Without plants, there is no plant medicine, plain and simple. And whether you know it or not, plant species are declared extinct each year — some of which haven’t been seen in decades. Five such plants were declared as such last year, and some are giving it up just as you write this. Some of these plants could hold the key to defeating cancer, Alzheimer’s Disease or whatever ugly pandemic follows the one we’re living through now. So whatever we at Medicine Box can do to encourage those plants to  stick around, we’re gonna do it.

For Medicine Box, preserving the plants takes on different forms, all connected to our heritage as small farmers here in NorCal. So when it comes to our own preservation efforts, they’re tied to the farmers and vendors we work with, and the standards we apply to both. Ultimately, it boils down to soil protection and permaculture principles. As we’ve built this out, we’ve learned a few things that not only help us with protecting our plant allies, but could also be pulled off by you, too, in your day-to-day. You can be a Planthugger, too, in other words, just like us. Here’s how we got started.

Protecting The Soil

Early on in my apprenticeship, my mentor Michael Hollister instructed me to closely attend to the rhizosphere. For those of you unaware, this can be seen as the soil’s version of atmosphere. Particularly in the crucial layer (about four inches) of topsoil, the more diverse and dynamic this rhizosphere is, the healthier the soil and the plants (or as the Rodale Institute often says, “Happy plants, happy people.”). Yet our soil is under attack, and has been for years, from erosion, salination and chemical runoff, both here in America and throughout the world. While topsoil does eventually regenerate, it does so very slowly — anywhere from 300-500 years to replace one inch of topsoil. With so much soil already lost, we’re thinking of making the best of what we’ve got.

Enter the “living soil infusion mat,” which we have used in the past to grow our own plants. Now mind you, some plants put down deeper roots, but others do not penetrate that far, so less soil is needed. Our setup allowed for greater efficiency in water and fertilizer, because we recognized soil as an investment. The more attention you put into your soil, the more value you get from it. 

The Permaculture Way

Before I started Medicine Box, I made the move towards organic farming, largely through the urging of my mentor. Reason being that if you’re growing plants to heal, the entire system should be sustainable. During that period of time, I was introduced to the permaculture principles, which alongside conscious capitalism and the phases of the moon and stars dictate our company’s strategies and engagement.

For those who don’t know, permaculture are a set of design principles, released in 1978 by David Holmgren, which mimic natural systems. One can apply them as easily to one’s daily life as you do to agriculture. I’ve always fallen back on rule number eight: Integrate, Don’t Segregate. For farmers, this often means focusing on multiple plants and crops to assist the larger cultivation design, and relying on what is native to the area. The idea is to work with, rather than against, nature. 

In addition, Medicine Box continues to partner with rePurpose Global with their One to One Impact Guarantee, which ensures that one pound of plastic will be removed for every bottle purchased. During my daily nature hikes, I also make a habit of picking up what we used to call MOOP (matter out of place, or trash), which unfortunately one has to do now that we have soooo many people crowding into the Tahoe area due to the pandemic. Ultimately, what I’d like to see are more green areas wherever you go. If trends hold up, there’s going to be a lot of abandoned office and retail space in the future. Handing some of that back to the plants makes sense. 

We’ve written about Permaculture a few months back, and we invite you to consult those posts whenever it suits you. Bottom line, it comes down to living in greater accord with all sorts of life. Above all, we’d encourage you to learn about the plants native to your region. Gardening is a good way to do this, but even being able to recognize a plant as quickly as you would, say, a logo (just try testing your kid on their recognition of plants versus brand logos. You’ll be surprised.).is a start. In order to preserve nature, you have to introduce yourself to it, and make friends. You’ll find it will be the beginning of a beautiful friendship.