Herbal Commerce: From Growing Fields to You

March 28th, 2018 · No Comments · Conscious Living, Healthy Living

Harvesting Apple Bark

Ya Ya Farm and Orchard is one farm Kroeger Herb Products works with.

Do you ever wonder how herbs get from growing fields to your kitchen cupboard? The intricacies of herbal commerce may be more complex – and important – than you realize! How and where herbs are grown, stored, processed, and packaged can have a tremendous impact on their composition and effectiveness as supplements.

The founder of Kroeger Herb Products, Hanna Kroeger, knew that the quality of her herbs translated directly to how they would affect the health of her customers. So, since Hanna first started selling her products in 1957, we have been searching the world over for the best farmers and harvesters, the best transportation and testing partners, and the best manufacturing processes and retailers, to bring you the best herbal supplement products on Earth. Come with us as we discuss the ins-and-outs of this $32-billion industry with true-to-life examples from Kroeger Herb Products’ very own day-to-day operations.

Herbal medicine has spanned numerous cultures throughout human history, so it should come as no surprise that it remains a global market to this day. That’s not to say, however, that all growers and harvesters are the same. Many are located right here in the United States, while most of the largest operations are based in China and India. Not all herbs are grown on farms even, as many are a product of wild-crafting – sustainable harvesting of wild-growing herbs.

As with size and location, quality can vary immensely from one supplier to the next. The aforementioned large operations in China and India are often known more for quantity than quality… Consider, for example, that 49-million acres (that’s roughly half the size of California) of Chinese farmland is treated with yield-boosting polyethylene mulch. While the plastic mulch does trap heat and moisture in the soil, which is good for growing, the chemicals are damaging to the environment and also have the potential to cause cancer. So while such practices are sure to increase production, they certainly do not insure quality or sustainability. And as mentioned before, mediocre herbs don’t lead to optimum health, so these operations are best avoided.

Luckily, thanks to a strong push from the supplement industry, herb quality overall seems to be steadily improving. And of course, some great suppliers do exist in all areas, and one should always dedicate considerable research to finding these worthy growers, no matter where they may be.

Hand holding apple bark

Apple bark being harvested for Hanna Kroeger’s H-12 Tincture was grown at Ya Ya Farm and Orchard in Colorado with natural and organic farming methods.

At Kroeger Herb Products, although we do have long-term relationships with many farmers, a majority of our herbs are purchased through global distributors. Through these distributors we are connected to healthy, sustainable growing and harvesting operations from around the globe. Some of our regular suppliers can be found right here in Colorado, while others are as far as Eastern Europe, Madagascar, Brazil, China, and India. But no matter how close or how far our herbs come from, each and every one is tested before it can become an ingredient in Kroeger Herb’s products.

The entire American herbal supplement industry is regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (F.D.A.), which makes strong suggestions as to which tests should be performed on commercial herbal products. At Kroeger, every ingredient of every product is tested for microbiological contaminants including heavy metals, harmful bacterium, and pesticides, as well as mold and yeast. Though no specific tests are required by the F.D.A., internal protocol at Kroeger Herb Products does require said tests. Herbs are also tested to ensure they have been correctly identified and labeled. Testing takes from five days to two weeks, and can cost hundreds of dollars per run.

The parameters for contaminants in herbal supplements are extremely low, and are arguably much more stringent than those placed on other food products. For example, the acceptable level of pesticides for herbs is “non-detectable” – meanwhile, thousands of pesticides are used on other food products, such as meat and produce, and are tolerated as residue even after the food has been introduced to commerce. But despite the lack of pesticides in herbal products, you may notice that many brands (including Kroeger Herb) are not certified organic; this is because certification requires that the plants must be grown, not only on a farm, but on a certified organic farm and, as mentioned earlier, many herbs are harvested from the wild.

There are, of course, some things that cannot be tested for, including genetically modified organisms (G.M.O.’s). In order to do so, the complete genetic profile (D.N.A.) of the unaltered herb would have to be matched against all known artificial genomes for said plant. Considering that the human genome was not even fully mapped until 2003, it is highly unlikely we will know the complete genome of any commercial herb in the near future. That is why, though we do not search out G.M.O.’s, it is so difficult to confirm that they are not present; it is essentially impossible. Luckily, however, herbs are not among the botanicals that are commonly altered in this way.

Once testing has been completed and the herbs have been approved for use, they are processed into their desired form. As most of Kroeger’s herbal products are sold in capsule form, very often our first step is to mill the herbs in machinery akin to a giant blender. When being put into this “blender,” the herbs are channeled over incredibly strong rare-Earth magnets. These are used to catch and remove any and all undesired, ferrous metal items that may become mixed into the herbs during harvesting, like broken pieces of farm equipment, for example. Once inside the mill, the herbs are blended until they reach their desired size and consistency for encapsulation.

Some companies also combine their herbs with artificial fillers, flowing agents, or excipients, like magnesium stearate, maltodextrin, and silicon dioxide – or solvents such as hexane, acetone, and methanol. These substances are intended to make the herbs easier to work with by allowing them to flow through production equipment more smoothly. Additives can also make products more cost-effective.  While we recognize these benefits, Kroeger Herb prefers to offer our customers only the purest raw herbs available, so no additives are ever used in our herbal products. Though this may make our manufacturing processes more intensive, we believe it is worth it.

After our herbs are milled and put into vegetarian-sourced capsules, they are transferred to production where they will be put into bottles. We do this with bottling machinery operated by one to two employees, which allows for speedy, partially-automated production, without sacrificing the supervision of trained eyes that can ensure the products are perfectly packaged. Once bottling is complete, a set percentage of all completed product is checked by hand by quality-assurance personnel to confirm the bottling procedure was accurate and that the products are ready to be released for sale.

As a distributer of our own products, a large amount of our stock remains on-site, where it is sold directly to various retailers and practitioners around the world. Some of our closest customers are right in the same county, while some of our furthest are in Canada, England, France, Hong Kong, and Japan.

Another large amount of stock is sold to outside distributors, who also sell to retail stores and practitioners. These larger distributors carry sizable amounts of various products from many different brands, making them the ideal supplier for those who carry a diversity of products and brands all in one store. Once ordered, products are shipped out to your local stores and clinics for you to browse.

Hanna Kroeger's Herbal Combinations

Some of Kroeger Herb Products herbal combinations packaged and ready to go out to people who need them. Twelve different ingredients make up these products sourced from all over the world.

With so many products containing an abundance of ingredients, sourced from a variety of locations, brought to you by numerous brands, it’s understandable that deciding which to purchase can become overwhelming! We recommend looking for those which are grown and harvested by reputable sources, regulated by the Food and Drug Administration, and include no artificial ingredients. Remember the intricacies of herbal commerce and how each of the processes involved affects all of the supplements you have to choose from.

Since 1978, Kroeger Herb Products has focused on quality first, because if our herbs are pure and healthy, our customers can be too. We hope that with insight to the herbal supplement industry, you will discover the very best nature has to offer: clean herbs and optimum health.

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