From The Farm To Your Hands: Our Testing Process + Quality Assurance
- Published on: 03 September, 2020
- Last update: 03 November, 2020
Not only are our formulas made in FDA-approved, cGMP-certified facilities, we test for much more than just pesticides, microbes, and pollutants. This is how we make sure you get the highest quality plant medicine in your hands.
We start with whole herbs, never powdered.
Instead of skipping a step and purchasing pre-powdered plant material from our farmers and suppliers, we ask for the whole plant and grind/powder in-house.
Why is this so important?
First of all, if you buy the herbs pre-ground, how can you identify foreign particles? When harvesting plants, all kinds of things can get caught up in the process — everything from scissors to small animals that roam the farm! This may sound gross, but it’s all the more reason why you want to inspect and remove these particles and items before powdering, which many companies don’t have the time or care to do.
Furthermore, you need to see the whole plant – the whole leaves, for example – in order to confirm the species through traditional plant identification, which is always our first line of quality assurance before using our toolbox of testing methods. This saves both time and money before moving to plant DNA testing and gas chromatography. Plus, you want to see the leaves, flowers, or whatever you’re looking for to make sure you’ve received the right part of the plant.
I’ve mentioned in the past that people often have poor experiences with herbs and supplements because huge companies don’t follow proper time-of-year harvesting guidelines, and fail to harvest their plants at peak potency. Well, it goes a little deeper; sometimes they don’t use the right part of the plant, either. For example, brands of St. John’s Wort capsules from Walmart or CVS often cut corners by using the leaves of the plant because they’re so much cheaper and can still be labeled as aerial parts… however, the true mood medicine is really only found in the flowers. We want to make sure that every delivery of herbal medicine we receive is the real deal, the real part, and the finest quality.
Lastly, you want to see the material because you want to make sure the plant looks healthy, unadulterated, and visibly inspect with your own two eyes to make sure there’s no mold or bacterial growth, etc. before you even accept the shipment. When it’s powdered you can’t see the quality of those leaves and flowers, it just looks like a bag of brown or green “stuff.”
THE STAGES OF OUR TESTING
I. RAW MATERIAL IDENTITY CONFIRMATION, NIR ANALYSIS FOR PLANT SPECIES CONFIRMATION, GAS CHROMATOGRAPHY ANALYSIS FOR ACTIVE COMPOUNDS + MICROBIOLOGY (bacteria, mold, pollutants)
When it comes to testing, we cover every base. There’s the initial visual inspection that I’ve talked about to ensure the plant is healthy, the right species, the right parts, etc. There’s the DNA testing to confirm species to a point of 100% certainty. Then gas chromatography testing comes in to ensure the chemical compounds in the plant:
- match the potency and makeup of other healthy species that we use as ideal examples, and
- that those compounds are present in the right amounts so that the medicine is active and potent!
Then and only then, we go ahead and test for “micro” and pollutants, which means bacteria, mold, heavy metals, and pesticides.
II. QUALITY MANAGEMENT + VISUAL INSPECTION
We add another measure of protection and look at every incoming delivery from our farmers and wildcrafters under a microscope. For example, we look for those beautiful active trichomes on Nettle Leaf, and vibrant healthy Chamomile flowers with a proper ratio of leaf to flower so that we’re getting only the most active parts of the plant.
Not only is the raw material tested for micro and pollutants when the plant matter arrives, but it’s tested again when it’s individually tinctured, then tested for a third time when it’s blended into formula.
Finally, another incredible (and fun!) part of testing is organoleptics. This basically means using your senses to identify the actions and content of a plant solution, whether it’s an individual tincture or formula. Our manufacturing and quality assurance team does this before every batch (with the individual tinctures before they get blended) and after every batch (with the final formula to make sure nothing else got mixed into it by accident). Years ago, our head of manufacturing once tasted the tiniest HINT of tea tree in a formula that was not supposed to have any, so they had to start over on 200 gallons! This is part of keeping that tradition alive and something we will always do for our formulas and individual plant extractions before they’re blended together.