Where a plant comes from has a huge effect on its character, much like people. Plants grown in their native environment develop the right balance of chemical compounds. For that reason, whenever we can, we source from a plant’s native habitat. We look for suppliers who can either sustainably collect or cultivate herbs that meet the quality standards we need. This can often take years of development. By fostering long-term relationships and paying a fair wage (through programs like Fair Trade and FairWild), we incentivize our farmers and collectors to create high quality products. We’ve been working with some of our suppliers for over 30 years. Using Fair Trade and Fair Wild standards wherever possible also ensures the sustainability of both people and plant communities.
After being harvested or wild collected and then cut, cleaned, and carefully dried, our herbs make their way to our solar-powered facility in Sebastopol, California. This is where things get interesting. We must ensure that the herbs we’re using have the “right stuff,” so we hold them to an extremely high standard: pharmacopoeial grade. A pharmacopoeia is an official book of quality standards for herbs, vitamins, and drugs that ensures the right quality and the correct effect for their intended purpose.
Each herb has its own quality standard to ensure optimal activity. That can mean high essential oil content, the right amount of bitterness, or a minimum level of an active compound. But the result for each is the same: a tea that has power. This commitment to quality is one of the things that sets us apart from other tea brands.
The wisdom of Traditional Herbal Medicine has been helping people for centuries. For us, it’s very important to pass that ancient knowledge along. Our formulations are one important way we do this. Our teas are created according to various traditional systems of herbal medicine (which one depends on what kind of tea we’re looking to blend), with complex rules of compatibility and combination theory. Whenever we develop a new herbal tea, we consider what traditional formulas are presently being used within the various systems of Traditional Herbal Medicine. Each system has its own rationale for herb combining, but there are similar general principles among all systems.
For example, Smooth Move® Original tea is formulated according to the principles of Traditional European Herbal Medicine. It uses rules of compatibility and organizing principles for teas to define a hierarchy of ingredients. The hierarchies include the Basic Remedy, in which one to five herbs address the condition, and supporting herbs are added to compliment the Basic Remedy or to reduce undesirable effects. A small amount of taste herbs, or corrigents, are used to make the tea taste good. Senna leaf, a laxative, is our Basic Remedy in Smooth Move, with licorice, fennel, cinnamon, coriander, and ginger added as supporting herbs to alleviate cramping, and sweet orange peel and its essential oil added for taste.
There won’t be a pop quiz at the end of this, we promise. But we hope you find it interesting and helpful. Very simply, it’s why our teas work.