Marketing Ephedra and Echinacea Purpurea
Answered by: Richard Alan Miller
Question from: Martin Partners, Ltd.
Posted on: June 18, 1998

Want information on marketing Ephedra and Echinacea Purpurea

With these two crops (especially), more detailed information would be helpful to address a general question on marketing. With that, let me start off by saying that the total buyers involved with Echinacea purpurea root is limited to the larger botanical houses on each Coast. In the East, Wilcox Natural Products and MAFCO each buy as much as 400,000 lbs. per year. Most of this is exported to Germany, the primary buyer and user.

These purchases are slanted to the pharmaceutical trade. There also now exists a large and growing horticultural (ornamental) market. While the rotation for this rootcrop is generally 3 to 5 years, the tops, seed, and often flowerheads are also marketed each year as a bi-product. And this species is one of three marketed in this fashion.

The problem with E. purpurea is that almost every tobacco grower in Canada cultivated this crop as an incentive away from the subsidized tobacco programs. Tax incentives were offered. What does this mean? It means that in the next two to three years, there will be surplus of this crop, and the prices will drop to substandard par. Another crop for the bankers, unfortunately.

Current price for this root is U.S.$25/lb., FOB, and $3.50/lb. for the tops (swathed, windrowed, and baled).

Mormon Tea (our domestic equivalent to Ephedra; Ephedra nevadensis; listed in Richters catalogue under "Ephedra") looks to be strong and growing market. While the Chinese Ephedra (Ma Huang; Ephedra sinica) has the preferred chemistry with ephedrine sulfate, U.S. customs and the U.S. FDA have been "red-tagging" most imports, leaving the diet pill market to look for alternatives.

That leaves Mormon Tea as the most preferred substitute. While the chemistry is D-norpseudoephedrine, only one moeity different from ephedrine found in the Chinese counterpart, E. sinica, it actually is about 4X less effective biochemically. But it is also cheaper and much easier to gather from the wild (Texas, New Mexico, Utah, and parts of Colorado).

As a footnote, the domestic variety has also found itself in the Merck Index. There are now four new formulas on how to manufacture methamphetamine (originally only made from phenyl-2-propenol and methylamine) using is d-norpseudoephedrine. This is probably another reason why it is now enjoying strong and growing markets.

The primary buyers are tableters, using it as a bronchial dilator and diet pill. The OPD Chemical Buyers Directory would offer a host of names and address.

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