The Wonder of Health
and Medicinal Teas
By Wendy Komancheck
A dichotomy exists between the U.S. and Europe when it comes to the healing properties of tea, particularly herbal teas, pharmaceutical teas, and the like. Yet, there are tea companies in the U.S. that are researching and developing medicinal teas to meet the specific needs of people from around the world where Germany tends to lead the way when it comes to the research and development of phytopharmaceutical teas.
Martin Bauer and PhytoLab
The history of The Martin Bauer company (www.martin-bauer.com), begins in Germany, where in 1930, Martin Bauer collected peppermint in local fields. He dried them, cut them with his knife, and drove by bike to neighboring towns to sell his herbs to pharmacists and drugstores. Now, the company, Martin Bauer, named after its founder, leads the international market in herbal and fruit teas. Oliver Hack, head of sales and spokesman for the company says, “As the demand grew, more people from Vestenbergsgreuth [where Bauer lived] became involved, and the product range expanded while more herbs and fruits were used in teas and infusions. In the 1950s, Hans Wedel joined the company and started to enlarge the business. The company focused on fine cut herbal teas for tea bags, and in the 1980s, [the company] expanded into the extraction business. Today, the whole group incorporates more than 20 companies worldwide—joined under the umbrella of the nature network.”
European law dictates the grades of herbs used and marketed as pharmaceutical versus commercial. Hack says, “Herbal quality grades differ from commercial qualities to highest class medicinal qualities. Herbal teas for food purposes are mainly marketed for taste and wellness aspects. There is no hard functional claim. [But,] pharmaceutical teas must fulfill the requirements for regular pharmaceutics. In other words, their effects must be scientifically proven. They must have a high content of active ingredients, such as essential oils. [These are] very tough quality requirements for products, in terms of contamination and processing. Certification requirements for companies producing pharmaceutical teas are much higher than for those just producing food.”
Martin Bauer researches its herbal teas at PhytoLab, which is also a part of the nature network. Hack states, “Apart from regular quality control analytics, PhytoLab has specialized in the testing of all kinds of botanical materials, like pharmaceutical teas.”
Martin Bauer markets its products to other businesses, which, in turn, markets the product to the consumer. “However, we offer the broadest available scale on herbal grades, whether for food or pharmaceutical purposes, tea bags, loose teas, or pyramid bags, extracts, etc.”
How does the company procure their herbs? They receive their herbs from every continent on earth. Some of their herbs are cultivated, while others are wild-crafted. Hack says, “Our clients chose the quality. Most of our cultivated herbs are either grown in Controlled Integrated Cultivation or in Controlled Organic Cultivation, where we have control of all the value-giving and risky steps at our cultivation partners.”
For their wild-collected herbs, Martin Bauer focuses on sustainability “to ensure the future of each plant.” Hack states, “We are able to offer Fair Trade products to clients who wish to enter this sector. Our activities on the area of holistic corporate responsibility, however, go far beyond offering Fair Trade qualities.”
According to Hack, Martin Bauer has customers who would like their herbal teas to be designed, meeting their particular needs and palette. “This can either be the demand on special medical purposes, pharmaceutical teas, or preparing for the new European Union (EU) Health Claims legislation, or the request for teas with proven functional claims like mental performance, slimming, etc. With the help of our plant knowledge and PhytoLab, we’re able to develop teas suiting almost every functional aspect. One special feature is the use of functional extracts from our sister company, Plantextrakt, in the tea bag or in pharmaceutical extracts from Finzelberg.”
Hack sites three setbacks that his company has experienced in the last five years. The major challenge has come in the form of product safety. Hack says, “As tea and herbal materials grow in nature, the raw materials could not be protected by possible spot contamination. Therefore, high microbiological contamination could always be an issue with wild-grown tea,” and if the consumer doesn’t take precautions in boiling the tea at a certain temperature or for a decent amount of time, he or she could become very ill.
To overcome this setback, Martin Bauer has developed MaBa-THERM, a heat-based system developed for tea and herbal products. Hack explains, “Due to continuous adaptations to the system and the ability to set the parameters, such as heat and duration, for each product, the MaBa-THERM treatment does not affect the quality of the product. Also, this natural treatment leaves the product without any residues, unlike fumigation with Ethylene oxide, which is prohibited for use in the EU, and it’s not in any way connected with a negative image, like irradiation.”
Pesticide residue was a second concern that the company has had to face. Martin Bauer had to be on top of a 1,000 different pesticides used worldwide on the plants that it receives for its teas. Martin Bauer needed to stay within certain legal limits to the amount of residue left on the plants that it uses, so it developed the Controlled Integrated Cultivation (CIC), where consultants and approved partners in the farming sector work together to guarantee that the amount and types of pesticides used are within the barometers of Martin Bauer’s expectations. “Every step is documented for every field. Pesticides are only used in emergencies, and Martin Bauer decides which substances are used in which quantity at what time. Due to a stringent documentation for each field, we can check specifically for used substances in our laboratory—in our mindset it’s the only way to produce safe herbal products from cultivation,” Hack says.
