While the popularity of certain medicinal plants may ebb and flow, the need for research and clean ingredients remains steady for botanical extracts in finished products.
The National Institutes of Health’s Office of Dietary Supplements sums up a botanical best in its definition of the item—“a plant or plant part valued for its medicinal or therapeutic properties, flavor and/or scent.” Upon being soaked in a liquid that removes chemicals, that liquid can then be evaporated and made into a dry extract for capsules or tablets, or used as is.
Botanicals are known for their antimicrobial, antioxidant and anti-allergic benefits—German chamomile (Matricaria recutita) has been utilized to treat skin conditions. But this only represents a microcosm of what plant extracts can offer, and extract fads and trends ebb and flow.
Extracts in oil and powder form have gained a reputation, especially from Botanic Innovation, a Wisconsin producer of these which come from non-GMO (genetically modified organism) fruit, grain and herb seeds. Some, such as chia seed oil, have been observed to have actually cooled down in popularity.
“Botanic Innovations has been producing Organic Black Cumin Seed Oil and Organic Black Cumin Seed Nutri-Powder for almost two decades (at our plant in Wisconsin), and we have supporting clinical research with Organic Black Cumin Seed Oil and Nutri-Powders that is pushing a decade old,” said Rebecca Blahosky, vice president of sales and marketing. “Yet, the past one to two years has seen a significant jump in this ingredient, and we are getting inquiries for these ingredients on a global scale. This ingredient has a long history of safe use to support a variety of wellness applications, so it’s very exciting to witness the explosion of interest in these ingredients. Other plant seed oils—from cranberry to pomegranate to tomato, etc. are gaining in popularity as well—as long as they’re cold pressed and unadulterated like Botanic Innovations are. Chia Seed Oil was hot about five-plus years ago, but now is almost mainstream. We look at the popularity and consumer acceptance of chia seed oil as a huge opportunity for other nutritional oils (and nutritional oil blends) that can help support human wellness.”
Blahosky noted that the Organic Black Cumin Seed Oil has a primary use in oil blends used as dietary supplements, adding that the company produces NatureFRESH Cold Press fruit, vegetable and herb seed oils, and nutri-powders, offering comprehensive benefits that help support overall human wellness—this includes supporting heart, brain, skin, health and more.
California-based Ethical Naturals, who individuals might recognize as being a supplier of several common standardized extracts such as milk thistle, grape seed and Ginkgo biloba, offers further variety, according to Cal Bewicke, CEO, such as:
• Cranberex, a cranberry extract that supports urinary tract health (two clinical studies)
• GreenGrown, a vegetable source glucosamine that supports health cartilage growth
• VinCare, patented grape extract that supports healthy cholesterol and cardiovascular function (one clinical study)
In fact, this assortment of available botanical extracts has positively impacted the market for these ingredients.
Market Status & Clean Label
The request for botanical extract ingredients is steadily growing, with factors such as consumer demand and conducted research helping to lead the charge.
“Demand for botanical extracts continues to grow at 7 percent to 10 percent per year, and all of this is driven by consumer demand for finished products,” Bewicke noted. “The high quality of research and the number of published clinical studies focused on botanicals continues to add more validation to the use of botanical extract supplements for maintaining long-term health.”
Blahosky was in complete agreement—she even spoke on the importance of clean ingredients.
“The state of the botanicals ingredients market has never been stronger! she said. “Consumer interest is high, and credible research on botanicals is helping support the positive reputation of many botanicals. I think that with transparency for ingredients—from supply chain, botanical origin, etc.—there is growing opportunity for clean, pure ingredients. For our company, where we produce ingredients in the USA without additives, we are getting exposed as a great option for companies who do not wish to muddle through all the paperwork since clean is ‘in.’”
Although adding botanicals to finished products may be easier said than done, following this Clean Label path could prove to be worthwhile.
“ … Clean label is important and being able to prove that ingredients are clean and unadulterated is important with botanical extracts,” Blahosky continued. “For companies who can manage the paper and transparency trail to meet clean label obligations, this is positive and ideal. However, it’s a huge commitment for finished product producers to be able to manufacture with botanical extracts due to paper trail, pureness of ingredients, etc.”
Being able to ultimately get finished products containing botanical extracts in the hands of consumers is the end goal, but for finished product manufacturers, the use of these ingredients provides an extra challenge.
“From the point of view of manufacturing finished products,” Bewicke explained, “botanical extracts can create problems because of variation in both density and potency. To get a botanical extract capsule to conform exactly to specification can thus require a lot more care and attention than vitamins or minerals that are very consistent in density and potency.”
Being able to effectively test these products also comes at a financial cost.
“Additionally, the identity and potency testing required to guarantee a product that fully meets cGMP [current good manufacturing practice], FSMA [Food Safety Modernization Act] and high level certification requirements today is sophisticated and expensive,” Bewicke added. “Some suppliers do this testing in U.S. labs prior to shipment—others don’t. All imported botanical extracts should be fully tested in the U.S. prior to use.”
The importance of clean ingredients cannot be stressed enough, and the same can be true for its price.
“Supply chain is a huge hurdle with botanicals,” Blahosky pointed out. “Many are grown in exotic locations, so finding quality vendors is difficult. Additionally, the burden to ensure that products are clean and unadulterated is prohibitively long and expensive. That said, it’s worth it for proven botanical ingredients that support a wellness application!”
Ethical Naturals Inc.’s latest research has revolved around cranberries and its standardized cranberry extract, Cranberex, which several companies have utilized.
“Our most recent research, and development of clinical studies, has focused on cranberry, and particularly on our unique Cranberex product, a 200:1 extract of Oregon cranberries,” said Bewicke. “We accomplished two studies at Rutgers University [New Jersey] that showed exceptional bacterial AAA activity (anti-adhesion activity) in the human urinary tract. “Our most successful customers for this product are Doctor’s Best [California], who is now adding a second combination product using Cranberex, and Her Vital Way [California], a company that focuses on high-grade supplement products for women.”
And for Bewicke, testing of purity and potency is a requirement.
“Spearheaded by ABC (American Botanical Council) and a number of leading botanical extract suppliers, testing and research into the purity and potencies of products has continued to grow. On the other hand, there are still a number of companies supplying ingredients that go through very little testing to assure potency and identity.”
In turn, it is apparent that ingredient suppliers and manufacturers find safety to be a critical focal point in conducted research. If possible, studies and results featuring humans is preferred.
“The more research the better! Most important, is any safety data,” Blahosky advised. “Some botanicals have been used for centuries as ingestibles for human health. That is a great start! It’s helpful for companies to provide nutrient profiles so that formulators can understand component nutrients in botanicals. Any human data would be the gold standard as it relates to benefits, but overall clinical research helps build a body of information to support the benefit of botanicals.” NIE
For More Information:
Botanic Innovations, LLC, www.botanicinnovations.com
Ethical Naturals Inc., www.ethicalnaturals.com