Making Herbal Products
Answered by: Conrad Richter
Question from: Tara Singh
Posted on: February 7, 1999

I’m interested in making some of my own herbal products. Do you have any information on how I can get started?

I know what herb I would like to use for what treatment but I need to know where I can get information on how to prepare my product and on government procedures.

From your query about government procedures, I am assuming that you are thinking of making and selling your own medicinal herbal products. We also note from your email address that you are probably located in Canada.

There are many elements to starting this kind of business. Government regulation is increasingly a concern because governments in both Canada and the United States are moving to regulate the manufacture of such medicinal herb products. A main thrust of those moves is on the side of "Good Manufacturing Practices" (GMP) which would impose rules on the procedures and documentation of the manufacturing process. In addition, in Canada at least, there will be a "site licensing" and "site inspection" fees. The amounts of these fees initially proposed were a source of considerable controversy in Canada, leading the natural products industry to accuse the government of imposing an unfair tax grab. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is in consultation with the U.S. industry on plans to develop GMP rules south of the border.

In addition to the GMP, there are very tight controls over what herbs you can use and, especially, what you say on the labels on your products. The rules are difficult to ascertain from Health Canada -- there is a major review of the whole natural products industry underway, so you may need to dig hard to get an understanding of the current rules. To be sure, Health Canada does not allow you to make any health claims on your packages unless you have what is called a Drug Identification Number (DIN) for each product. These can be expensive to apply for, and some companies choose not to put health claims on the label, so the products are treated as "foods", not as "drugs".

Aside from the regulatory issues, you need to do some manufacturering research. You need to experiment with different formulas, containers, labels, etc. It is an art to find the right mix of all the elements that go into manufacturering a herbal product. There are companies that specialize in helping herb companies to develop products for the market. Representatives of one company, Gelda Scientific, spoke at the Richters Second Commercial Herb Growing Conference, and the transcripts are available in the Richters online catalogue.

An starting point is Bertha Reppert’s book, "Growing Your Herb Business", which is available from Richters. While this book is not only about making medicinal products, it has a lot of useful information, including sources for jars, bottles, etc. Lee Sturdivant’s book, "Herbs for Sale" (also available from Richters) is another excellent reference. You would do well to get both.

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