Chinese herbs: Elixir of health...

China's traditional practice of herbal medicine goes back thousands of years and reportedly works by unlocking nature's ability to prevent disease and restore human health.

In recent times, Chinese herbs have ascended to the world stage and become a global icon. Their healing properties have led to their use in daily food and beverages like soups, stir-fry's and teas by millions of people around the world.

In the past, these herbs grew deep in the forest, in very particular soil conditions and picked at specific times. But in a new era of industrial agriculture all of this has changed. Herbs are now grown in farms that are heavily dependent on chemical pesticides.


To understand how this pesticide addiction impacts the Chinese traditional medicine sector, Greenpeace visited a handful of regions in China renowned for growing herbs. We also purchased samples of herbal medicine for pesticide testing from nine different cities (including Hong Kong) and from nine companies' stores in China. We also tested samples of herbal products imported from China and collected from stores in London, Virginia (near Washington DC), Paris, Amsterdam, Hamburg, Milan, Toronto and Vancouver.

... or pesticide cocktail?

The results of our investigation revealed a cocktail of pesticide residue on the herbs. Many of these pesticides are illegal in China or classified as 'highly hazardous' or 'extremely hazardous' by the World Health Organisation (WHO). Exposure to pesticides via food consumption poses a significant risk to health, namely the possibility of bioaccumulation within the body. Chronic pesticide poisoning can lead to learning difficulties, hormone disruption and reproductive abnormalities.

This is yet another symptom of a sick industrial agriculture system which produces 'unhealthy products' and fails to deliver healthy food to people. Chinese herbs are just the latest victims of agriculture’s pesticide addiction.

Chinese herbs - REPORTRead the full Chinese report

Chinese herbs - REPORTRead the full International report


Chinese herbs are sick

Chinese herbs have fallen sick due to pesticide-intensive agriculture and need our urgent help to get better. Read and share the personal stories of these five Chinese herbs.

San qi

San qi

I come from a village in Yunnan's Wenshan. When I reach my first birthday I'm ready to go out into the world and heal. My ability to improve blood circulation and soothe nerves has been recognized by many. But the invasion of pesticides in my field has seen the soil, air and water change dramatically. I am now sick from all these pesticides. Please help me and share my story!
San qi


Whether you're plagued by rheumatism or seeking to improve blood circulation, my healing skills are unmatched! Like my namesake, I'm an angel that enters the homes of the sick and tired, and revives life. But in the face of pesticide contamination I myself am now getting sick and soon won’t be able to heal people any more. Please help me and share my story!
San qi


I'm known all over the world, but first appeared in early seventeenth century Europe. People love my bright colours, but behind the beauty of my petals lies a deepening crisis. Pesticide spraying has numbed my smell, taste and nerves. I'm no longer sure if I have kept my former healing abilities: warm bodies, improve eyesight, and give pain relief. Please help me and share my story!
San qi


In busy metropolises everywhere, you will find people that love how I'm able to reduce inner heat and detoxify toxins. But the acrid smell of pesticides has dulled my flavor. Who will remove the pesticides that have invaded my body? Please help me and share my story!
San qi


There's no missing my distinctive green, white and red colours. I'm the proud, lonely, Chinese wolfberry. But every time I'm showered in pesticides my nutrients change and my healing properties are muted. I can no longer shine bright and confident on tree branches around the country. Please help me and share my story!

Ecological farming is the cure

An important first step to #HealTheHerbs is an immediate reduction of chemical pesticides in agriculture, working towards a total elimination. Chemical intensive agricultural is a global problem affecting many countries and requires the immediate address of public authorities around the world.

However to truly end our chemical pesticide addiction once and for all, the global agricultural industry must undergo a paradigm shift towards Ecological Farming, which includes dedicating more financial support by the public authorities from all over the world. Healing Chinese herbs will require facing the deep, systemic failure of chemical intensive agriculture, not simply treating the symptoms.

Ecological farming ensures healthy food for today and tomorrow, protects soil, water and climate and promotes biodiversity. Unlike industrial agriculture, it does not contaminate the environment with genetic engineering, chemical pesticides and synthetic fertilizers. And equally as important, it is for the people, siding with small-scale farmers and local communities. Which is why we here at Greenpeace like to say ecological farming is 'more than food'.

Greenpeace demands

Greenpeace is urging governments to implement more stringent controls and monitoring systems for pesticides residues in food products, carry out clear pesticides reduction programs and divert financial funding towards more ecological farming practices, in particular; non-chemical alternatives to control pests. Greenpeace campaigns to raise global awareness and strive towards a pesticide-free future for all. In doing so, we can heal Chinese herbs and free global agriculture from chemical addiction. You can be a part of our global campaign by simply spreading the news.

Also, Greenpeace is calling on the Chinese herbs companies to publicly disclose all pesticides used in the production of their products and to provide a timeline aimed at reducing their usage. You can sign the petition (in Chinese) to contribute to the companies demands.

What you can do

Tell your friends and spread the message to #HealTheHerbs. Want to do more? Sign the petition to the companies (in Chinese only)

Think we should all be safe from pesticides in our food? Show your solidarity with the global efforts to heal Chinese herbs in 3 easy steps:
 Step 1

1. At your next meal, write "[Name of your city] wants to heal Chinese Herbs" on a napkin or piece of paper.

Step 2

2. Snap a photo with it.

 Step 3

1. Leave your photo as a comment on our Facebook page or upload it onto Twitter or Instagram with the hashtag #HealTheHerbs. We will post your photos here on the website. You can also

Step 4



Five things you can personally do to heal global agriculture

Cook Cook more often

Cook your own meals at home using real food, grown ecologically (fresh, organic, local or seasonal), rather than ready meals or processed food. It’s more healthy and fun!

Grow your own food Grow your own food

Take control of your food by growing it yourself. Not only will you reduce your dependency on agribusiness, you'll also learn a lot about how food is grown and appreciate better the challenging work of farmers. So get your hands dirty and start a vegetable garden and do it without pesticides!

Buy organic and local food Buy organic and local food

Buy organic food that is grown locally by farmers in the area, and that you know and trust. You'll often find them at the nearest farmers market.

Follow the seasons Follow the seasons

Buy seasonal fruit and vegetables, following more the natural growing season in your area. Do we really need to eat strawberries in winter and broccoli in summer?

Avoid food waste Avoid food waste

Only buy the food you really need, when you need it and food you know will actually be eaten. Buying smaller quantities of food but more often will help reduce food waste at home. Also tell your supermarket to reduce food waste in its daily operation. By reducing overall food waste, we can reduce pressure to produce ever more foodstuffs. Be more creative with the ingredients already in your fridge.