually about 1/2 way with herbs, lets say calendula flowers, and then filling the jar with oil to the top. This oil, after it sits a while will be strained and beeswax will be added to it to solidify and then you buy it. This method will often make about a 1:10 extract, meaning that for ever 10ml of oil that comes out there was 1g of calendula put into the jar but there is no way to know how strong it is with out measuring it before hand. When you look at the oil it may be faintly orange or it may be even lighter, looking like normal olive oil.
Other herbalists will use higher strength extracts of herbs. The Dancing Herbalist uses a 1:5 extraction meaning that for ever 5ml of oil there is 1g of an herb. This oil, using calendula, is a bright orange color that in our creams, make them a beautiful yellow color. Having higher extracts ensures that when you are using the product more herbs will be present for their intended actions.
I like to say that it takes a 6ft square plot to grow all of the herbs in one salve container when the extract is 1:5. While this may be an exaggeration it is not far off if it is just a calendula salve because calendula flowers are so light it takes a larger growing area for the same weight as a leafy herb. Last summer I grew a 1x3ft plot of calendula and I probably got enough flowers to make one weak salve container.
But there are even more costs
- Hand harvesting, done with care during the right growing season and weather conditions
- Almost all herbs are harvested by hand
- Some herbs are only harvested when a tree falls or seasonally due to the plant parts used or the growth climate, limiting their availability, driving up costs
- It takes time to harvest root plants and they are often not able to continue to grow after harvesting, killing the plant
- Harvesting flowers also reduces the reproductive capabilities of the plant
- Milky Oats only have a 3-5 day window for harvesting while they are ‘milky’
- Some herbs must grow for many years before harvesting
- Ginseng roots are traditionally only harvested after a minimum of 5 years growth
- Many herbs, if not grown organic with their own added costs, are wildcrafted, harvested from the while taking care to not disturb natural growth of surrounding plants and stands of the harvested herb. This takes time and patience but also leads to higher quality with much higher cost.
- It takes a significant amount of space to grow herbs
- Natural fertilizers are needed, often made from breaking down already grown plants
- Natural pest control, sometimes removing insects by hand depending on the crop
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