|COMPANY FOUNDER PHIL RASMUSSEN
Phil is an experienced pharmacist and medical herbalist, his background reflecting
Phytomed's blend of traditional and modern medicine.
Whilst working as a pharmacist Phil made a decision to follow his passion and
study at the School of Phytotherapy in England. He returned home to New Zealand
and set up a successful practice as a consultant medical herbalist, and began
making a range of liquid extracts for his own clinical use.
As a result of the efficacy achieved in Phil's own practice, Phytomed was
established in 1998 making these herbal medicines available to other qualified
For many years Phil has lectured in phytopharmacology for various colleges
throughout New Zealand, and written extensively for herbal and pharmacy
publications in New Zealand, the UK and Australia. He also acts as a consultant
to governmental agencies and academic institutions.
Phytomed's roots are firmly embedded in traditional herbal philosophy; we combine this approach
with the latest research to produce herbal extracts of the highest quality.
We are committed to:
- Production of high quality, efficacious and safe phytomedicines, for health practitioners
- Validation of therapeutic properties of herbal medicines through good quality research
- Where possible, the sourcing of raw herbal material from local New Zealand growers preferably as certified organic
- Promotion of the medicinal uses of native New Zealand flora, when cultivated or wild-crafted in a sustainable and ethically sound manner
THE ETHICAL CHOICE
With global demand for herbal medicine continuing to grow rapidly, ensuring these herbs are available to future generations has become a serious ethical issue.
The trade in medicinal plants is largely unregulated, with most species being exported by developing countries and the largest consumers being developed countries. This inevitably creates huge potential for exploitation of both poorer communities and the environment.
In addition to this, most of these plants are sourced from their natural habitat (wild-crafted) as opposed to being cultivated, thus the threat of extinction for some species cannot be over-emphasized.
At Phytomed, we believe that practitioners and manufacturers share the responsibility of ensuring that these plants are available for future generations and we have established and maintained a sourcing policy which reinforces our commitment to a sustainable future for herbal medicine.
This policy includes the following considerations:
* Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora
- Cultivated, Certified Organic Herbs are our first choice
- Where Cultivated, Certified Organic Herbs are unavailable, sources from spray free or growers under organic conversion will be used
- If neither of these preferences are available, conventionally grown (trade) herbs will be used
- If a cultivated source is unavailable, we seek a wild-crafted source that we deem to be ethically and sustainably harvested
- Herbs as listed under CITES* appendices are not used when from wild-crafted sources
A QUALITY COMPANY
Phytomed is committed to producing herbal medicines of the highest quality; to achieve this goal we have developed rigid quality assurance procedures, which have enabled us to become a GMP (Good Manufacturing Practice) certified manufacturing facility.
WHAT IS GMP?
Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP) is a globally recognised standard for the application of practices to consistently produce safe and efficacious products to agreed specifications.
This comprehensive system of quality assurance and quality control defines a large number of procedures and requirements, including:
- Validation of equipment and processes
- Documented standard operating procedures covering every aspect of manufacture
- Control of the manufacturing environment, equipment, air and water
- Quarantining, unique identification and testing of raw materials
- Discrete batch identification
- Comprehensive batch record documentation
- Reconciliation of raw materials, product, packaging and labels
- Quarantining and testing of products
- Documented procedures to release finished products for sale
- Stability testing
GMP is enforced at every stage of our manufacturing process from raw herb through to finished product to ensure we consistently provide you with superior phytomedicines.
RAW HERB IDENTIFICATION, WHERE IT ALL STARTS
The initial and arguably most important aspect of manufacturing phytomedicines is ensuring that the correct species is used. Use of a different plant species to that specified in herbal products has been a serious problem in the past, and several instances of this have been documented and widely publicised. Whilst growth in the international herb trade has brought more stringent quality control procedures, decreasing the incidence of substitution or adulteration, the problem occasionally still arises.
At Phytomed we have encountered a small number of such cases since trading commenced in 1998, involving both local and international suppliers. Examples include misidentification of a different species of Berberis for Berberis vulgaris, Lactuca for Lactuca villosa, Echinacea pallida for Echinacea angustifolia, an unknown species of Cimicifuga for Cimicifuga racemosa, and Ballota nigra for Marrubium vulgare.
Often, these substitutions involved supply of an incorrect species within the same genera, even though the supplier provided a Certificate of Analysis supposedly authenticating the identity of the species. This reinforces the need for not only ensuring the use of a reputable supplier with a reliable supply chain and proper Certificates of Analysis, but the importance of our own internal and external scrutiny for every batch of incoming raw herbs.
How we ensure the correct herb is used ...
- Following receipt of samples or actual supplies of all plant material, representative samples are removed and the material is quarantined.
- Samples are examined by staff from our Quality Control department and checks made to ensure the required quality is met.
- These samples are then sent to an independent consultant botanist who examines each sample both macroscopically (i.e. using the naked eye) and microscopically (i.e. through a microscope), to compare these with authenticated reference specimens of the dried herb.
- Organoleptic (appearance, odour and taste) parameters are checked, and the various distinctive botanical identification characteristics as specified in the Raw Material Specification Sheet (based upon botanical monographs obtained from official pharmacopoeia and/or other reputable texts) are looked for and checked against those of the reference specimen.
