Is local best?

People often ask whether I use only local herbs in my prescriptions. We all feel nowadays that it’s better to source things close to home if we can, and certainly the majority of my most-used herbs can be grown in this country. They’re not all indigenous, of course; Echinacea will grow here, for example, though it’s not a native.
But what about Thyme, Sage, Rosemary and all our other lovely Mediterranean herbs? We can grow them here, but they don’t like heavy, damp soils, and long cold winters will finish them off. Medicinally, they are all warming and drying by nature, and we really need those qualities, especially in the west of Britain, to help counteract rheumatic problems and respiratory infections. For as far back as records go, people have brought them here as dried leaves and seeds, or as cherished plants.
Then there are all the spices from further afield, without which our food would be so much poorer, and our medicine chests less versatile. Would you want to do without cinnamon, ginger and black pepper? The truth is that there has always been trade, and it’s a good thing; it links people together. The problem is the energy it takes to move products around, not the moving itself.
Not all places can provide all the nutrients that people need to be healthy; the famous Derbyshire goitre, caused by a lack of iodine in the soil, is a good example. We humans have managed to colonise most of our planet, but to make it work, we have to trade. It’s up to us to figure out more sustainable ways of doing it.

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