The third obstacle came from EU’s high standards for herbal use. Hack says, “Even though pharmaceutical teas are natural products with changing qualities from year to year, the quality requirements, at least in Europe, remain unchanged at a hard-to-achieve level. Depending on the circumstances of the crop each year, there are high risks that the products may not fulfill the legal requirements. We’ve built up a safety stock of more than one year’s reach [of herbs], and a highly sophisticated system of homogenization and standardization to be able to provide the highest class products each year, even when the harvested products are of low quality or quantity.”
The U.S. and Pharmaceutical Teas
The U.S. takes a different approach to pharmaceutical teas. Most herbal teas touting as remedies have messages on their boxes that their claims have not been backed up by the FDA. Yet, there are a few companies who’ve done the research and developed pharmaceutical teas for their clients’ health needs and concerns.
One such company, Heather & Company for IBS, LLC, developed Heather’s Tummy Care, (www.helpforibs.com), a tea designed for sufferers of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). Heather Van Vorous, founder and c.e.o. of the company, explains the evolution of her tea, “[Heather’s Tummy Care started] at the request of people with IBS, who could not find high volatile oil, large leaf or whole seed peppermint and fennel seeds. They also could not find jumbo teabags and large containers of teas, so that they could brew several cups of strong tea every day economically, and not constantly be running out of tea. We’re very tightly focused on giving people safe, simple, and effective means to successfully manage IBS symptoms, and there was a specific niche in herbal teas that fit this bill.”
According to Van Vorous, her company developed their tea formulations through established medical and herbal research, which showcased the benefits of fennel and peppermint for digestive health. Besides the research that was available to the company, they also relied on their customers’ feedback whether their formulations were working for IBS sufferers. That feedback has influenced some of their tea formulas and package design.
Heather & Company for IBS, LLC markets their teas via the Internet and through word of mouth from doctors and dieticians who serve IBS patients. Additionally, Heather’s Tummy Care teas are sold through retail stores and distributors at the Tea Expo West.
Van Vorous says that her herbs are “organic and kosher.” She continues, “They have to meet our specs for volatile oil content and either large leaf or whole seed size. We’re moving to contract farming so we can grow them ourselves.”
One of her company’s setbacks has been dealing with vendors, and Van Vorous hopes that farming her own herbs will help her in tackling these issues. She says, “The more we can move raw material sourcing, tea bagging, packaging, and order fulfillment in house, the better off we are. To that end, we now do virtually all aspects of our business ourselves, aside from farming—and we’re moving toward that [end too].”
Yogi Tea, (www.yogitea.com), is another American company that packages medicinal tea. According to Parampal Singh, director of marketing with Yogi Tea, the entire tea line is getting a facelift to introduce new formulations of herbal teas marketed toward aging baby boomers. Singh provided fact sheets from his company to explain the transformation. It says, “Each Yogi Tea is formulated for a different need of the body, mind, and spirit. Whether it’s time to jump start the day, participate in or recover from physical activity, to calm the mind and clarify thoughts or revive the spirit to reflect on the world, there’s a Yogi Tea to meet the need.”
Yogi Tea has 50 varieties that are “designed to support consumers’ pursuit of an active, balanced lifestyle. The pure herbal tea blends are grounded in ancient wisdom and in a simple, natural way of living.”
Yogi Tea uses a plethora of different herbs in their teas to work toward specific physical levels. Their four new varieties, which were introduced in May 2007 are Berry Anti-Oxidant, Green Tea Active Body, Meditative Time, and Mexican Sweet Chili, a tea to revive the spirit. And, these teas supposedly target areas of the body, mind, and spirit to create awareness of health and vitality.
Yogi Tea backs up their claims. Singh states, “Our formulas are the result of modern herbal knowledge, Chinese medicine, and other ancient practices, as well as Ayurvedic traditions [Dictionary.com defines Ayurvedic as “the ancient Hindu art of medicine and of prolonging life.”] This combination of wisdom helps us create the most effective formulas to gently heal the body, mind, and spirit. Our herbalist, Karta Purkh Singh Khalsa, and the research and development director work together to formulate our teas.”
Currently, the U.S. is researching the health efficacy of tea, particularly Camellia Sinensis and green tea. Yet, progress is slow. On the other hand, Europe, and particularly Germany, uses various herbs to make pharmaceutical teas that offer another choice for folks who want the option of natural pharmaceuticals over synthetic ones. Fortunately, some American tea companies are starting to realize the value of using certain herbal combinations to target specific medicinal needs that may eventually give Americans the choices between natural and man-made medicinal remedies.
Wendy Komancheck is a freelance writer based in Pennsylvania. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tea & Coffee - December, 2007
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