Monday, 23 November 2009

Visit by Middlesex herbal medicine students

Above: Tony Cater (left) guiding the Middlesex students on their tour of Proline Botanicals.

Kerstin Falkenstein, 3rd year Herbal Medicine student at Middlesex University, gives an account of the visit:

"On Tuesday the 10th November 2009 the third year Herbal Medicine students went as part of the Herbal Therapeutics module organised by module leader Anne Stobart on an excursion to a well known manufacturer of herbal products. ‘Proline’ is a modern enterprise situated on the outskirts of Stamford in Lincolnshire. The first impressions were not exactly matching our maybe more romantic ideas of herbal manufacturing, but none of the students has ever been to a herbal supplier and so we were all in for a bit of a surprise. The staff and the director of the company Mr Tony Carter gave us a warm welcome and over tea explained the concepts and strategies of his business.

‘Proline’ is a company priding itself on very high standards of quality concerning the herbal products it provides. The herbal raw materials are audited by their in-house quality team with inspection, batch and laboratory testing of all ingredients before they can be used in any of their products. The laboratories are equipped with high standard technology in accordance with their Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP) status. Mr Carter puts particular emphasis on an excellent hygienic and clean environment in the rooms dealing with plant material ensuring the purest quality of the end products thus avoiding any cross contamination.

We got a first glimpse of this regime when Mr Carter provided us with protective hats and gowns before taking us on a tour around the place. And, indeed, pristine it was – all rooms were covered in white plastic walls, equipped with strong extractor fans and easy to clean sloping floors. We were shown pill forming machines, percolators for tinctures, analytical equipment as well as the huge packaging and storage department. The tinctures are kept in amber glass or PET bottles, which are said to prevent the leeching of xeno-estrogenic plasticisers unlike for example polyethylene containers. Concerning the tinctures ‘Proline’ favours the process of percolation over maceration because of the higher yield of active chemical constituents from the herbs, a quality issue established in vigorous laboratory testing according to Mr Carter. They offer only two types of tinctures – 1:1 and 1:3 in order to avoid confusion of varied specifications across the range, which simplifies production as well as consumer choice. Despite an obvious great investment in technical equipment and quality control measures ‘Proline’ manages to keep the prices of their products at a competitive level.

The company does have a variety of customers, supplying a number of herbal product manufacturers in the UK which then sell these products under their own label like ‘Neals Yard Remedies’ or ‘Napiers’, but also providing service for small herbal businesses and lone practitioners. They also export their products to countries like Iceland, Norway, Sweden and Denmark.

Although, this company does herbal manufacturing on an industrial scale, the advantages concerning quality control and high standards of end products are obvious and in accordance with consumer expectations. With the process of regulation growing increasingly stringent, also in view of the 2011 implementations they are certainly able to meet the standards required by governing bodies like the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA).

This excursion offered an interesting in-sight in large scale commercial manufacturing of herbal products. It is far removed from the lone herbalist’s dispensary with self grown herbs and jars of macerating tinctures on the window sill, but to comply with rigorous government policies this type of herbal manufacturing is probably a good way forward to keep herbal medicines marketable and accessible for the British public."

Thursday, 5 November 2009

NIMH rally and mass lobby of Parliament

Above: Emma and Chris on the front line at the NIMH demo in Westminster.

Proline Botanicals supported the NIMH demonstration and lobby of Parliament on Monday 2nd November. Several members of staff made the journey up to London and braved the cold to demonstrate in support of statutory regulation of herbal medicine. In the picture above you can see the "Honk for herbs" banner Emma made, which got an enthusiastic reaction from the lorry drivers on the busy road in front of Parliament.

