Medicine: Dwindling Herbs

There's rosemary, that's for sneezing. . . . And pansies, for a purge. There's fennel for flatulence, and columbin for dysentery.

This modern version of Ophelia's plaint could still be sung by mad-eyed U.S. pharmacists. But not much longer. For the supply of many herb-grown medicines is dwindling, and some prices have shot up as much as 200%. Synthetic drugs, such as arsenic compounds for syphilis, or sulfa drugs for infections, are still plentiful, but of the 300 plants commonly used in medicine, only 31 are grown commercially in the U.S. and those in...

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