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Good Wildcrafting and Wildharvesting Practices

Amanda Howe developed guidelines for sustainable harvesting of wild medicinal plants in a project funded by Health Canada at Royal Roads University Centre for Livelihoods and Ecology. 


The increasing commercial demand for medicinal plants has led to considerable pressure on wild medicinal plants worldwide, this has led to issues of overharvesting and extirpation of species in certain areas.

This demand also leads to inexperienced or unethical harvesters harvesting the wrong plant which can lead to serious safety issues. 

There are also issues with the wrong part of the plant being harvested, and drying and processing of the plant being done incorrectly, leading to poor quality product. 

These pressures are increasingly leading to issues of issues of safety and quality with commercial product.

Please find below a pdf of the entire Good Wildcrafting Practices document.

Guidelines for wildharvesting can be found within this document

Wildharvesting Fact Sheets can be found in the Good Wildcrafting Practices document and also linked here:

Wildharvesting Template: This template can be used when developing guidelines for future species.  This template was developed following research of all the existing MAP guidelines at the time and went further to include good agricultural and collecting practices also being developed at the time this document was developed.

Good Wildcrafting Practices

Template for Wildharvesting Guidelines

Harvesting Medicinal Plants for Personal Use


Wild plants have much to teach us - listen carefully, tread lightly and see deeply with the eyes of your heart.

We are blessed to have these plants, with their rich offerings of medicine, growing wild all around us.  Harvesting of wild medicinal plants is something we do with gratitude and care - not only for the medicine we wish to make, but for all the other plants, animals, insects, birds and other living beings that are interconnected with the plant and each other.

The following guidelines are general in nature, and it is important to learn how each medicinal plant and its environment responds to harvesting both in the short and long term.

  • Land access:

    • Before harvesting please make yourself aware of the First Nations Territory upon which you live and work and where you wish to harvest.  Ask for permission. 

    • Permission from private land owner. Get permission before you harvest.

    • Never harvest in Parks. They are sanctuaries.

  • Plant Identity:

  • It is essential to carefully identify the plant prior to harvest. Identify using the latin name of the plant, and then double check with a knowledgable person to make sure you have the correct plant - before you use it.  

  • Sustainable Harvesting:

    • Know the plant you are harvesting.  Know everything about it, its growth patterns, its reproduction, how fast it grows in your area, the other plants, birds, creatures and all other organisms that are part of the web of life of the plant. 

      • monitor and record the sustainability of your harvesting operations on an on-going basis. 

      • always make sure there are enough mature plants left after harvesting to maintain habitats that other wildlife depend on; 

      • avoid damage to neighbouring species, especially rare or threatened species; 

      • take particular care with species that have symbiotic relationships or otherwise depend on each other; 

      • avoid harvesting operations that lead to erosion or damage to sensitive habitat

      • Take care not to damage either the plant population or the local environment.  Know what your harvest will mean for the environment, other plants, animals, birds, fish, insects and the soil, for all other organisms.  Do not trample the surrounding plants.

      • Know how much you can harvest without damaging the delicate web of life.  Never take more.  Do not take more than you need.  Be aware that others may also be harvesting.

      • Be aware of nesting sites, breeding sites and disturbance to birds and animals through your presence.

  • Harvest Area:

    • Check with landowner that the harvest area has not been sprayed with herbicide or pesticides.  If the history of the harvest site or any adjacent waterway is not known a soil sample should be tested for pollutants. 

    • Ensure that the harvest area is not contaminated with heavy metals, industrial pollutants, pesticides or herbicides, or run off from roads or mines.

    • The harvest area should not be within the fall out area for industrial pollutants as the plants can absorb pollutants through their leaves even if the pollutants are not found in significant amounts in the soil.    

    • Harvesting should not take place within at least 50metres of main roads. 

  • Harvester Hygiene:

    • make sure that you have clean hands and are harvesting into clean containers and using clean utensils.

    • Clean the containers and tools between harvests

  • Harvesting containers:

    • Harvested plant material should be collected in clean containers and contact with the ground should be avoided.

    • never harvest aerial parts of the plant into plastic bags - if you harvest aerial parts of the plant into plastic bags they will sweat and deteriorate.  This often leads to the plant going black on drying.  Harvest into paper bags or baskets

    • Do not overfill the bag or basket as this will also lead to the plant sweating and decomposing.

    • Wash roots immediately - if you wait too long the root will be harder to clean.

  • Avoid harvesting on very hot days

  • Part of the plant:

    • Harvest the right part of the plant. This is different for every plant.

    • Leaves and flowers should not be harvested when wet from either dew or rain if you are planning to dry them.

  • Harvest time:

    • Make sure you know the correct time of year to harvest this particular plant.

  • Processing:

    • Never harvest if you do not have time to process the plant within a couple of hours of the harvest.  Plants start to oxidise and breakdown within a very short time of harvest, don't leave in a bag or basket.  Hang or spread on racks immediately to avoid losing quality or spoiling the harvest.

    • Make sure you know how to properly dry or preserve what you are harvesting, so that it does not go to waste.

    • Drying, processing and storage facilities should provide protection of the plant-material against pests, rodents, insects, birds, and pets and other domestic animals

  • Drying Plants

    • Dry plants in the shade with good airflow. 

    • Avoid drying in direct sunlight

    • Avoid allowing the drying plant to be exposed to dew or humidity at night.

  • Storage: 

    • store in glass jars.  Do not store in plastic

    • Each harvest batch must be stored in a clean storage container, which must be labeled appropriately with the name of the plant.

    • Drying, processing and storage facilities should provide protection of the plant-material against pests, rodents, insects, birds, and pets and other domestic animals10. The storage area should be heated to avoid damp and mould, but don't store in warm temperatures as degradation of the product will occur. 

  • Harvest Records:

    • Keep excellent records of harvest so that you can track batches.  Harvest site location, date and time, part harvested, weather conditions, processing, batch number and who purchases each batch.

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