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Herbs and Botanicals Functionality

Herbs & Botanicals Bowl Herbs & Botanicals Bowl

A better understanding and appreciation of herbs and botanicals by consumers is leading to more use and innovation in nutraceutical products.

Non-GMO Project

According to the World Health Organization, the worldwide annual market for herbal medicinal products is approaching $60 billion. These “herbal medicinal products” refer to herbs and botanicals. As Dr. Josh Axe, a certified doctor of natural medicine, doctor of chiropractic and clinical nutritionist, referenced in his article, “Herbal Medicine Benefits & the Top Medicinal Herbs More People Are Using,” practices such as ayurvedic medicine and traditional Chinese medicine, which focus on overall health as opposed to disease, have been around for thousands of years; written records of herbal medicine use dates back over 5,000 years.

As for today’s herb and botanical marketplace news, if the phrase “numbers never lie” is correct, there is an optimistic story.

Dan Lifton, president of the Proprietary & Branded Ingredients division of New York-based Maypro, pointed to several promising market reports:

• A Mintel Herbal and Homeopathic Remedies report from November 2016 noted that the overall homeopathic and herbal market increased nearly 30 percent between 2011 and 2016, up to about $5.4 billion in the United States, which is an upward trend that Mintel predicts will continue through at least 2021.

• The HerbalGram Herb Market Report for 2016 showed total retail sales of U.S. herbal dietary supplements rising past $7 billion for the first time ever, with SPINS and IRI data noting retail outlet sales alone of about $944 million.

• In 2005, the American Herbal Products Association calculated the global herb market to be $83 billion, including $11 billion in herbal dietary supplements and $14 billion in herbal functional foods and beverages.

Although she does not discount the impact of other extracts, Deanne Dolnick, science director with TR Nutritionals (Georgia) said she believes there are promising signs due to two specific botanicals: Ginkgo biloba and turmeric. The quality of these botanicals all depends on finding the right manufacturer.

“The botanical market has continued to grow,” she noted. “TR Nutritionals is one of the largest suppliers of Ginkgo biloba extract to the dietary supplement industry. We believe that our business has continued to soar because we purchase our extract from the most reputable ginkgo manufacturer in the industry. When you can promote an extract based on its quality and show that it is not adulterated, it will sell. We are also seeing significant growth with Turmeric 95% Extract. This is another botanical that is having serious issues with adulteration … Overall, TR’s extracts sales have seen huge growth over the past year. The consumer continues to seek out natural products backed by scientific research and many extracts fall into this category, including Ginkgo biloba, resveratrol, green tea and many of the Indian extracts.”

Lifton also added that “market-wise, at least globally, herbal penetration in the functional market is strong, however what can be claimed for functional ingredients in foods and beverages, while theoretically great news—such as for oats, where the FDA (U.S. Food and Drug Administration)-authorized health claim allows ‘May reduce the risk of heart disease,’ or for calcium, for which the FDA allows ‘Adequate calcium throughout life may reduce the risk of osteoporosis’—is, generally speaking, a minefield and very limited in terms of what is allowed in the U.S.”

Popularity, Uses & Preparation

When it comes to adding herbal and botanical ingredients to nutraceutical products, there are several popular candidates.

Sendhil Pani, president of New Jersey-based Bayir, Inc., noted three trending ingredients:

• Curcumin—“Has led the way with a wide body of scientific research and validation behind its anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant properties. Curcumin hold[s] great promise in the treatment of conditions such as Alzheimer’s, dementia, etc., which will also impact its popularity.”

• Green Coffee—“A non-caffeine extract, which acts as a stimulant often used for weight management. The extract also acts as a chlorogenic acid. The market for green coffee is now equivalent to garcinia, really gaining market relevance in the past 10 years.”

• Bacopa—“As the market for cognitive health increase[s], so has the interest in bacopa. Bacopa is a memory enhancer. Bayir’s high potency bacopa has numerous benefits outside of cognitive function, including stress, [the] treatment of Alzheimer’s etc.”

In an on-the-go society where stress is at an all-time high, consumers are becoming more interested in adaptogens.

“Adaptogens, botanicals that are thought to help people adapt to the stresses of everyday life, are becoming a popular category,” noted Alison Raban, certified food scientist with BI Nutraceuticals in California. “Ingredients that fit this category like maca, Gingko balboa, ginseng, St. John’s wort, and also familiar spices like ginger and turmeric especially are experiencing lots of consumer attention. Blends of botanical ingredients are certainly popular, as some have similar benefits or work synergistically with each, but single ingredient supplements still have lots of potential for popularity with consumers.”

