HRB 690 Internship

The Spring 2018 trimester marked my first of three required internships.  I wanted at least one of them to be focused on scientific testing and lab work since I have a keen interest in the science behind the plants I study and work with.  To meet this goal, I did my first internship with MUIH faculty, on the Microbial Analysis Experiment.

The Microbial Analysis Experiment is a joint experiment between the University of Maryland’s Joint Institute for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition (JIFSAN) and the Maryland University of Integrative Health (MUIH) Dispensary.  The research objective of the overarching study is to compare the results of microbial testing conducted in a laboratory setting versus multiple non-laboratory settings that use a bunsen burner to create a sterile field. The study is broken into 3 phases, with my internship occurring during phase 1: the Research Phase.

My assignment was to conduct research remotely to: determine the regulatory requirements for microbial testing, develop the steps for selecting and preparing a laboratory environment in a remote location, and develop a list of materials that would be required to conduct microbial testing in an aseptic home/remote lab.  All work was due by April. This research will provide small business owners (me!) with the education necessary to properly test botanical matter. The sanitization techniques are also applicable for product development and manufacturing.

I have included the first deliverable as an example of my work.  It is a list of the resources that I found to answer the questions posed. Each of these sources was part of my literature review and provided information as to industry standards for testing, or how to properly prepare a lab environment.  Other documents are still being collaboratively worked on. This internship is still ongoing at the time of this posting.

 

HRB 690 Lit Review Resources

 

 

 

Advertisements

HRB 635b Field Trip/ Industry Intensive

HRB 635b is a field trip offered by Maryland University of Integrative Health (MUIH) for students in the Product Design tract of the Masters of Therapeutic Herbalism program.  For one week the students travel to Asheville, North Carolina, located in the Appalachian Mountains in the western part of the state.  The students have the opportunity to visit various players in the herbal industry, getting behind the scenes tours and hands-on experience.  The week is designed in a way that students get to see all aspects of the industry: growing the crops, natural product development, herbal schools, scientific research, conservation efforts, etc.

The purpose of this artifact (and all artifacts on this blog) is to illustrate to the MUIH faculty that I successfully accomplished the objectives of the course.  The trip is jam packed with tours, both eye opening and life changing, this may well read like a travel brochure or advertisement for these companies, rather than an educational artifact.  I could not even scratch the surface on the work these companies are doing so i encourage interested parties to check out the company pages.  Also, feel free to contact me with any questions.

The trip that I participated in was September 5- 10, 2017.  The learning objectives for this course were for the student to:

  • Have developed awareness of diverse business models employed by herbalists in the herbal products industry.
  • Have an introductory knowledge of the major components of an herbal products company including but not limited to cultivation, harvesting, processing, formulation, quality control, research and business (marketing, sales, and financial considerations)
  • Have gained an appreciation for the range of sizes/scales of successful herbal products businesses
  • Have gained a foundational knowledge of the principles of and ethical considerations surrounding sustainable sourcing (cultivated vs wildcrafted, etc.) of medicinal plants for commercial use
  • Have developed an awareness of the importance of preserving natural plant communities and the pros and cons of sustainable wild harvest of medicinal plants
  • Have continued to improve their plant identification skills, building on instruction from previous coursework.

In order to achieve these objectives, we visited local businesses and schools, participated in class lectures at the house where we all stayed, did research and homework assignments, and spent some time hiking and wildcrafting.  Like many businesses, no cameras were allowed in most operational areas.  I have included the photos that I was allowed to take.

 

Blue Ridge Food Ventures – This facility is a large warehouse, composed of multiple kitchens, that are used to manufacture food, beverages, and natural products.  We were able to tour the facility and see how other small businesses owners rented  certified kitchen spaces in order to meet Good Manufacturing Processes and regulatory requirements of their industry.  This was particularly helpful for those of us that were struggling with the logistics of maintaining a legally complaint business.  The photos below were taken inside the front of the facility and showcase some of the products that are manufactured within the building.

 

 

Blue Ridge School of Herbal Medicine Blue Ridge School of Herbal Medicine Director (founder), CoryPine Shane allowed us entry into his school.

We all took seats in his classroom as he shared his story.  He held nothing back, telling us both the good and the bad that he experienced while building a career in a tough path.  He offered wisdom and insight, answered questions, and let us all take a sneak peak into his apothecary, where Pine Herbals are crafted.  Not only did I leave with a better understanding of the business side of the industry, but I purchased a pretty awesome bottle of Betony tincture, as well.

