Brokering Herbs
Answered by: Richard Alan Miller
Question from: Vicki Lopow
Posted on: February 9, 1999

Thank you very much for your reply to my price query.

Our feverfew initially tested at : 2.16+/- 0.1%(w/w). parthenolide. It was just reanalyzed with results of: 3.4%w/w and 3.9%w/w. The variation being due to different extraction methods used. Granted, these results are far higher than anything available at this point in North America.

Our question to you is this: If we can continue to produce a product of this quality, would you be interested in brokering for us?

Since there is a glut of North American feverfew on the market that probably won’t be unloaded until September, according to your information, would you want to introduce our product to buyers after that time?

Based on the high levels of parthenolide that we are seeing, how should this reflect on the prices we should expect?

You stated that your Feverfew initially tested at : 2.16+/- 0.1%(w/w). parthenolide. Then it was reanalyzed with results of: 3.4%w/w and 3.9%w/w. The independent laboratory’s variation was argued to be due to different extraction methods used. My first question back is what lab did you use, and what did they charge you? Maybe I using the wrong labs.... ha ha

I have not seen anything this high except the first year we grew Feverfew. At that time, we also had these higher readings, not seen ever again by any farm (except you now). Here is my thought on that:

1. There are unknowns about the presence of parthenolides in Feverfew. This is why there are still controversies on the importance of higher levels as a measure of the quality of Feverfew. Originally used as a "bench mark" only, it’s use was to determine presence of contaminates, not for "how good it was."

2. One theory right now proposes that first-year productions will show higher levels, much like we did on our first year’s production. However, it also oxidizes with time, and always falls off from crop held in inventory. Some take measures to store it more carefully, holding the oxidation process at bay.

Older crops are not considered as good as new crops, much like hay. First cuttings show more weeds than second cutting, also like hay. Second cut usually has more leaf and less stem, also preferred by some manufacturers.

3. No matter what way you cut it, however, the better qualities should come across to the farmer by taste, color, smell, and feel. You should (eventually) know by what you can "see" with normal eyes, again just like hay. Quality, like chemistry, is often in "the eyes of the beholder," your market and what "they want."

4. Now we come to the real issues at state here: Are the independent Laboratories really so mixed up that their protocol systems need massive revisioning? YES! And more, I actually now believe there is a serious problem with "payola." Bribes and dishonest participating in the sale of crops - who gets what contract from whom.

What I wanted was a business card with a Chess piece on it that said "Paladin: Have gun, will travel." Someone needs to do "due diligence" and hold these various laboratories to traceable standards. This is NOT being done right now by anyone, and is the Health Foods and Nutritional markets next major scandal/problem. It needs immediate addressing.

Even yourself, sending a sample in several times to the same Lab got different results. Which way is it? Can’t have it both ways, and then have the lab say: "We made a mistake the first time." Nice try, but it did not work for me when I was in grad school, why should it for you paying for these results?

Yes, I will be happy to look at your crop and represent it. Remember, however, I have fiduciary responsibilities to my friends and selling their crop first. If you can live with that, then I would be happy to work you.

I will need a sample (a "flake" or "plate" from your bale) so I can see the stem/leaf ratios, smell the roses, and the rest of what I do to represent what you have. Lab studies don’t mean anything to me, especially since I used a Cary Spectrophotometer for my graduate work in Physics.

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