Ethical Choices in Herb Business

HerbPharm_employeesEthical choices face every person on a daily basis. While interpretations of what this means vary from person to person, there are basic values such as honesty, kindness, fairness, and integrity that cross cultural boundaries. As long-time owners of a national herbal extract business in a small Oregon town, we have a special opportunity to live our ethics both through business practices and by providing right livelihood for many local families.

From day one Herb Pharm has walked the ethical path in business choices quite naturally because we have always chosen quality before profit. It has always seemed quite logical to us that, while certain practices may not be profitable on paper, being ethical reaps many important deferred benefits. For example, by offering our employees a comprehensive health plan and a clean, safe and fun working environment, we benefit by having people stay with us for a long time. People work cooperatively and with good spirit, which translates into better efficiency, fewer mistakes, and pride in maintaining the integrity of our products.

In the early days when herb growers and wildcrafters didn’t know how much to charge for the herbs they were selling, they were often surprised when we insisted on paying more than they asked for. We understood the true value of having herbs whose source was completely trustworthy, and that by paying them a fair price we were encouraging them to stay in business for the coming years: a win/win situation.

After 30 years such values have woven themselves deeply into the fiber of our company. We have been fortunate to attract talented people who come to Herb Pharm because of the quality of the products and the positive work environment; people who subsequently impart diligence and care into the manufacture of our products, the creation of our marketing and educational literature, and to the way we serve our customers, suppliers and co-workers. When business is conducted with ethical choices being the guiding light, then choices are easy to make, understand, and gain acceptance.

For a specific example, let’s look at herb quality. For over 30 years Herb Pharm has set and held the standard for uncompromising quality of the herbs that go into our products. Besides our willingness to pay a premium for the highest quality herbs, we also make a point of personally knowing the people who sell their herbs to us. We make sure that they are harvesting their wild herbs in a sustainable fashion – what we call Custom Widcrafted™.

The second way we ensure the quality of our herbs is by growing them ourselves. Our 85-acre certified organic farm in Williams supplies us with approximately 50% of our raw herb needs.

The reaping of ethical choices is further reflected in the manufacturing process. Not only do we fastidiously follow the required GMP’s, but ever since the beginning we have kept meticulous records of every batch of extract, even in the early days when we were concocting them in our home kitchen.

Our labeling is another expression of standards and ethics. Every label gives full and truthful disclosure about the contents within, beyond the requirements of FDA. Furthermore, every label has a number which relates to a specific batch of extracts – we can tell from your bottle exactly when the herbal extract was made and how it was made.

We use certified organic alcohol in the manufacture of our products; we recycle all glass, paper, plastic, cardboard, etc. in our comprehensive recycling program. Our farm is not only certified organic by Oregon Tilth, but is also certified by Salmon Safe, an organization that recognizes farms whose practices assure that waterways remain healthy habitat for native fish. Herb Pharm has been a major supporter and board member of United Plant Savers ever since its inception in 1994. Similarly we have held an active seat on the board of the American Herb Products Association, a key organization that works tirelessly to assure appropriate regulatory and business environment for herb products. We hold board seats on the Williams Watershed Council and Southern Oregon Land Conservancy, and are proud to support local schools, Girls & Boys Club, and other goodwill community endeavors. We participate in the Pacific Powers Blue Sky Program whereby we pay a premium bill that goes towards the development of renewable power sources. Each year we donate a percentage of our net earnings to charitable organizations.

Our approach to medicinal herb extracts, like our business and social service practices, is straightforward and consistent. We sleep well at night knowing that the whole plant extracts that we nurture from seed to shelf are, at every step along the way, the best and most wholesome that we can create.

Originally Published Summer 2006

Home-Made Ginger Ale


  • 1 dropperful of Herb Pharm’s Ginger liquid herbal extract
  • 4 ounces of unflavored, carbonated water
  • For 24, 4-oz. servings use one full, 1-ounce bottle of Ginger liquid extract in 3 quarts of carbonated water

Sweeten to taste with your favorite sweetener.
Stir well before serving.

Herbal Breath Tonic: 100% Certified Organic Herbs

breathtonicsIf you were going to ingest something several times a day, every single day, for years, wouldn’t you be concerned about its quality and the purity of its ingredients? People take great care to choose organic foods and drink clean water, but until now, they have opted for breath fresheners that are anything but organic.

