Herba Spice Agronomic Practices

Stringent quality requirements apply to the acceptance of medicinal herbs as raw materials for the manufacture of herbal medicines. The quality requirements are prescribed by the Australian Therapeutic Goods Administration through the Code of Good Manufacturing Practice.

Three key standards against which herbal raw materials are assessed are:

  • Identity: The correct botanical identification of genus, species, variety/cultivar, chemotype.
  • Purity: Herb and plant part must not be contaminated by extraneous matter, including moulds, foreign plant matter, incorrect plant parts of the specified plant, soil, stones or animal matter, pesticides and heavy metals.
  • Efficacy: The herb must possess the required level of medicinally active constituents.

The identity, purity and potency of a herb crop are affected by all cultivation and on-farm processing practices.

All herbal materials are exposed to a wide range of possible contamination sources on-farm. To minimise such potential contamination at the primary producer level, producers of medicinal herbs should be aware that in 2003 the World Health Organisation (WHO) published a Code of Good Agricultural Practice (GAP) in a publication entitled WHO Guidelines on Good Agricultural and Collection Practices (GACP) for Medicinal Plants.

Elements of this code of practice, when adopted in an on-farm crop management system, would assist in the consistent supply of medicinal herbs that meet the requirements of identity, purity and efficacy.

The main elements addressed in the WHO document are as follows.

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