Sustainability, Environment, Ethical Sourcing
The Natural Health Science Foundation is guided in these matters by specialists, including the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew in the UK. We are active supporters of Dr Bob Allkin and his team at Kew who are working on the Medicinal Plants Naming Services (MPNS) and the important Plants for Health project.
Raw materials from wild harvested sources often result in variability in quality because samples sourced from different areas are pooled together to meet batch size requirements. Additionally, correct identification of the plant is a significant challenge. When medicinal plants are collected from the wild, best practice requires a professional botanist to confirm the identity of the plant, the selection of the plant part and the appropriate timing for collection. Given the often unpredictable demand for medicinal plants, and sometimes their long growing cycles, wild collection can result in serious sustainability issues, including the risk of extinction of the plant. In these circumstances there are even larger risks of deliberate or mistaken substitution of different plants, which has direct safety and efficacy consequences. For these reasons, cultivation is often a better way to ensure consistency than wild harvesting.
Harvest timing is critical. In some cases, the active ingredients in plant extracts change significantly depending on which stage of the growth cycle the plant is picked. An autumn harvest will yield different extracts to spring harvest for many plants.
Which part of the plant should we harvest? Leaves, flowers, roots and barks all contain different substances and effectiveness is dependent. An example is Asiatic Ginseng where because the well-studied main root is expensive, less ethical suppliers will dilute with other less effective plant parts such as the root hairs.
If the harvested plant material is dried, the use of heat may damage important active ingredients.
Cultivation methods should observe Good Agricultural Collection Practices (GACP) management system. For more information on GACP see the standards defined by the World Health Organisation .
- Sustainable harvesting procedures
- Output forecasting and planning
- Herbs bought directly from farms with long-term contracts ensuring stable supply and consistent pricing
- Stable and broad network of herb suppliers and farmers
- Supply from GACP-certified plantations or other established farms
Environment and Ethics
- Taking steps to reduce the carbon footprint, introduction of renewable energy.
- Waste management practices such as recycling, water management.
- Reducing energy requirements and processing aids during manufacturing
- Integrated supply systems
- Collaboration with local producers with Best Practices systems in-place
- Local Partners with established experience within the herb processing industry as gatekeepers to ensure integrity throughout the chain of custody
- Consideration and respect are afforded to indigenous people and cultures in regions from which raw materials are sourced.
Risk Assessments In Place
- Risks due to natural disasters, heavy metals, pesticides
- Information feedback processing centres for monitoring market conditions in cultivation origin and quality
- Chain of rapid response mechanisms.
- Collecting information on risk assessment, response measures.
- Systems Improvements are integrated to ensure appropriate revision and alignment of strategies and policies.