Those days of having to choose between chemically-derived breath gum or breath drops made from conventionally-grown essential oils are over. Herb Pharm’s Breath Tonic™ has arrived, the first herbal breath freshener on the retail market made with all certified organically grown herbs. For those of us that prefer all our herbs and herbal medicines to be organic, this is great news!

Why A Broad-Spectrum Breath Freshening Extract?
Broad-spectrum extracts are important for breath freshening for the same reasons full-spectrum extracts are important for the successful support of daily health: they capture all of the individual, medicinal compounds of plants in order to deliver optimal benefits.

Most herbal breath fresheners are made mostly, if not entirely, of only the essential oils of aromatic plants. Essential oils are very valuable and beneficial, but they represent only one aspect of a plant’s medicinal benefits. They do not include the flavones, tannins, mucilage, gums, antioxidants and more. All of these compounds have significant therapeutic actions on the mouth and gum tissues. When you add up all of these various compounds contributed by the Cinnamon, Ginger, Peppermint and Clove as found in Peppermint and Spearmint Breath Tonic™, the result is a broad spectrum of healthy herbs.

Spray vs. Drop?
Many breath fresheners are not only pure essential oils, but also only come in a squeeze bottle where the user puts a drop of the product directly on the tongue. This not only causes a burning sensation but also does not deliver the product to the entire mouth.

With the Breath Tonic™ single-dose, pump-spray, delivery system you point the spray where you want it. For best breath-freshening results, spray the product towards the back of the tongue, then work up some saliva, mix it up in your mouth, and swish it all over your gums.

Oral Health Program
For a natural and effective, daily oral health program, use Herb Pharm’s Oral Health Tonic™ as a mouthwash with water two to four times per day, and Breath Tonic™ as needed or desired, several times per day. Many of us at Herb Pharm that have been using Breath Tonic™ for a while now have noticed happier gums while enjoying fresher breath!

Originally Published Spring 2007

These Are Not Your Ordinary Encapsulated Herbs


While we believe that there are inherent advantages to the liquid herbal dosage form, solid dosage forms such as capsules and softgels can also be effective herb delivery options if properly made. With this in mind, Herb Pharm is pleased to announce three new encapsulated herb products created with the same meticulous attention to detail we give to all of our products. And as with all of our products, our capsules and softgels are 100% vegetarian and vegan.

Goldenseal root, Milk Thistle seed and Saw Palmetto berries – three of our newer encapsulated herb products – join our two existing herb capsule products, Kava root and Super Echinacea®. All of our encapsulated herbs share important characteristics that anyone seeking an herb product should consider.

The first is our exclusive use of sustainably cultivated and sustainably wildcrafted herbs. Purity and environmental responsibility are at the heart of our philosophy and work, and our encapsulated herbs are no exception. Herb Pharm only uses plants that are certified organically grown, tested free of pesticides and herbicides, or sustainably wildcrafted in their native habitat to ensure conservation of wild plants for future generations.

Next is our close attention to proper harvest timing. It’s often said that timing is everything and this certainly applies to medicinal herbs where precise harvest timing and proper selection of plant part(s) are so vital to producing herbs that are abundant in pharmacologically active constituents with optimal therapeutic efficacy.

Lastly, we never use toxic, environmentally harmful chemical solvents to make our extracts. There’s no point in selecting the purest herbal materials if in the end we pollute our extracts with harmful chemical solvents. Therefore, we only use natural, food and pharmaceutical-grade alcohol and distilled water. We never use toxic chemical solvents like hexane, acetone, methanol, petroleum ether or ethyl acetate.

In putting our philosophies to work, the result is a purity-assured, authentic line of encapsulated herbs that you can choose with confidence and peace of mind.

Our Saw Palmetto vegetarian softgel is made from the dark (deep purple to black) berries of Serenoa repens palms. We use pharmaceutical-grade alcohol to extract optimal levels of both fatty acids and phytosterols. We have found that alcohol extraction provides a broader range of Saw Palmetto’s active compounds than supercritical extraction. Saw Palmetto is primarily known for supporting prostate gland health and also provides general reproductive support for men and women. And unlike some other extract on the market, Herb Pharm’s Saw Palmetto is never extracted with hexane. Each vegetarian softgel contains 160mg of fatty acids.

