Native Plant Extract Soothes Itches
A Nelson company is banking on the horopito leaf's anti-fungal qualities to enlarge its niche in the booming worldwide natural health products market.
Forest Herbs Research Ltd has found a way of consistently extracting the active ingredients from the native shrub's leaf so it can be turned into a cream, powder or liquid.
The concentrate called kolorXtract is sold for other companies to use in their products.
Forest Herbs also incorporates it in its own Kolorex branded products.
"Consistency of activity is important because it is what the market demands," Forest Herbs Research director Peter Butler says.
"European and United States companies require this consistency to meet today's sophisticated natural health market."
The project to develop the consistency was completed with help from Industrial Research Ltd and Technology New Zealand, the Government agency that invests in research into new products, processes or services.
Mr Butler says the horopito extract can be used for skin problems such as athlete's foot, groin rash and thrush.
Most of Forest Herbs Research's output goes to Europe and East Asia.
"We focus on identifying and enhancing the medicinal properties of New Zealand plants.
We've found that we have to use research - good-quality science - to do that.
Historical plant use information is interesting, but is not nearly enough in itself to base the modern product on.
"We surveyed all types of horopito in the country to find the plant with the best qualities. We found huge variations in quality.
" Mr Butler says Technology New Zealand's assistance was significant.
"It enabled us to do the research in two years instead of five. It meant we could go to market earlier, thus earning export receipts. It has a high value-added content to it."
He says a survey published in May 1999 by Prevention, an American healthcare publication, showed 49 per cent of respondents had used natural products in the previous 12 months, and that 24 per cent were regular users.
"So that gives you an idea of the scope of demand for these products," he says.