 

 

Gaia Herbs

Gaia Herbs is spoken, almost in reverence, by many in the herbal industry.  All I knew of the company was that they produced high quality herbal supplements – and that I liked their tea.  Given the sheet scope and size of their operation, there was a lot to see and discuss.

IMG_20170908_121717

We started our tour in the chemistry labs where we got to see millions of dollars in cutting edge equipment at work.  No photos are allowed within the labs so you are stuck with this one of me in the lobby prior to entry.  We learned about the extensive testing that Gaia conducts and got to ask questions of the Quality Assurance team at work.  Our discussions of solvents, extraction methods, aseptic lab techniques, etc was easily an hour or two of our day.  I have never been in such a nice, well equipped lab, so it was a bit mind blowing to think that it was a lab for a company in the herbal industry.  This is when I first started to understand why herbalists root for Gaia.

Next we toured the production facilities.  Since our phones were outside in the lobby, I did not get to take extension notes.  We had a very good discussion of the various methods for creating herbal extractions.  Gaia uses a percolation and their testing has show it to be more effective than other means of extraction.  We got to see the machinery involved and ask questions before we proceeded to the area where the supplements were encapsulated.

Unlike many other herbal supplement suppliers, Gaia encapsulates liquid extracts.  We got to watch capsules being filled, sealed, inspected, and boxed for delivery over to the packaging warehouse were they are put into Gaia’s patented plant-based bottles.

We spent the rest of our morning touring the farms (they have virtual tours on their website).  I got to ask questions about the planting and cultivation techniques, how the crops are treated and harvested, proper climate, etc. It was informative and made me feel as if this is something I could do myself (on a far smaller scale).  Additionally, we learned about Gaia’s

And now, for the photos.  Imagine standing in field of echinacea and passionflower, surrounded by Gingko and Hawthorn trees, breathing in clean mountain air, with the aroma of relaxing herbs on the breeze. That is what a trip to Gaia is like.

Side note: One of the things we learned from Dr. McCoy was that passionflower (the more pink flower in the slideshow) is one of the only herbs found to have been nearly uniformly used by Native American tribes.

 

As a final, unexpected treat, Gaia treated us to lunch in their dining facility.   The food was amazing and fresh but it was the sit down experience that was so memorable.  we sat down to outdoor dining with views overlooking the grounds. Truly stunning imagery. We all thought the trip couldn’t possibly get any better and then Ric Scalzo, Founder and  CEO of Gaia Herbs, pulled up a chair and ate with us.  He generously let us ask him questions related to operations, starting a business, building relationships with suppliers around the world, and so much more.  I cannot imagine any other reality where I would have the opportunity to ask a successful CEO to share all his secrets for building a business.

 

image9

Herbal Ingenuity  Located in Wilkesboro, North Carolina, Herbal Ingenuity is a raw material supplier that takes raw botanical ingredients, directly from suppliers, and cleans, cuts, and treats the materials for the end customer.  We were able to watch the quality assurance process as workers sifted through the materials, see the machines used for cutting, and ask questions of the staff throughout our time there.

North Carolina Arboretum & Germplasm Repository  This part of the trip was the most surprising.  When we were initially told we were visiting an arboretum, I was naturally quite happy.  What herbalist doesn’t love arboretums?  I was entirely unfamiliar with the Germplasm Repository and its unique, important work. Brace yourself, I’m going to gush – and try to respect the confidential nature of some of the work.

Straight from their site, “The North Carolina Arboretum Germplasm Repository (TNCAGR) leads a multifaceted effort to conserve, study and utilize native plants and plant organisms (endophytes).”  None of the students were prepared for what we were about to see.

First, we got to meet Dr. Joe-Ann McCoy, the Director of the Germplasm Repository. I took four pages of notes while she spoke. I finally switched to voice clips while she discussed the plight of the Ginseng crop.  She generously explained her work in creating voucher specimens, collecting and conserving seeds, encouraging the development of seed banks, researching, grant proposal writing, and conducting research and testing on endophytes – the organisms that live inside of plants.  I took an entire page of notes on this alone and am absolutely captivated by topic.  By this point in our trip I was already asking Dr. McCoy if took interns.