Milk Thistle is a popular herbal remedy for healthy liver maintenance. Our Milk Thistle capsules are made from the dark, mature seeds of Silybum marianum plants. Our broad-spectrum extract is achieved only through physical rather than chemical defatting and extraction with pharmaceutical-grade alcohol. We never use common defatting and solvent chemicals like petroleum ether and ethyl acetate. Our Milk Thistle is guaranteed to provide 140 mg of silymarin in each vegetarian capsule.

Wild populations of Goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis) have been on the decline for many years, which is why we only use sustainably cultivated plants to make our Goldenseal vegetarian capsules. We use only the root (rhizome and rootlet) without any leaf and all of our Goldenseal is certified organically grown. We grind the rhizomes and rootlets of shade-dried, autumn-harvested plants and encapsulate without further processing.

Rounding out our capsule line are Kava and Super Echinacea® vegetarian capsules. These products are made to promote relaxation and reduce stress, and to support healthy function of the immune system, respectively. Our Kava root comes from chemical-free gardens in the Vanuatu Islands of the South Pacific, considered the best Kava growing region in the world. We use only the underground parts of Kava, commonly called the root but technically consisting of rhizome and root, and we never use any stem or leaf. Our Echinacea is grown on our own certified organic farm in southern Oregon. To fully capture the immuno-modulating compounds in Echinacea, we blend extracts of the root, leaf, flower and seeds.

So if you’re an experienced herb user who prefers capsules, or you’re a new herbal user looking for a place to start, we highly suggest trying our encapsulated herbs. If the herb you seek is not one we encapsulate, then we hope you will reference this article and choose a brand that speaks to the important characteristics that embody a quality herbal supplement.

Originally Published Summer 2011

Stress Manager™


Some say that life is a response to stress. While that may seem callous, it is safe to say that our responses to normal stress help keep us alive. Stress resulting in a fight or flight response is part of our adaptive process, keeping us out of immediate danger and is typically short-lived and our recovery from it rapid. However, stress changes when it becomes a day-in, day-out condition without chance of recovery. The effects of chronic, unchecked stress take a toll on many aspects of our health.

Lifestyle choices are critical in dealing with stress and should include some form of relaxation. It is also helpful to regularly engage in some enjoyable and nurturing activity. Herbally, there are plants called adaptogens that are particularly well suited to helping us cope with chronic and excessive stress. Adaptogens help the body to rebalance internal regulating systems and increase biological resistance to diverse physical, chemical, biological and psychic factors. The ideal adaptogen is non-toxic and non-specific in the sense that it increases resistance to a wide range of stressors and has a normalizing action – whether dealing with excessive conditions or insufficiencies.

Our new Stress Manager™ is an excellent adaptogenic compound that brings together the following adaptogens:

  • Eleuthero  root (Eleutherococcus senticosus)
  • Reishi  fruiting body, also known as “mushroom” (Ganoderma lucidum)
  • Holy Basil  herb (Ocimum sanctum & O. gratissimum)
  • Rhodiola root (Rhodiola rosea)
  • Schisandra berry (Schisandra chinensis)

Eleuthero, formerly known as “Siberian Ginseng” is one of our most important adaptogenic herbs. Eleuthero appears to enhance resistance to overwork and environmental factors such as heat and cold. It is a superior herb for support in the face of chronic stress and physical exertion.

Reishi has been used for thousands of years in China and Japan as a longevity tonic and is referred to by names translating as “spirit plant” and “divine mushroom.” It is an important adaptogenic herb, aiding adaptation to both physical and mental stress. In traditional Chinese medicine, Reishi is an herb that has the ability to enhance shen (spirit) and is thus of service in mental, emotional and spiritual stress.

Holy Basil is used in Ayurvedic medicine to clear the mind and improve memory, enhance immunity, strengthen the nervous system and improve digestion. Recent research suggests that Holy Basil may be an antioxidant, helping to curb destructive free radical reactions (peroxidation) in the body.

For centuries, Rhodiola has held a place in Asian and Scandinavian traditional medicine for enhancing strength and physical endurance, longevity and fertility. Over the past 30 years, studies in Russia and Sweden have confirmed these uses. Rhodiola is particularly well suited to deficient, stress-related states that manifest in disturbed sleep, poor appetite or over-eating, irritability, depression, hypertension, headache and general fatigue.

