Farmers in northwest China are finding new ways to increase their incomes by growing herbs used in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM). For many years farmers in Weiyuan County, Gansu Province [south of Lanzhou], have made their living by growing TCM herbs like astragalus mongholicus and angelica, but profits have always been thin and the living poor. Everything changed when in 2010 when Li Haidong started adding selenium-rich fertilizer to his astragalus and suddenly his business boomed. “One mu (0.07 hectares) of ordinary astragalus produces about 450 kg of the herb, and each kg fetches less than 35 yuan (5.40 U.S. dollars),” Li said. Li had heard that selenium-rich astragalus sold for a much higher price, so began feeding his plants selenium and was soon the talk of the county…Full Article: Xinhua Finance Mar 2016

Key Points

  • A total of 123 villages out of Weiyuan County’s 217 cultivate traditional Chinese medicine crops.
  • In addition to boosting the body’s overall immune system, selenium-rich Astragalus is used in traditional Chinese medicine to treat diabetes, cardio-cerebrovascular disease, and (reportedly) cancer.

ChinaAg Comments

  • Selenium is a beneficial micro-nutrient to both animals and plants that can be toxic in high doses. Healthy selenium consumption can help promote the functioning of the thyroid gland and lower the risk of type 2 diabetes.
  • In 2013, sales in mainland China of TCM products totaled approximately CNY 120 billion (~US$19.3 billion).

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