We got to look around the lab (slideshow below), see the equipment, and gain a greater appreciation for the scientific work being conducted.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The final part of our time with Dr. McCoy was seeing some of the plants being propagated and a lesson in ethnobotany.  She was working with local tribes to propagate plants that had significant traditional and medicinal value to the tribes.  Through the trust she had built with them, she had been allowed into a world few were part of.  She had developed relationships with numerous native tribes, and was working hard to help them all develop their own voucher specimen collections and herbariums.  This unexpected session of the trip was the most inspirational part of the entire trip.

 

 

 

North Carolina State University Mountain Horticultural Crops Research and Extension Center

I took very few notes on this part of the trip because we were hands on with the plants and exploring gardens and woods.  We started this visit with a trip to North Carolina State University’s Mountain Horticulture Crops Research and Extension Center.  We saw the offices where the staff worked and learned about the Alternative Crops and Organics Program, much of which is dedicated to medicinals.  From there we hopped in some trucks and went off to see some of the crops.

The Asian herb garden was fascinating to see.  We learned about the current issues in the industry with contaminated Indian and Chinese herbs. The soil in China is full of heavy metals and fecal matter has been found on many plants in India. For this reason many companies are turning to the United States to supply traditional Asian plants. The very unique ecology of western North Carolina is very similar to Asia so the plants can grow successfully without losing the medicinal benefits.

 

The second half of this trip introduced us to forest farming.  We saw some very special and endangered medicinal plants growing in the woods and learned about the ethnobotanical connections between these plants and the local communities.  We discussed sustainable harvesting practices, over-harvesting, and ethical issues. Below are some photos of Black Cohosh, Ginseng, Bloodroot, and Goldenseal. Additionally, we learned about the Appalachian Beginning Forest Farmer Coalition.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

Final lesson:

We ended our trip with a lesson from our instructor on sustainable wildcrafting and botanical identification.  We visited a state park where we were able to hike and discuss the plants that we encountered.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

ISci 701 Introduction to Statistics, Research Design, and Information Literacy

According to the course description,

This course supports critical analysis of a wide range of integrative health studies. It provides future integrative medicine professionals with the foundational knowledge and skills to identify and evaluate research design and basic statistics. Students develop skills in searching databases as well as critical appraisal of clinical and epidemiological research. Students will find and evaluate published information on health topics then summarize and share their findings.

This course was much more challenging than anticipated. Successful completion of each assignment required demonstration of all of the skills covered in the class to date.  An example of the this is the last individual assignment we did prior to the group project presentation.  The assignment was to evaluate two scientific studies and determine if they would be clinically relevant to a practitioner’s client population.

ISci 701 Whitney_Palacios_Assignment2

HRB 605 Materia Medica

This course investigates approximately 30 of the most commonly used herbal medicines and related supplements in the United States. Each herb will be discussed from the ethnobotanical perspective as well as the modern phyto-therapeutic perspective, with a focus on pharmacological understanding and relevant clinical trials. Special emphasis will be placed on topics relevant to the contemporary clinician, including quality control, interactions, and other safety parameters of each herb covered. This course provides the student with the necessary skills to effectively research herbs not covered in the class.

This class quickly takes a deep dive into the very detailed world of each herb covered.  Over the duration of the course we worked on a project where we had fictional patients that we had to treat.  As the course progressed and our understanding of the therapeutic actions of the herbs deepened, we reflected on our initial protocols and discussed lessons learned. This paper is an example of this work throughout the course.

 

Research Paper Part C

 

HRB 622 Herbal Pharmacy and Product Presentation

This artifact is the documentation of two herbal products that I formulated and created to illustrate the skills I gained through HRB 622 Herbal Pharmacy.   The first product required time and planning as I created separate hydroethanol extractions for five different ingredients to create the final product. The product turned out very well and provided me with some great learning experiences.

The second product included in this artifact was the less successful of the two. I utilized skills I learned about topical infusions and essential oils to create a bath blend. While the aroma and therapeutic properties met with the intended expectation, I had not given any thought to pharmaceutical elegance.  Ultimately, I had a very nice product that could have been much better.  This endeavor illustrated that attention to detail is crucial in product design.

ProductPresentation

 

 

HRB 600 Foundations of Herbal Medicine

This artifact is research that I conducted in one of my first herbal classes. To complete the assignment we had to locate both primary and secondary literature to support my research.  Locating primary research ended up being much harder than anticipated.  During this process I learned how to obtain an identification card so that I could use the Library of Congress to look through the numerous primary texts available on early Native American cultures so that I could better determine their medicinal uses for verbascum thapsus.

HRB600 Native American Herb Use