Schisandra was listed in ancient Chinese texts among the superior medicines, which were claimed to slow aging. From these revered texts, Schisandra is becoming evermore popular in modern Western herbalism. Like Reishi, Schisandra is also said to quiet the spirit and calm the heart. Traditional uses include irritability, memory loss and insomnia, including dream-disturbed sleep.

Adaptogens like those in Stress Manager are becoming more important in today’s world because they improve our response to newer, constant stresses like pollution, noise and even an over-abundance of information. Strengthening nerves and immunity coupled with an antioxidant action and ability to promote calm energy and mental clarity make Stress Manager a wonderful daily tonic. In today’s world of increasing chronic stress, Stress Manager is something we can all use.

Originally Published Winter 2012

Digestive Bitters

Digestion, of all the bodily functions, is the one which exercises the greatest influence on the mental state of an individual.
– Jean-Anthelme Brillat-Savarin

digest… In fact, the essence of good physical and mental health is rooted in good digestion. It provides all of the starting materials for building and maintaining our physical being. Every organ, every system and every function of our body relies on these starting materials to function properly. If our digestion falters, it quickly begins to take a toll on our entire well-being. Since our digestion does so much for us, what can we do in turn to keep our digestive system healthy and happy?

The digestive process is a complex and well-synchronized combination of physical and chemical processes. Our choices of food and quantity together with our mental outlook while eating, have a huge impact on digestion. Chewing and swallowing, which are the beginning of the digestive process, are voluntary actions. After we consciously swallow our food, digestion switches from a voluntary to an involuntary process. While the conscious choices we have made leading up to this point will strongly influence digestion, the rest of the process is out of our direct control. Still, there is one more conscious step we can take to positively impact digestion – take Digestive Bitters.

Herbal digestive bitters begin working as soon as they reach the taste buds in our mouth. The bitter taste has a reflex action on our stomach and pancreas, stimulating the production of digestive juices. Bitters also stimulate the liver and prepare the gall bladder for the release of bile. Using bitters before eating has always been a good idea, but the need for additional bitters has become a necessity as most people have eliminated most of the bitter foods from their diet.

Bitters are a true tonic that should be taken regularly over time in the same way that bitter foods would be consumed. Continued use of Digestive Bitters is not only safe, it is the most effective way to use bitters. The positive effect of bitters on digestion actually increases with time and the full effect is seen only after continued and prolonged use.

Good digestion is considered the foundation of health. It is the gateway for all of the amino acids, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins, minerals and herbs that feed and heal our bodies and is thus linked to every other condition in the body. Secondary benefits of bitters therapy include mild but positive effects on blood sugar and blood lipids, easing of constipation and improvement in chronic skin conditions. Also, Digestive Bitters can be a synergetic adjunct to many other herbal compounds.

Digestive Bitters should be taken ten to fifteen minutes before meals to help activate the digestive process. Use twenty to forty drops in a small amount of water, which should be sipped slowly and allowed to mingle with your taste buds. This formula is wonderfully aromatic with an underlying bitter taste. The bitterness may seem a little foreign at first, but the overall aromatic and warming flavor will quickly become a favorite part of every meal.

Originally Published Fall 2009

Herbal Ed Lectures in the Kingdom of Bhutan

bhutan_monestaryThis past September I had the honor of lecturing at the 7th International Congress on Traditional Asian Medicine which was held in the Kingdom of Bhutan. Herb Pharm was a corporate sponsor of the event. The congress was attended by 300 people from 30 different countries, including traditional healers, doctors, herbalists and acupuncturists from Tibet, China, India, Thailand, Bhutan, Korea and Japan; academic scholars, including medical anthropologists, medical historians, ethnologists, agronomists, ethnobotanists, many government healthcare policy makers; and one American herbalist, me.

I presented a lecture on “Conservation of Wild Medicinal Plants Through Sustainable Wild-Harvesting and Propagation by Organic Agriculture,” and participated in several round-table discussions on conservation of endangered medicinal plants of the Himalayas. Besides attending this very interesting congress, I was also very happy to finally visit the exotic and very isolated Kingdom of Bhutan and its serene and friendly people. Before 1963 there were no roads going into Bhutan, so one could only enter the country by hiking through very dense, tiger-infested jungles in the south, or by trekking over very high Himalayan mountain passes in the north.

