An exciting year ahead for Forest Herbs Research

It may come as a surprise to learn that New Zealand’s only dedicated commercial Horopito grower isn’t a plant nursery, but a natural health products company.

Nelson-based Forest Herbs Research is a private company dedicated to researching Horopito’s properties and developing health products from it.  To date it has developed Kolorex Horopito-based product ranges for digestion, vaginal thrush, cold-sores and athlete’s foot.

The company, which was founded 20 years ago, originally surveyed all New Zealand’s wild Horopito populations and found enormous variation in plant activity and potency. The only way to ensure consistently high quality was to start growing its own plants.

The company grows its Horopito in Golden Bay and will soon expand to two more farms in the area, tripling production. Only the leaves are harvested, using modified tea harvesting machines. The leaves are then immediately taken to driers on the farm and processed. The quick turnaround – from picked to fully dried two to three days – is crucial for maintaining the leaves’ potency.

Expanding growing operations aside, this year looks like it will be an exciting one for Forest Herbs Research because it plans to extend its digestive range to incorporate prebiotics.

“Ongoing research and development lies at the core of our business, and at present we are focusing on research-backed prebiotics. There are some interesting New Zealand-specific prebiotics, such as kiwifruit, so there are some exciting opportunities for us in this space,” says General Manager Dr Amanda Wiggins.

The vast majority – about 94% – of the company’s products are exported, with China being by far the largest market.

South Africa and in Italy are also strong markets, particularly for the Kolorex oral formulations. Amanda puts this down to the health insurers in those markets providing partial reimbursement for natural health product purchases, and because herbal remedies are well accepted in those markets.

“For example, when someone buys a pharmaceutical cream for thrush the pharmacist will also offer them a bottle of Kolorex with it.

“Wouldn’t that be great for our industry if the same kind of thing happened in New Zealand!”