How orangutans influenced our business decisions

Every choice has its consequences. Even when you think you’re doing the right thing, there can be hidden effects, happening in ways you didn’t see coming, in parts of the world that are a long way from home.

That’s the story of Kids’ Tummy TLC, palm trees and how orangutans changed the way we do business.

Let’s start at the beginning. Liquid plant extracts have two main ingredients. The liquid and the plant. The basic recipe is simple too. Chop the plant into tiny pieces. Soak it in liquid. Wait, stir, wait some more, stir some more. Then press out the liquid through a fine filter so all the solid bits are left behind.

Understandably, our plants get a lot of attention. That’s why we have our organic farm in Oregon. And why we spend so much time and effort investigating potential sources for herbs we can’t grow ourselves. (Maybe the herb only grows in the arctic, say, or on top of South American mountains.)

Of course, the liquid matters too. We extract most of our herbs with organic cane alcohol. But alcohol doesn’t work for everybody. That’s why we make alcohol-free products. For example, all our kids’ products like Kids’ Tummy TLC are alcohol-free.

For these, we use something called glycerin

It’s a thick, syrupy liquid that is sweet on the tongue. It’s usually made from palm trees. And it’s versatile. You can find glycerin in all sorts of other products from toothpaste to cookies to soap. But that versatility is where the problem starts.

Demand for palm glycerin has drastically increased over the last few decades. But to meet that demand, farmers across the world have been clear-cutting huge swaths of rainforest, and in their place, planting massive palm tree plantations. This is especially true in Southeast Asia. In Indonesia, for example, palm oil production is the largest cause of deforestation.*

This deforestation is putting countless species at risk from rare plants to small bugs to big, hairy orangutans. The loss is not incidental. Some estimates say endangered Indonesian orangutans have seen their populations halved in recent years.*

So what’s the ethical choice here?

How do you create alcohol-free herbal products to help kids and at the same time, not contribute to a process that endangers the lives of the animals kids love?

Suddenly the plight of orangutans was impacting business decisions in Oregon. (Of course, the animals are not the only risk. Deforestation has numerous other consequences from flooding to soil depletion to global warming.) So, we did what we always do. We found an ethical alternative.

Palm glycerin dominates the market. But when we looked hard, we found a vendor selling organic corn glycerin. The only problem was price. It cost ten times more than palm. We bought it anyway.

Now, we use 100% non-palm Certified-Organic glycerin. In the years we’ve used it, the price has fallen. It’s now only 4-5 times more expensive than palm. We probably spend more on glycerin than any of our competitors. But it’s the right thing to do.

So the next time you’re in the herbal aisle and you spot a bottle of Kids’ Tummy TLC, think of the Indonesian orangutans. We do. And it makes a difference.

 

*Source: (2010, September 16). Science News, Articles, and Information – Scientific American. Is Harvesting Palm Oil Destroying the Rainforests? – Scientific American. Retrieved February 18, 2017, from http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/harvesting-palm-oil-and-rainforests/

 

Our favorite Aviva moments from Expo West 2016

It’s been a whirlwind year since we announced our Aviva partnership before Natural Products Expo West last year. Now the bottles for Adrena Soothe, Adrena Nourish & Adrena Uplift are packed up, shipped out and already open in our customers’ homes across the country. And more collaborations are coming soon.

And Expo West has rolled around again. (For the 99.5% of you that aren’t coming, Expo West is a big convention in Anaheim for companies that make things that are organic or natural in some way. It’s 88,000 people in a big convention center that smells like new carpeting.  It doesn’t really remind us of farms or nature, but it’s actually a bit of fun.)

Anyway, last year we had Aviva with us at our booth holding conversations about topics that interested her. Here are some of our favorite moments from Aviva’s chats at the booth.

Aviva and Sara Katz (Herb Pharm Co-Founder) discuss ethical sourcing

Continue reading “Our favorite Aviva moments from Expo West 2016”

What’s the difference between a root and a rhizome? And where do bulbs and tubers fit in?

dandelion_root2

When you look at a plant in the ground, some parts are easy to spot. Most kids could do it. Hey, there’s the flower. That there is a leaf. Done and done. But below ground, things get a bit more confusing. There are roots, sure, but rhizomes too. And some plants like tubers and bulbs exist almost entirely underground. So what are all these things?

Well, let’s break it down. Continue reading “What’s the difference between a root and a rhizome? And where do bulbs and tubers fit in?”

Out of breath and dizzy in the high Andes home of Maca

Herb Pharm Maca Sourcing

The journey to the heart of Peru’s Maca fields starts in the early morning in Lima. Traffic noise filling the air. Horns of various pitches and volumes competing for attention. Lima is the second largest city in the Americas. Bigger than New York, bigger than LA, bigger than even Rio or Mexico City. Only Sao Paulo is larger.

Getting out of town means hopping in a car with our supplier, putting the deep blue of the Pacific Ocean at your back and heading uphill, crawling through a traffic jam. White taxis cutting you off at slow speed. Pedestrians crossing between idling cars and buses. Until we reach the highway and start the real climb. Continue reading “Out of breath and dizzy in the high Andes home of Maca”

Tasting the berry that’s sweet, sour, salty, bitter and umami all at once

SchisandraQuick, think of a blueberry. Think of what it’s like to pop the thin skin with your teeth. That momentary burst of mild sour tartness. Then a bright sweet flavor that spreads across your tongue. Can you picture it? Is your mouth watering just a little? This is what it’s like to eat something with just 2 flavors. Sour and sweet. Now get ready to imagine a berry that has 5 flavors. Continue reading “Tasting the berry that’s sweet, sour, salty, bitter and umami all at once”

How I Come Up With new herbal formulas

If you’ve ever taken an herbal blend, you’ve probably asked yourself, “What’s in this mixture? Why did they pick these herbs? Why not another herb or that one I saw on TV last week?”

In a couple days, I’ll be launching a new set of products with my friends at Herb Pharm. Before the products appear on shelves and Amazon, let’s take a minute to talk about how we got here.

So if you’re wondering, here’s how I formulate an herbal mixture. Continue reading “How I Come Up With new herbal formulas”

The Egyptians wrote about it. The Romans loved it. You probably own it. You just don’t know why.

GentianHerbalist or no, you probably have Gentian in your home. It’s in the pantry next to that weird bottle of alcohol you got as a gift and never opened. Can’t find it? Don’t worry. Gentian is in every bar in America, Europe or wherever you’re reading this. People take it for its flavor, but it’s not what you think. Continue reading “The Egyptians wrote about it. The Romans loved it. You probably own it. You just don’t know why.”

Bees prefer fresh Chamomile. So do we.

A bee pollinates Chamomile

 

You might recognize Chamomile from its picture on tea boxes. It has a beautiful white flower around a golden cone. We grow it ourselves on our farm in Josephine County, Oregon. Just a few rows of Chamomile in the valley under the Siskiyou mountains.

Bees love Chamomile. You can hear the fields before you step into them. The buzz of thousands of bees. It’s magical. Continue reading “Bees prefer fresh Chamomile. So do we.”