The Herbarie

Monday, November 1, 2010

Fall Lessons and Natural Antimicrobials

As summer has come to a close and winter is just around the corner, it seems natural to think about where we've been and where we want to go and how life is always changing. It's a time for reaping and sowing, cleaning out the old, and planning for new.

I see that our trees are changing and preparing for winter dormancy. The leaves are shades of gold, orange, red and brown and are falling to the Earth. I like to think about how the leaves will enrich the soil and the roots will grow deep for winter nourishment.

My beloved Zinnias are straggledy haggledy this time of year, but are still valiantly blooming and sending out thousands of seeds. I’ve pulled out many past-their-prime Zinnias to make way for the gorgeous Sansanqua blooms, but have left some of the still brilliant flowers for the bees and butterflies who love them.

Yesterday in the garden, I saw several beautiful Monarch and Swallowtail butterflies! They were moving from Zinnia to Zinnia in the late afternoon sunshine. I’m thinking that soon they will also be preparing for winter, but how nice to enjoy those blossoms while they can! It’s sad to know all the Zinnia flowers will be gone by the first frost, but it makes me happy to think about their rebirth in the Spring! I sowed the first tiny packet of Zinnia seeds in Spring of 1997. For many years I saved the seeds in Fall for careful sowing the following Spring. But over time, as I’ve developed a better understanding and faith in the process of life, the Zinnias have beautifully and bountifully sown themselves each year! I look forward to meeting the 14th generation in 2011 and together we will decide where to grow!

Last Winter we began renovating the gardens and business facilities and have made good progress, but there is still so much to be done! Hind sight being 20/20, back when we bought the property in 1996, I wish we would have developed a master design including the business facilities, gardens, our home, woods, etc. But instead, we’ve done everything bit by bit, adding things here and there over the years so that we now have a bit of a hodge-podge of this and that. Also, as a former city girl with a country heart and soul, I was so thrilled to have my own special place on Earth, a place to sow seeds and plant plants, that I filled every nook and cranny with TOO MUCH! So for the past year, I’ve been trying to rethink and rework the gardens and buildings to create spaces that are both enjoyable and have good functionality. The basic plan now is to work with what we have, while removing, refining and restructuring as needed to make the best of it!

We always have a lot going on at Stoney Hill Farm and The Herbarie! During the week, Earl, Jean, Andy and I can usually be found in the warehouse, office and/or processing area. We process over 40 of our own botanical extracts, complexes, hydrosols and other ingredients that we sell at The Herbarie. Our inventory includes approximately 400+ ingredients and products that we distribute from other manufacturers. In addition, our Formulary includes many sample formulas which demonstrate how to utilize our ingredients. The previous blog included three of my most recent formulas which demonstrated how to utilize Olivem 1000, Oliwax, Oliwax LC, and Olive Oil PEG 7 Esters. I very much enjoy working in the lab and had hoped to created new formulas for this Fall blog, but with the beautiful, cool weather I’ve been spending as much time as possible outside. So, instead of working in my lab on weekends, I’ve been in the garden. But I do want to discuss some important points regarding my Botanical Olive Natural Lotion.

Botanical Olive Natural Lotion

In a previous blog, I shared my formula for Botanical Olive Natural Lotion. This formula utilizes Olivem 1000 as the primary emulsifier, with Oliwax and XanThix to stabilize and enhance overall feel and texture. Botanical Olive Natural Lotion will be a very thick lotion or moderately thick cream. I’ve packaged it as a lotion with a pump dispenser and also as a cream in a jar. Either way, this formula makes a lovely emulsion!

It’s also very important to note the primary antimicrobial in this formula is natural sourced Leucidal Liquid. Leucidal Liquid is water soluble, compatible with most ingredients, and is odorless and colorless. In fact, the entire preservative system in this formula consists of natural source, plant based antimicrobials. We have been testing our batch sample over time since May and I am absolutely thrilled to report that our most recent tests are still <10 cfu/gram for yeast/ mold and <1 cfu/gram for bacteria! With these excellent test results at the six month point, I can recommend this formula and preservative system to our clients with reasonable confidence. We will continue to test this sample for at least one year or may choose to have the formula challenge tested. And as always, we encourage companies to conduct their own stability and preservative efficacy testing.

