Native plants, herbal supplements could be cash crops for North Country, SLU prof says
Tuesday, April 3, 2012 - 9:00 am

CANTON – A St. Lawrence University biology professor believes there is potential in the North Country for growing and harvesting plants used in the herbal supplements industry.

“Eastern medicine, Western plants - a Closer Look at the Commercial Potential for Native Plants in the U.S. Herbal Supplements Industry” is the 2012 Frank P. Piskor Lecture to be delivered at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, April 18 by St. Lawrence University Associate Professor of Biology Aswini Pai in Herring-Cole Hall.

The event is open to the public, free of charge.

“The use of plants in healing is an ancient global tradition,” Pai said, but she notes, “the use of medicinal plants as a source of healing is no longer restricted to the developing world. The herbal supplements industry has increased at an exponential pace and is estimated (conservatively) at $4 billion within the U.S. alone.”

This increased popularity has created a huge demand for raw medicinal plant material, almost all of which is imported from other parts of the world. Medicinal herbs and plants are therefore a potential cash crop, but North American-grown materials are under-utilized in the industry, she says.

“I am exploring the potential for sustainable commercialization of North American medicinal plants,” Pai said. “Ultimately, I will examine if the insights gained can be applied to rural northeastern New York.”

A graduate of Cochin College in India, Pai earned a master’s degree at the Wildlife Institute of India and the Ph.D. at Ohio University. She worked as an ecologist with Development Alternatives, an organization that that works on sustainable development in India, and has conducted fieldwork in India, Nepal, North America and Borneo.

Pai’s research examines the intersection of ethnobotany and ecology and encompasses both North America and Asia.

The Piskor Faculty Lectureship was established in 1979 to encourage original and continued research among St. Lawrence faculty members, to recognize and honor distinguished scholarship and to afford the opportunity for faculty to share their learning with the academic community.