Bunches of mountain tea are on sale in a shop in Athens, on Saturday, July 1, 2017. Greek authorities and conservationists say bands of impoverished Albanians make regular forays over the border, illegally harvesting donkey loads of wild herbs and medicinal plants such as mountain tea, also called ironwort, hawthorn and primrose, but also eradicating rare or endangered species. (AP Photo/Yorgos Karahalis)

THESSALONIKI, Greece (AP) — In the rugged, herb-scented mountains of northwestern Greece, where the border with Albania is a snaking invisible line, trouble is brewing over tea – the wild herbal variety.
Greek authorities and conservationists say bands of impoverished Albanians are making regular cross-border forays, illegally harvesting donkey-loads of herbs and medicinal plants. They mostly pick mountain tea – also called ironwort – hawthorn and even primrose, but they are also destroying rare and endangered species in the process.
The looters then sell the herbs for export to pharmaceutical or cosmetics companies, a business that nets Albanian wholesalers tens of millions annually.
It’s illegal in Greece to pick more than a tiny quantity of wild herbs for personal use in traditional infusions. That ban doesn’t exist in Albania, one of Europe’s poorest nations. But, more significantly, …
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