Our 3 Pillars and Why They Matter
As an Ayurvedic company, Banyan Botanicals believes in living in harmony with the whole—that we are a part of nature and nature is a part of us. In the words of Chief Seattle, “Man does not weave this web of life. He is merely a strand of it. Whatever he does to the web, he does to himself.”
At Banyan, this principle influences everything we do. As an abiding commitment to our original vision, our three central pillars of organic, sustainable sourcing, and fair trade remain the guiding focus of our business practices. We commit to doing what is best—for you, for the planet, and for future generations.
But why are these pillars important? Why have we so passionately committed to them since our inception nearly 23 years ago?
Why Organic Matters
Organic is at the heart of protecting our environment and its citizens—two-footed, four-footed, legless, and winged alike. Certified organic assures that our herbs are grown on farms and by farmers who emphasize the use of renewable resources and the conservation of water and soil.
At its core, organic farming enhances ecological harmony by promoting biodiversity and honoring natural biological cycles. It uses farming and harvesting practices that minimize pollution from the air, soil, and water. It ultimately optimizes the health of soil, plants, animals, and people.
This organic certification is a guarantee that pesticides, chemical fertilizers, sewage sludge, GMOs, or ionizing radiation played no part in the production or the processing of our herbs.
As of 2018, 100% of certifiable products were certified organic (minerals like salt and shilajit cannot be certified organic). This includes our tablets, bulk herbs, base oils, balms, liquid extracts, most cooking ingredients (except for those containing salt), Chyavanprash—and we could go on.
If It’s Organic, It’s Non-GMO
GMO crops are grown with genetically-modified seeds and environmentally-damaging herbicides, which directly contradict the principles of growing organically—along with the Ayurvedic principle of living in harmony with nature!
We have offered exclusively non-GMO products since we opened our doors in 1996. As the certification process for non-GMO foods and supplements has recently gained traction, we began the certification of our products.
Now, 100% of our tablets and bulk herbs are certified non-GMO. Nothing about our products changed, just the label. But it was crucial to us that our customers know without a doubt that our products are safe and do not contain GMO ingredients.
And, for all those products that do not have the Non-GMO Project logo, rest assured that since it’s organic, it is by nature non-GMO.
Sometimes we’re asked if non-GMO is the same as organic. It’s not. Non-GMO is an important first step, but organic certification goes much further. A non-GMO product simply guarantees that genetically modified seeds are not used, but those crops may still use pesticides, sewage sludge, or chemical fertilizers, for example, while organic products cannot.
How Sustainably Sourced Herbs Protect the Future of Ayurveda
Sustainable sourcing is the commitment to future generations that the herbs and the trees and the land that supports them will be available for many years to come.
Most Ayurvedic herbs grow naturally in the wild. As Ayurveda spreads, the demand for these amazing plants increases, which can quickly outstrip the natural supply. Many of these plants take a long time to recover and regenerate, and without care during harvesting, plants can be damaged or killed outright and their environments can be compromised.
Unfortunately, this is often the case—many are wild-harvested without regard for long-term effects on the plant or its environment. Now, an alarming percentage are threatened. Herbal specialists estimate that nearly one in five of all herb species are threatened due to over-harvesting and habitat loss. To put it in different numbers, that’s 10,000 herb species.1
Our Sustainability Efforts in Action
Banyan Botanicals is working to reverse this trend. We harvest some of our herbs and ingredients from the wild, and when we do, we ensure the utmost care is taken so the plant can recover and regenerate and that its habitat is not impaired.
We also support projects that work with local farms across India to establish cultivated sources of our favorite herbs, preserving plant species and growing them with respect for the earth.
Take arjuna bark: when we harvest the bark, we are careful to cut strips or chunks of bark from each tree that are small enough so we do not tax and irrevocably harm the trees.
For another example, when we reformulated our Immune Strong tablets, we chose to remove osha root. Wildcrafted osha is now deemed “regionally scarce,” and while there are still cultivated sources, they aren’t always consistent. In keeping with our commitment to sustainably sourced ingredients, we changed our formula.
For one last story, we’ll talk about guggulu: our guggulu is organic—and while this may not seem to fit here under our discussion on sustainability, it begins with sustainability issues.
Guggulu’s story follows the troubling pattern wild plants are faced with today. The part used in Ayurveda is the plant’s resin. It is so effective and so wildly popular that its skyrocketing demand could not keep up with what guggulu could naturally produce in the wild.
Without respect to how much resin each plant could safely provide and without allowing the plants the time to recover, guggulu plants quickly diminished in the wild. Those harvesting the resin would sometimes use chemicals to get a higher amount of resin, and sometimes they would overtap the plant, killing it.
It was at this juncture that we were able to create a solution. Our guggulu comes from a farming cooperative in rural Rajasthan, India, in which we have established sustainable, reliable, and organic guggulu. This farming project is one of the first and only organic, cultivated sources of guggulu in the world!
The guggulu trees are carefully maintained and are only tapped when they are fully mature, which takes eight years. After tapping, the trees need time to recover, which takes two years. Needless to say, this is a labor of love, but so worth it.
We have decades’ worth of stories that point to the challenges and triumphs of working to protect plant species and their natural environments. As we continue, we know we’ll continue to gather more stories—because, to us, protecting the welfare of the plants and their habitats is the key to the sustainability of Ayurveda itself.
The Impact of Fair Trade
Fairly traded herbs mean that everyone involved in the farming and production process is paid a fair and stable price for their products.
Many of the farming projects we support are organized in cooperatives that are made up of 10–20 families working together as a group. As of 2018, 100% of our herbs were grown by contract growers, cooperative groups, or sourced from herbal traders.
We also provide extra income for farmers to improve their quality of living. By working directly with the farmers, we also assist them in achieving a stronger position in world markets. And, because of our connection with them, we create a closer link between provided goods and consumers.
When you purchase our products, you are supporting these families and the positive choices they make.
How FairWild Bibhitaki Makes a Difference
Our FairWild bibhitaki can help illustrate fair trade in practice. Historically, the fruits from the bibhitaki trees were rarely collected because the value was priced too low and the market was too far away for it to be worth the farmers’ time and effort.
Because we see the value in protecting and preserving the bibhitaki trees and the fruits themselves and we believe in supporting local communities, we work with the farmers, provide a reliable market to sell, and offer a premium price for the fruits. This creates a built-in incentive for the local community to protect these trees (which, is a win-win for sustainability!).
The end result is the entire supply chain is able to share in the benefits, the collectors receive fair compensation for their work, and through a FairWild Premium fund, community social development is supported.
Our Promise to You
Reflecting back on what Chief Seattle said, whatever we do to the web of life, we do to ourselves. And because we are a part of the web, how we go about our business sends out reverberations through the entire world.
As we grow, these reverberations grow stronger. We are committed to making sure our impact leads to ever greater harmony with nature as we care for the earth, act to protect plants and habitats, and support communities throughout.
For us, these pillars are guides for how we make our decisions every day, and we remain committed to pouring our energy and efforts into providing safe, reliable, trustworthy products that leave behind a trail of good for everyone—habitats, plants, animals, and people alike.