With the public becoming increasingly concerned and informed regarding herbs and supplements, the focus of the industry has shifted to quality, purity and potency issues. New herbal lines are being introduced claiming “unique” techniques to ensure the above qualities. However, the implementation of testing and formulation procedures for purity, bioactivity and consistency in herbs and supplements is nothing new to Nature’s Sunshine Products (NSP). Since 1972, NSP’s mission has been to provide the finest quality herbal products worldwide.
At Nature’s Sunshine, the design of superior products starts with Research and Development (R&D). In the development of each product, quality is “built in” at the beginning of the process. Instead of developing a product and then “adding” quality as an afterthought, all raw material NSP encounters must rise to meet our strict standards. No wonder NSP leads the industry in quality, integrity and service.
That standard of excellence begins with the knowledge and expertise of the three groups within R&D:
Once the Marketing Department approves a product idea, R&D’s Product Development group “builds” the product from conception to finished product. This process involves an amazing amount of technology and expertise. Nature’s Sunshine manufactures capsules, tablets, bulk powders and liquid products. Each finished product form must meet different criteria to ensure it looks professional and consistent. Our chewable tablets, bulk powders and liquid products must be palatable. Scientists from Product Development are able to formulate great-tasting, good-looking products without artificial flavors or colors, keeping them as natural as possible.
Product Development works with Purchasing to acquire raw material samples for new products. The preliminary raw materials are compared based on physical properties, purity and potency. Some of the physical properties they examine include flow, compressibility and ability to be mixed in NSP equipment. After extensive dialogue between Marketing, Purchasing and Methods Development, Product Development selects the best raw materials for new products. Then, the specifications for raw materials and finished products are written by the Product Development and GMP Development Groups.
The next step takes place in NSP’s pilot plant. Here preliminary batches of new formulations are produced on a small scale to troubleshoot possible problems. When the pilot plant work is completed, the product can move into production. Product Development is responsible for an accelerated and real-time stability program. NSP takes great care to make sure products maintain quality and potency throughout their shelf life. With the stability program, scientists test and examine products after periods of time to guarantee they meet label claims and maintain appearance.
Product Development works hand-in-hand with production to oversee the manufacturing of NSP products. Even with the best planning, production problems sometimes surface. When this happens, Product Development and manufacturing work together to solve these difficulties through formulation changes or equipment adjustments. NSP follows “good manufacturing practices” (GMPs), which are very strict government regulations mandated by the Dietary Supplements Health and Education Act (DSHEA). Product Development aids manufacturing in implementing and complying with these GMPs.
Good Manufacturing Practices
The standard of quality at NSP is based on information. This group oversees information and is responsible for managing raw-material and finished-product specifications. These specifications outline the criteria a material must meet to pass quality inspection and testing. NSP’s decision to accept or reject a raw material or finished product is based on these specifications.
Another function of the GMP group is writing the supplemental facts box and verifying the technical accuracy of NSP labels. They also furnish technical information for international product registrations. Often foreign countries have very different guidelines for marketing herbal products. NSP must supply scientific documentation demonstrating product safety, effectiveness, purpose and stability.
The GMP group is also responsible for answering technical questions and providing product information for NSP customers worldwide. Along the same lines, they supply scientific information and training to other NSP departments on existing, new and future products. These scientists also collect and maintain available information on herbs and other raw materials. R&D’s library contains over 400 books, while their online database tracks over 800 individual herbs and supplements. R&D also subscribes to numerous scientific and industry journals to keep abreast of the latest information.
Behind every Quality Assurance test for active components stands R&D’s Methods Development Group. These gifted analytical chemists develop methods to test raw materials and finished products, identifying and isolating active components. This ensures that our products meet specifications and label claims.
The protocol for these methods is then transferred to Quality Assurance where scientists perform them on a routine basis. Why are these testing procedures necessary? NSP must confirm that their suppliers have shipped not only the correct herb, but also the highest quality herb available. When NSP receives raw materials, the plants are already chopped or ground, looking similar to common kitchen spices. By simply viewing the raw material it is impossible to determine its plant identification, purity and potency. The Methods Development Group measures and identifies the naturally occurring active ingredients found in the herb. They also obtain an herbal “fingerprint” to ensure consistency and quality.
NSP chemists use sophisticated equipment to accomplish these tasks. High-Performance Liquid Chromatography (HPLC), Gas Chromatography (GC), Mass Spectrometry (MS), Fourier Transform Infrared Spectrometry (FTIR), Inductively Coupled Plasma (ICP) and Ultraviolet-Visible Spectrometry (UV-VIS) are a few of the instruments at their disposal. NSP scientists’ expertise is recognized worldwide with publication of their methods in peer-reviewed journals.*
*(See Zhou, J.Z.; Kou, X.; Stevenson, D. "Rapid Extraction and High-Performance Liquid Chromatographic Determination of Parthenolide in Feverfew (Tanacetum parthenium)." J. Agric. Food Chem. 1999; 47; 1018-1022.)