Describing the day Emma said: "I felt the day was reassuring for those people who are passionate about herbal medicine, showing that we won’t back down against bureaucracy. I think it highlighted to plenty of people that your voice can be heard (that is, people who went to speak to their MPs) and I’m sure we made a great impression on the people of London! As for the banner- we were stood up by the monument and I thought a better way to get some noise and attention would be to involve the traffic going past. So we traded placards with someone and wrote on the blank side ‘Honk 4 Herbs’ to try and get the people driving past to notice and get everyone at the demo fired up. And Chris and Vinny helped by encouraging the drivers to join in and speaking to those who were stopped at the traffic lights about what the demonstration was about."

In other initiatives, all of the Proline staff have been completing the Dept of Health Consultation forms and writing to local MPs Quentin Davies, Alan Duncan and Stewart Jackson.

Wednesday, 21 October 2009

NIMH Conference in Lancaster

Above: Emma on the Proline stand at NIMH Conference in Lancaster.

It was good to see so many friends at the NIMH Annual Conference in Lancaster last weekend. The Conference was a superbly organised event, and was widely praised by attending NIMH delegates. On the Saturday Michael McIntyre led an inspiring session on the need for Statutory Regulation of herbalists and the danger that if Stautory Regulation did not go ahead herbalists would no longer be permitted to buy herbal medicines (this is due to EU legislation coming into force in 2011).

Make sure your voice is heard - closure of public consultation is 2nd November.

For more information see:

Monday, 12 October 2009

A great day for herbal medicine

Above: James Wong greeted guests as they arrived at Proline.

It was a great day for Proline Botanicals when James Wong opened the New Extensions at our Essendine facility on Friday 2nd October. Guests assembled from all over the country including medical herbalists, herb suppliers, and contract manufacturers. Many people travelled long distances to attend the event, including one guest who got up at 3am to get to Essendine by 10am!

Above: after a champagne reception James Wong unveiled a plaque formally declaring the New Extensions open.

James Wong, is the presenter of the BBC2 series Grow Your Own Drugs. He is also a co-presenter on the long-running BBC rural affairs series Countryfile and author of the book Grow Your Own Drugs: Easy Recipes for Natural Remedies and Beauty Treats, a tie-in with the television show. He trained to Master's degree level at the University of Kent and at theRoyal Botanic Garden, Kew.

Above: after the formal opening the guests divided into three groups to tour the Essendine facility - here you can see the green group waiting to start.

Left: Proline's Dave Wood leading a party through the new suites of clean rooms - guests expressed themselves as stagged and amazed at the scale of investment that has been made in herbal medicine.

Left: Proline has the largest range of herbal medicines available in the United Kingdom - approximately 1,750 different products.

Left: the orange group examining the new dispensing service where herbalists can ask Proline to make up their bespoke formulations - and even have them despatched straight to the customer.

Left: the warehouse where raw herbs are stored. Upon arrival at Proline herbs are rigorously checked for accurate species, infestation and adulturation. They then go through extensive laboratory analysis, including HPTLC analysis.

Left: after the tours came the lunch which Fia Dobiesz had prepared for the event. All the food was home-made. Many guests expressed astonishment at the quality of this lunch.

Above: following the lunch there were speeches by Jane Gray President of NIMH and Tony Carter before James Wong gave an entertaining talk about his television series Grow Your Own Drugs.

Above: there was also ample opportunity for guests to talk to James Wong informally.

Left: Emma and Sue with James Wong.
Commenting on the day Tony Carter said: "The Open Day was the culmination of years of planning and a demanding twelve months of construction, fitting out and commissioning. I would like to thank all the Proline staff who made the day such an outstanding success and also Fia for putting on such a splendid lunch. It was a great day for herbal medicine."
If you have a group (minimum of 10) you wish to take on a tour of the Essendine facility please contact us.

Wednesday, 7 October 2009

Save herbal medicine

All visiters to the Proline site are urged to join the NIMH campaign to save herbal medicine.

The government is making a hash of its attempts to regulate herbalists in the United Kingdom, which could result in many herbal medicines becoming unobtainable.

Please go to where you will find materials to help you lobby your MP and the Department of Health.