QAQC stands for Quality Assurance and Quality Control, but this little acronym means so much more in the eyes of Prairie Star employees.
Since we have a focus towards bioregional herbalism ( utilizing and highlighting herbs that grow and are sourced from our bioregion), we work hard with our local growers and other herbal providers to source herbs correctly and ethically. When we receive fresh (and dried) plant material, which is all Summer long, we must inspect every herb for damage and disease, as well as correct species identification.
Plants of the Prairie are powerful. Plants that possess such great health benefits also have high value within the herbal/natural medicine industry...this is why we must be diligent and understand the importance of species used, as well as monitor the specie's population and source our herbs from cultivated resources, rather than wild-crafted.
We take pride in quality of our products. We follow Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) and conduct bi-annual review of our processes We have several steps or check points in the GMP process. Intake is one of the first steps/ check points. Production cannot begin with out intake. During Intake, we identify, weight and garble the plant material. We also evaluate documentation from our growers and suppliers. If the proper documentation is not provided, we will place the plant material in quarantine until proper documentation is received. If it is not received, we will reject and send back to the grower or supplier. Another way plant material may be rejected is during garbling, If the plants do not meet our standards, then it is rejected. It is such a rare occurrence that we have to reject plant material, we are truly blessed to have such growers and suppliers!
Organoleptics - Utilizing our Sensory Organs
With our approach to Bioregional Herbalism, we've had to hone our craft in more ways than one:
- Sight - What color is the leaves, stems, flowers, roots? Is there any disease or damage present? Is the fresh harvest still hydrated? All the way down to the tiny details of what does the leaf margin and shape look like? (For those of you that don't know, the leaf margin is the shape/texture of the very edge of a leaf)
- Smell - What aroma does the plant give off? Is there any aroma at all? Is the scent long-lasting or does it fade quickly? Does it smell wet? Does it smell earthy? Does it smell like a warm Summer's day?
- Taste - Yes, all raw plant material must be tasted and approved prior to being accepted for production. Each plant has a specific part that is processed - some herbs we use the root only, others we use the aerial in bloom, and some plants we utilize all parts of the plant. We taste each and every raw plant specimen that comes through our lab.
- Touch - We get the great privilege of handling all 200+ herbs that we carry here at PSB. We get to see the beauty of the plant in its peak time of glory - inspecting each leaf, bark, and root to determine its texture and density.
- Sound - Usually, plants don't make sounds...however, if you know how to hold them just right, you pick up subtle details. Listening for how the leaves rub together, whether the stem snaps or bends, and how the plant spills into our metal bowls - does it make a clink or more of a clunk? One could also argue, that we are listening to the plants and their energies, sensing whether they were harvested lovingly or ripped out of the ground viciously, treated like the weeds they are (we don't process these kinds of plants)!
Organoleptics isn't only applied to our raw plant materials and other manufacturing supplies, it is also highly utilized for our final products. Every new batch of Tincture or Glycerite, Herbal Formula, Salve, and Infused Oil must all go through the QAQC process.*
*Not all parts of Organoleptics are applicable to every type of product - we don't taste oil-based items and we don't recommend that you do either*
We compare every new batch with records of previous batches to make sure they match or are equally acceptable, in terms of quality and effectivity. With diligent note-taking, we can determine what ratio of solvents is best for each herb and what makes the best extract - fresh or dried plant material. When evaluating the final products, our Organoleptics becomes a little more complex - incorporating aspects such as mouth feel, energetics of the extract (uplifting, calming, stimulating, etc.), and action (Sialagogue, Expectorant, Dispersing, etc.).
Trust me, we could go on and on about the importance and excitement that surrounds herbal product evaluation and comparison, but we know you probably aren't that interested. We want you to know that we put ourselves into the herbs that you take, because we know how vital they are to our customers. There is nothing better than having the opportunity to connect with, and experience, so many plants that are important to our society. We hope you have enjoyed learning the true meaning of QAQC for PSB.