However, incorporating these ingredients into functional products can present a challenge for manufacturers: successfully covering the taste with one that appeals more to consumers. “Masking the taste of these herbs and botanicals can be achieved by adding flavors, sugars or other ingredients,” said Kevin Kilcoyne, vice president and general manager, Welch’s Global Ingredients Group (Massachusetts), “but these can compromise the manufacturers’ ability to meet consumers’ needs for authentic, clean label products.”

Kilcoyne said utilizing Welch’s grape juice-related ingredients can help solve this dilemma.

“Integrating Concord grape juice into a functional beverage formulation or using FruitWorx real fruit pieces as a natural delivery system for wellness ingredients are effective solutions to this problem. Not only do Concord grape ingredients taste great, but they’re also free from added colors, flavors and preservatives and contain only natural fruit sugars. Also, they deliver beneficial polyphenols, which means they’ll add to the functional ingredients in the product.”

Process System

When it comes to preparation, Radio Frequency Co., Inc., a Massachusetts corporation that specializes in high tech radio frequency process heating systems, helps prepare herbs and botanicals for use in nutraceutical products via its Macrowave RF (radio frequency) system.

“With the advent of the enforcement of FSMA [FDA Food Safety Modernization Act] regulations, Radio Frequency Company’s RF Pasteurization system can often provide these suppliers and manufacturers a validated kill-step that doesn’t negatively impact their product’s organoleptic properties or quality,” said Lisa Mitchell, the company’s marketing manager. “Since the Macrowave RF system can volumetrically and evenly heat all the product on the conveyor belt, in bulk or in bag, we can often achieve a 5Log reduction at temperatures around 185 degrees Fahrenheit because the RF is instantly heating the product and offers no opportunity for the pathogens to acclimate to the temperature rise. With conventional heating, often higher temperatures are required to heat the internal layers of the product and to obtain that same reduction because the heat is traveling from the outside in.”

Therefore, if there is an interest in utilizing an RF pasteurization system, it is important for manufacturers to be aware of the heating temperatures that are used.

The Wonders of Tomatoes, Grapes & Scientific Research

Lycored, a New Jersey-based ingredient manufacturer works extensively with tomatoes, its main botanical. The fruit’s various benefits, including in the skin health and beauty department, is what makes it essential.

“This super fruit is responsible for some of the most innovative ingredients currently used in nutraceutical products,” said Golan Raz, PhD, Lycored’s vice president of health & nutrition. “With its powerful natural active molecules, lycopene, phytoene and phytofluene, tomatoes extract is known for its benefits for ingestible skin health and beauty as well as cardiovascular and prostate health. We also produce marigold extract for standardized lutein as well as rosemary extract that is being combined with tomatoes in our ingestible skin care flagship Lycoderm.”

When it comes to research, Kilcoyne noted that manufacturers seek ingredients that are both authentic and produce a “science-backed” benefit. He referenced Welch’s Concord grape, one that reportedly contains more polyphenols than other juices—about two decades of research even support that the company’s grape juice is beneficial toward heart health.

The natural products and pharmaceutical worlds are actually bonded by herbs and botanicals through science. With the dated history mentioned previously, consumers are looking to learn more about them.

“Research has evolved away from more traditional applications toward scientific substantiation, similar to what’s being done in pharmaceuticals,” Pani observed. “This seems to be a natural segue, as herbs and botanicals have always been an inspiration to pharmaceuticals in development of drugs that have nature-like properties. One thing that’s definite is the increased understanding and appreciation from consumers with regard to herbs and botanicals. Consumers have sought understanding with regard to their qualities and benefits. It’s natural to see this interest contribute to the growing body of scientific evidence evolve, including safety, toxicity, bioequivalence and efficacy testing.”


However, it is important to keep in mind that manufacturers should not forcefully try implementing these ingredients for the sake of creating a trendy product.

“Just because a botanical or herbal extract is interesting doesn’t mean we can, or should, add it into supplements, foods or beverages,” Lifton advised. “The research, especially human clinical research, needs to be taken into account because otherwise you cannot truly know how it will work in the human body. It also may not play well with proteins, sugars, or other ingredients. Other actives or active-acting incidental ingredients could counteract, mask, or improperly boost its effects in a functional product. It may be great as a single herb but is ‘lost’ in a food formula.

“So, regulatory matters and marketing goals well aside, there are many, many considerations that must be addressed, ideally at the planning and formulation stage, as to whether and why to include any given botanical, or any ingredient for that matter, in a functional application.” NIE

For More Information:
Bayir, Inc., (609) 524-9505
BI Nutraceuticals, (310) 669-2100
Lycored, (877) 592-6733
Maypro, (914) 251-0701
Radio Frequency Co., (508) 376-9555
TR Nutritionals, (404) 935-5761
Welch’s Global Ingredients Group, (978) 371-1000