Here’s the formula:

Botanical Olive Natural Lotion

Part A or Oil Phase
5.0% = 25 grams Olivem 1000
2.0% = 10 grams Oliwax
8.0% = 40 grams Cupuacu Butter
5.0% = 25 grams Organic Golden Jojoba Oil
3.0% = 15 grams Olive Squalane
0.4% = 2 grams XanThix

Part B or Water Phase
65.95% = 329.75 Distilled Water
5.0% = 25 grams Symglucan

Part C or Cooldown Phase
2.0% = 10 grams Chia Seed CO2
0.05% = 0.25 grams Rosemary CO2 Extract
0.5% = 2.5 grams Lavender CO2 Extract
0.5% = 2.5 grams Bergamot FCF EO
0.5% = 2.5 grams Rose Geranium EO
0.1% = 0.5 grams Ylang Ylang EO
2.0% = 10 grams Leucidal Liquid

Total: 100% = 500 grams

Part A: Weigh XanThix and set aside. Combine remainder of ingredients and heat to 175F. Add XanThix to heated mixture and stir gently.
Part B: Combine ingredients and heat to 175F. Add Part B to A with high shear mixing. Cool to 50C/122F (or less)
Part C: Add ingredients, mix well until completely cool.

--I am always asked about substitutions and changes to formulas. When substitutions are used and formulas do not turn out as expected I am asked why. Of course, when changes are made, the outcome will be different. Some changes or substitutions will have a more significant impact than others. Some changes may be for the better or some could take it in the wrong direction. I recommend first making the formula as it is written, then tweak it to suit preferences in subsequent experiments.

Natural and Plant Based Preservatives

Nowadays, most customers are looking for less aggressive preservatives and "natural preservatives". Unfortunately there is no one perfect natural preservative that we can simply put into our finished formulations as an afterthought. Let me repeat: There is no one natural preservative that will work for every formula as an afterthought! However, it’s entirely possible to create a formula using natural antimicrobials to create a viable preservative system that can demonstrate efficacy in a particular formula. Notice that I often use the terms “antimicrobial” and “antioxidant” and “preservative system” instead of “preservative”. We need to move away from the idea of creating fabulous formulas only to realize at the last minute that it needs a “preservative”. Instead, we need to consider the entire formulation including a preservative system that may in fact be multifunctional as well. Creating an effective preservative system takes time and testing for each and every formulation. What works for one formulation, may not work for another. So, please make note, it's always best to create a formula from start to finish with the preservative system in mind.

The Botanical Olive Natural Lotion contains many nutrient-rich, moisturizing and conditioning ingredients. They were carefully chosen to complement one another in various ways. Many of the ingredients are also multifunctional. For example, Rosemary Antioxidant CO2 Extract is a powerful antioxidant which will help delay the oxidation of oils. In addition, Rosemary Antioxidant CO2 Extract offers some antimicrobial activity and has skin soothing, anti-irritant characteristics. As an added plus, Rosemary Antioxidant CO2 Extract is certified organic by the USDA NOP. Now that’s one powerful, multifunctional ingredient! I also chose a blend of essential oils for their antimicrobial activity, synergy and lovely scent. Lavender Flower CO2 Extract, Rose Geranium Essential Oil, Bergamot FCF Essential Oil, and just a touch of Ylang Ylang Essential Oil provide a fresh, green-floral scent that I just adore!

Microbial Testing

When I created the Botanical Olive Natural Lotion formula in May 2010, I speculated and hoped these antimicrobials would work in synergy and prove to be a broad-spectrum preservative system with efficacy to inhibit the growth of microorganisms (bacteria, yeast, mold) and most especially pathogenic organisms such as Staphylococcus aureus, Pseudomonas species, Enterobacteriaceae and Candida albicans. But while I can speculate and hope the cream will be well preserved, the only way to know for sure is with microbial testing. There are a number of different testing procedures and methods. The standard in our industry is Challenge Testing for various microorganisms with a standardized protocol. Challenge Testing provides information about a specific formula and whether or not it will stand up to the challenge of being inoculated with specific microorganisms over a specified period of time. Challenge Testing is pass/fail and is expensive. As a viable and less expensive first step or alternative, we often recommend using Normal Usage Testing. I’ll explain how Normal Usage Testing works for us and can work for others.