- The presence of extraneous foreign material, both of plant or other origin, is both quantified and identified, and levels of this checked against the monograph requirements. For selected herbs also, levels of particular plant parts other than those specified are measured to ensure compliance with the monograph (e.g. stem as opposed to leaf for Thymus vulgaris), and in some cases simple chemical tests are undertaken to help confirm identity.
- Should these independent tests fail to comply with any of the monograph requirements the batch is rejected.
- If it passes these tests then it is marked as having being passed by Quality Control, released from the quarantine area and transferred to the bulk herb storage area ready in product manufacture
These procedures are an important requirement of GMP, which Phytomed has implemented for every batch of raw herb material received since manufacturing began.
At Phytomed, our extracts are manufactured according to the guidelines set down in
the British Herbal Pharmacopoeia (BHP) and the British Pharmacopoeia (BP).
These are produced as either Fluid Extracts or Tinctures; both preparations
use a menstruum to extract to the active constituents
from the plant. There is often confusion as to the difference between
these two terms so, let's clearly establish what they mean.
The term fluid extract refers to a herbal preparation made through percolation.
Most Phytomed products are made using this method.
The term tincture refers to a herbal preparation that is made through the maceration. method
At Phytomed we use the maceration method for herbs with high mucilage content and for preparations made from
The issue of standardising phytomedicines is complex and controversial with
various opinions being presented from both inside and outside of the herbal medicine
community. Critics of Herbal Medicine often argue that standardisation is
necessary to ensure safety and efficacy, whilst many Herbalists disagree,
stating that all of a herbs constituents work in unison to ensure efficacy
and safety and that standardising for one constituent is futile. To complicate
the issue further, some who have strong opinions on the matter have an
inadequate understanding of what standardisation actually is!
Generally, 'standardised extract', refers to a herbal preparation that contains
a guaranteed amount of a particular constituent/s. However, confusion may arise due to
the fact that various methods can be employed to achieve this result. Of particular
concern to Phytomed and many practitioners is the questionable technique of adding
an isolated constituent to a preparation in order to create a 'stronger'
end product. This deviates from traditional herbal philosophy and blurs
the line between phytomedicines and pharmaceutical drugs.
At Phytomed we believe that there is insufficient evidence for the standardisation
of the vast majority of herbs. However, for some herbs (e.g. Ginkgo biloba,
Silybum marianum) there is convincing evidence that standardised extracts
can achieve superior clinical results, therefore we offer a selected
range of herbs that are standardised for well established active
The Phytomed range of standardised extracts, are independently tested
to verify appropriate levels of these compoundsand we do not adulterate
our extracts to achieve a desired strength.
The menstruum is the solvent used to produce an extract. Extracts manufactured using a mixture of alcohol and water as a solvent are known as hydroethanolic extracts, those made using glycerine are known as glycetracts (see below for more information about hydroethanolic extracts and glycetracts). When making a herbal tea or decoction water is the menstruum.
The strength of a liquid herbal preparation is usually expressed as a ratio, which expresses the amount of herb proportionate to the volume of finished product, thus:
- 1:5 means that 1gram of herb is present in 5ml of the liquid extract
- 1:2 means that 1gram of herb is present in 2ml of the liquid extract
- 1:1 means that 1gram of herb is present in 1ml of the liquid extract
Percolation is a particularly efficient method for extracting constituents from herbs and is used by Phytomed to manufacture most of our liquid preparations. There are variations in technique for specific herbs, but the process always involves passing a menstruum through the dried, powdered herb at a controlled rate and collecting then filtering the resulting liquid.
Maceration is a simpler and more time intensive method for extracting constituents from herbs. It is particularly useful for producing extracts from fresh herbs such as Cleavers (Galium aparine) or when processing herbs with high mucilage content such as Marshmallow (Althaea officinalis). The procedure for maceration is to soak the herb in the menstruum for a specified length of time, sometimes several weeks, before the liquid is strained off and filtered.
A combination of ethanol and water has been used for hundreds of years to prepare liquid herbal preparations as this extracts the widest range of active constituents from the plant material.
The ratio of alcohol to water used to make up the menstruum varies from plant to plant depending on what active constituents it contains. When extracting Echinacea purpurea for example, a combination of 60% ethanol and 40% water is used, ethanol being required to extract the ethanol-soluble active alkylamide constitutes. In Marshmallow however, only 25% ethanol and 75% water is used as this plant contains more water-soluble active constituents.
Often, there is concern from practitioners and their patients regarding the amount of alcohol in liquid herbs. However when quantified, the level of alcohol consumed per dose is relatively low. For example, when extracting Silybum marianum, a 70% ethanol menstruum is used to effectively extract the flavinoglycans. However even the maximum dose (3ml, three times daily) will still only contain 2.1 ml of ethanol per dose, approximately one fifth of a standard drink.
These are liquid preparations where the solvent is a combination of glycerol and water and have some advantages over hydroethanolic extracts. Glycerol tastes sweet and can disguise unpleasant tasting herbs, it also contains no alcohol, and is therefore better for children and individuals who do not wish to take alcohol. However, glycerol is not as effective as ethanol for extracting many of the active components found in herbs and glycetracts are less stable than hydroethanolic extracts so have a shorter shelf life.Â
If a patient still has concerns over a formula's taste, Phytomed produces a herbal flavouring mix containing extracts of Liquorice, Orange and Fennel, which can be added to the blend.