It’s not easy getting a travel visa to Bhutan; they only allow in a small number of tourists per year. Bhutan – which many call “The Last Shangri-la” – is very isolated geographically and is just coming into the modern world. This emerging nation is now modernizing, but not at the expense of overwhelming its traditional culture and pristine environment. Fortunately Bhutan’s king is very wise and is learning from the mistakes made by other devel-oping nations. The Bhutanese government’s guiding philosophy of Gross National Happiness (GNH) gives precedence to its people’s happiness over GNP (Gross National Product). The government allows very few multinational corporations to establish in Bhutan and, instead, favors and promotes its own people and businesses. Television and internet only arrived in 1999. It was so pleasant in the capital city of Thimpu with-out the likes of McDonalds, KFC or 7-11. There are no electric signs; the air is very clean because there are few cars and the sale of tobacco is banned nationwide; also, the national sport is archery, not soccer; and most citizens still wear traditional Bhutanese costume. With a population of 650,000, 80% percent of Bhutanese derive their income from agriculture, of which 95% is free of synthetic chemicals.

The new government has rejected GMOs and only allows the introduction of a few non-native plants. They are very supportive of the development of internationally-certified organic agriculture. Free medical care is provided for all, and the government fully supports the Bhutanese traditional healing system, which is very similar to traditional Tibetan medicine. I visited their National Institute of Traditional Medicine Services which has a traditional-medicine hospital, medical school, and a manufacturing herbal pharmacy for which I’ve been asked to consult in order to bring it up to an international GMP standard. I was extremely proud to represent Herb Pharm at such a prestigious international congress and to see how favorably impressed attendees were by the work we all do.

Originally Published Winter 2010

Herbal Spotlight: Holy Basil (Ocimum sanctum & gratissimum)

Legend has it that Tulsi, a Hindu goddess and consort to Lord Vishnu, chose to be reincarnated as a sacramental herb in order to express her devotion to Lord Vishnu. That herb was given her name, Tulsi, also known as Holy Basil. Holy Basil is one of the most sacred herbs in Ayurveda, the traditional medicine of India, and has been highly revered in Hinduism for thousands of years.

Known as the “Mother Medicine of Nature” and the “Queen of Herbs,” Holy Basil is worshipped by Hindu devotees of Lord Vishnu/Krishna. All parts of the plant from the roots up are considered sacred. Rosary beads are made both from the stem and the smooth seeds. The ground in which Holy Basil grows is sacred and even the wind that carries its scent is considered blessed. It is seen as the protector of life from birth through death. Worshipping the plant is thought to bring riches and good fortune, protect from disaster and erase sin. A leaf or two placed in a dying person’s mouth, or a single plant placed in a funeral pyre, is believed to have the power to protect the person from hell and guide them to salvation.

In esoteric terms, Holy Basil is used to give the protection of the divine, open the heart and mind and strengthen love, compassion and devotion. It has become a popular herb for clearing the mind and promoting calmness and mental clarity. But what role will this highly revered medicine from ancient India play in the modern, western world? Recent research suggests that Holy Basil may be antioxidant and adaptogenic. We look forward to seeing these developments and the changing role of this ancient herb. In the meantime, Holy Basil is a wonderful daily tonic.

Herb Pharm’s Holy Basil extract combines two varieties of Ocimum sanctum and one variety of Ocimum gratissimum. All three plants are fairly similar. Of the two Ocimum sanctum varieties, the green-leafed Rama is considered more energetically neutral while the dark green to purple-leafed Krishna is considered more fiery and clearing. Ocimum gratissimum, known as Vana or forest Tulsi, has properties in common to both Ocimum sanctum varieties and is considered sweeter. All varieties of our Holy Basil are certified organically grown in India.

If you want to try growing your own Holy Basil, seed for Ocimum sanctum is available from sources such as Seeds of Change™. It grows under the same conditions as Sweet Basil and lends a wonderfully pungent, aromatic character to the garden. The leaves can be used as a tea with honey for clearing the mind or like a strong form of Sweet Basil in salads and cooking.

