The Bozhou Herb Market

When I told Jerry Wu, president of Dingxun Botanicals, that I wanted to see herb markets, he took that as a clear request to take us to the largest herb market on Earth. "We are going to the herb market in Bozhou, which will require a little travel." Jerry told us. The 12-hour road trip took us from Shanghai, on the coast of Jiangsu Province, to China's Central Plains region at the far northwestern corner of neighboring Anhui Province. The agriculturally diverse region is also home to large-scale cultivation of numerous crops, including an astounding 600,000 acres of medicinal herbs!

Bozhou has a history of more than 400 years in the commercial cultivation and trading of medicinal herbs, and the city is home to the annual Chinese national medicinal herbs fair. Of the four major herb markets in China, Bozhou is the largest. Occupying 85 acres, the market is home to more than 6,000 traders who sell their healthful wares five days a week, at an annual sales volume of about $600 million U.S.

No amount of prior explanation could have adequately prepared us for the grand scale of the market, which was jammed with thousands of people and thousands of herbal displays. Large jute and hemp sacks of loose herbs stood packed against each other from one end of the hall to the other. As we struggled through pressing crowds, Jerry explained the use of various medicinal herbs.

When dealers noticed our apparent interest in epimedium, they broke out in smiles. "Very good for sex," one told us. Another remarked, "That will make you sexually strong." The comments we received were pretty universal. I inquired into the tonnage of horny goat weed that sold every year. Nobody knew for sure, but traders estimated sales of over 100 tons per year. Without a doubt, amidst the awesome spectacle of the world's largest herb market, horny goat weed was declared the reigning king of herbal sex enhancers.