Boiron’s Good Practice

17 August 2016

Arnica Fact #7

post 7Preserving Arnica

To preserve Arnica, a wild plant threatened with extinction, Laboratoires Boiron has set up good practices for picking with detailed specifications.

A Constant Commitment for Boiron

Each year, between approximately June 1 and July 20, twenty or so professional pickers harvest Arnica for Laboratoires Boiron. They pick the entire plant with a part of the root in the high‑altitude meadows of six mountainous regions: the Vosges, the Alps, the Massif Central, Ardèche, the Pyrenees and Aveyron.

To preserve wild plants, promote biodiversity and ensure an Arnica montana crop of excellent quality, Laboratoires Boiron has set up detailed specifications. They require strict picking conditions, such as:

  • Only 30% of a picking site’s potential is to be harvested to ensure the sustainability of the species.
  • Botanical species must be harvested or grown away from industrial or urban zones, intensive or traditional farms, or roads in order to avoid pollution as much as possible.
  • The plants must be sorted from all other plant species and cleaned of anything else foreign to the ordered plant (dirt, wood debris, stones, etc.).
  • The health condition of the plants must also be perfect (aphid attacks, diseases, rust and powdery mildew, etc.).
  • The plants must be harvested and delivered immediately after harvesting (within 48 hours), in aerated packaging and via refrigerated trucks.

« La première qualité que l’on demande aux récoltants, c’est d’être des botanistes. Ils doivent connaitre une grande partie des espèces végétales et savoir reconnaitre les plantes dans leur habitat naturel », explique Françoise Merceron, Pharmacien et Responsable de l’achat des plantes pour les laboratoires Boiron, avant d’ajouter : « C’est également important que les récoltants respectent la nature. L’Arnica montana est une espèce où il faut faire vraiment attention lors de sa cueillette à laisser toujours une partie de plante en place, de telle sorte qu’elle puisse se renouveler et que l’on puisse avoir la ressource nécessaire aux années futures ».

Arnica Fact #8

The history of a partnership

More than simple suppliers, the Arnica pickers have become partners of Laboratoires Boiron over the years.

Arnica Pickers: Boiron’s Natural Partners

It’s been the same ritual every year for the past 20 years: Vincent Deschandol scours the Ardèche plateau to pick Arnica montana in compliance with the Boiron specifications. “I have always had a very good relationship with Boiron,” states this nature‑lover, who has enjoyed visiting the laboratories several times. “Knowing what our plants are going to become is essential,” says the harvester.

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Deschandol is not alone in this. For the harvesting of Arnica montana, like for all the plants, Laboratoires Boiron works with pickers who have become true partners over time. Some of these partnerships have lasted for more than 20 years, with father and son harvesters.

It must be said that working with wild plants requires great flexibility, for both the pickers and the laboratory. A harvest can be postponed due to poor weather conditions, or a plant may need to be picked as soon as possible because it is flowering. The partnership with the pickers makes it possible to be aware of this kind of change and to ensure receipt under urgent conditions or to postpone a delivery.

“For me, the important thing is the relationships with the people who are in direct contact with nature. These partnerships allow us to have raw material of optimal quality,” explains Françoise Merceron, a pharmacist and head of plant purchasing for Laboratoires Boiron.

Arnica Fact #9

Boiron expertise

As soon as it arrives at the Messimy site next to Lyon, the Arnica montana undergoes a battery of tests for quality control. This is an absolutely necessary step prior to its transformation.

Ensure the Purity of the Arnica

“Arnica is a very important plant for us—it is a component of a certain number of proprietary medicinal products that we manufacture, and it is one of the flagship products that we produce in tubes and doses. The entire team is therefore extremely motivated when it arrives. We impatiently wait for the month of July to arrive! “ says Loïc Butavand, a pharmacist and the manufacturing director at the Messimy site.

As soon as it is received at the laboratory, the Arnica montana is the subject of a computer declaration. The control teams then carry out botanical recognition to check that it is the right plant, using the flora in particular.

Arnica Arrives in Numbers

There are more than fifteen deliveries to the laboratory between May and July, accounting for several tons of Arnica.

The general quality of the batch is then checked. “We make sure the plant does not have any parasites, it has not been damaged during transport, and it does not have anything foreign on it. We also measure its moisture level, as well as its radioactivity using a Geiger counter,” explains Carmen Pont, who works in the botanical control department of Laboratoires Boiron.

Compliance with the delivery deadlines (a maximum of 48 hours after harvest) and the origin of the plant are also checked. Then, the Arnica undergoes phyto‑chemical analyses—checking for anything foreign and loss upon desiccation on the fresh plant.

If the plant passes all these tests successfully, the IT release is carried out. The transformation and manufacturing phase can then begin.

Arnica Fact #10

Transformation into medicine

In order to transform plants into homeopathic medicines, the active substances need to be extracted. This process, which leads to the manufacture of the mother tincture, is perfectly controlled by Laboratoires Boiron. This unique know‑how is the result of more than half a century of experience and innovation.

The Transformation of Arnica into a Homeopathic Medicine

The mother tincture is the point of departure for all homeopathic medicines. The manufacturing cycle of this mother tincture lasts approximately one month. Four steps are necessary:

  • Maceration: After being cut, the plants are macerated for several days in a mixture of water and alcohol in stainless steel containers. The moisture level of the plant, which is determined by weighing it on an infra‑red scale, makes it possible to precisely calculate the amount of purified water and alcohol to add. In the end, the alcohol content generally varies between 45% and 65% for most of Boiron’s mother tinctures.
  • Expression: The Boiron team then carries out the expression of the mother tincture using hydraulic presses. The expression of the juice makes it possible to separate the “green waste,” called the “cake,” from the future mother tincture. The cakes are recovered and used in compost.
  • Filtration: The solution is filtered to eliminate particles larger than 1 micron.
  • The control of the production of a mother tincture concerns its alcohol concentration, the examination of the dry residue, the identification of the characteristic components by thin layer chromatography, and the screening for impurities (residues from pesticides, heavy metals, etc.).

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Once the homeopathic mother tincture has been obtained, Boiron carries out the subsequent dilutions. For this, 1/100th of the mother tincture is taken and diluted in  99/100th of the water/alcohol solution. The mixture is then shaken vigorously. This is called dynamization (or succussion). We then obtain a dilution of 1 CH.

The dilutions are carried out under laminar flow hoods that make it possible to work in an extremely pure atmosphere. When the desired dilution is ready, it is incorporated into neutral supports (granules and globules) during the medication phase.

Boiron uses the triple medication method, which is a specific patent that ensures homogeneous distribution. It takes 55 minutes to medicate 5 kg of globules.

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Arnica by the numbers:

  • Approximately 20 professional picking partners
  • 48-hour maximum between harvest and arrival at the laboratory
  • About 15 Arnica deliveries to the laboratory between May and July
  • 8 people specific to the entire manufacturing process (all workshops and sites together)
  • 1 month from the start of maceration to the transmission of the sample mother tincture to the control laboratory

“We ensure as much quality as possible at each step of manufacturing with controls upon receipt, good manufacturing practices, and control of the mother tincture and the final or semi‑final product.’’ – Jean‑Christophe Bayssat, Pharmacist and Deputy Director General in charge of industrial operations at Boiron.

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