Tonic herbs like Holy Basil or Tulsi are some of our most important herbal allies. Tonics help us to maintain our health, which in turn means we need to use more overtly therapeutic medicines less often. They help connect us to something more wild and primal than our commonly cultivated foods. Yet like foods, they can be used on a daily basis. We will no doubt be hearing much more about Holy Basil in the future.

Originally Published in July 2004

Herbal Spotlight: Bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis)

A member of the Papaveraceae or Poppy family, Bloodroot is a native wildflower from the shaded woodlands of eastern North America. In early spring, this perennial root projects a tender shoot that is tightly wrapped around an elegant single flower. The white petals with yellow centers emerge in the early months of March and April. Native American tribes harvested the root of this plant for a wide variety of ailments in our traditional medicinal heritage and current research continues to study the unique constituents in the root of this plant. The distinctive red “blood” in Bloodroot exudes heavily from the fresh root when broken, giving the plant both its common name and botanical genus.

Due to the increasing demand of wild-harvested Bloodroot and loss of native habitat, Bloodroot has been listed as an “At-Risk” species by United Plant Savers. Yet, in the rich, moist woodland soils along our farm’s field edges, the flesh-like fingers of Bloodroot are expanding beneath the ground. We began an initial trial planting of Bloodroot in 2007 from small root pieces that we received from an Appalachian nursery in Tennessee. With these small roots, we planted a single 140 foot bed of Bloodroot along the forest edge.

After three years of cultivation, we decided to record our growth rate and potential yields last autumn. What had emerged was a success. The roots had tripled in physical size and each root exemplified vigorous health. This plot had yielded 22 pounds from 43 bed feet, so almost ½ pound per foot! The farm has submitted trial data on drying specifications and small samples for analytical testing, but we have mainly relied on the initial planting as a propagation springboard. We have quadrupled the size of our field plots over the last two seasons through root division. Our goal is to provide dried Bloodroot for production starting in Fall 2013. Given the right soil and shade conditions, I am encouraged by Bloodroot’s potential to continue thriving at our farm in Williams.

Originally Published in November  2011

Herb Pharm Reaches Out to Troubled Youth

On April 18th, I spent an afternoon working with several young men at the Rogue Valley Youth Correctional Facility, which is located in Grants Pass. The facility is dedicated to housing and rehabilitating males (who are charged with criminal offenses between the ages of 12-18). The trained staff fully recognizes the importance of interaction between the offenders in custody with their family and members of the local community to create a new direction in their young lives. The idea of planting and tending a medicinal herb garden to foster a positive change was the first step in collaboration between Sherri Harmon, correctional staff employee, and Herb Pharm.

After disclosure of herb seeds, seedlings, organic fertilizer, and personal items, I was admitted into the facility, where I met the group of young men eager to learn about gardening. The plants glowed with vibrancy and life amongst the white walls, metal doors, and concrete. I had begun to capture their attention as we tasted the bitter Artichoke leaves and chewed slowly on Echinacea seed. We talked about the gentle nature of Catnip tea, extracting resinous Calendula flowers, and other examples of plants for medicinal use. After that basic primer on the medicine of herbs, and more in soil biology and seed propagation, it was time to get our hands in the dirt. The boys began turning new soil, adding compost and mixing potting soil in their small greenhouse. We planted Mullein, Echinacea, Feverfew, and Lavender along the concrete edges of the courtyard, planted the seeds of cilantro and peppers for food as medicine, and transplanted many other herbs and seeds into containers. I sensed the excitement in the group towards the future tending of this new garden and recognized the opportunity to learn new concepts and skills for each of them. Our accomplishment ended with high-fives and handshakes, as I passed the daily commitment of watering, weeding, and harvesting onto the group and vowed to return in a few weeks to see how the garden was growing.

So, as our culture re-discovers the power of herbal plant healing, people are not just grabbing tinctures and teas for acutely treating bruises, colds and headaches. We are realizing the potential benefits that plants offer on deeper level. Many common herbs offer us a broad, safe path to social, mental, physical, and environmental wellness. For these young men, my hope is that through learning to grow and use medicinal plants, it will help expose new skills towards a better understanding of themselves and their impact on the broader community.

Originally Published in June 2012