We utilized Normal Usage Testing for our Botanical Olive Natural Lotion. The name speaks for itself. Since May, the product has been packaged in a jar and has “been used normally” on a routine basis. We can determine preservative system efficacy by testing the same sample (APC/yeast/mold) repeatedly with normal usage over time. The initial test results should have very low counts and will not tell us much about preservative efficacy, but will provide valuable information about Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP). The subsequent test results will tell us more about Preservative System Efficacy or how the preservative system will stand up over time.

Our Normal or Possible Usage testing includes putting unwashed fingers into the jar repeatedly and any number of things customers may do once the product is in their hands. Please note this procedure does carry some risk since there is potentially a period of time where the product could be contaminated without the user knowing it. Therefore, as part of the protocol, we recommend “normal usage” should be immediately following test results.

Here’s the way it works: After each period of “Normal or Possible Usage”, a sample from this original batch is sent to the lab for testing. Usually one ounce samples are sufficient. I opt for the following testjng schedule:

●Manufacture sample – determines GMP
●One month from manufacture date – sets baseline
●Three months from manufacture date
●Six months from manufacture date
●One year from manufacture date

For each APC/yeast/mold sample test our goal is:
●Less than 1 cfu/gram for bacteria
●Less than 10 cfu/gram for mold and yeast
●Contains no pathogenic organisms

For more information about how to proceed with microbial testing, please send me an email:

Please note: Responsible cosmetic and toiletry businesses will be familiar with the FDA Guidelines for Cosmetics and will adhere to the FDA Good Manufacturing Guidelines (GMP).

Creating a Preservative System for Cosmetic Formulations

For excellent detailed information about preserving cosmetics and toiletries, I highly recommend David Steinberg’s “Preservatives for Cosmetics” and “Preservative Free and Self Preserving Cosmetics and Drugs – Principles and Practices” by Jon Kabara and others.

My goal for this blog is to share some very basic information that I hope will be helpful. It’s important to learn as much as possible about each and every ingredient, including antimicrobials. For example, some antimicrobials are water soluble and some are more oil soluble. Some antimicrobials are cationic and will not be compatible in anionic formulations. Some antimicrobials are not compatible with certain ingredients. Some work in synergy and others don’t.

Water Soluble Antimicrobials

Water is the substance for life and that includes microorganisms. The most effective antimicrobials will be water soluble so they can most efficiently inhibit the microorganisms in the water portion.

Water soluble antimicrobials are used in watery products that do not contain emulsifiers. Water soluble antimicrobials can also be used in emulsions. The antimicrobials in this category range from aggressive and efficient broad spectrum to very mild gentle with minimal antimicrobial activity. Some can be used as the primary or only antimicrobial in the formula, others play a supportive role and must be used in combination.

Water soluble antimicrobials that can play a primary role in the preservative system include the following:

●Germall Plus Liquid – synthetic, completely water soluble, easy to use viscous liquid, highly efficient at low percentages, broad spectrum, excellent compatibility, offers best assurance for most difficult to preserve formulations. Downside is that some formulators do not want to work with a formaldehyde donor.
●Leucidal Liquid – plant based/natural, completely water soluble, easy to use liquid, non irritating, odorless, available data demonstrates broad spectrum activity, excellent compatibility. Synergy with other antimicrobials such as Aspen Bark Extract. Downside is lack of data.
●Cosmocil CQ – synthetic, completely water soluble, non irritating and very gentle, can be used near mucous membranes, our test results demonstrate excellent efficacy when used in all water formulations as well as in cationic emulsions. Downside is incompatibility with anionics.
●Aspen Bark Extract – plant based/natural, available data demonstrates broad spectrum antimicrobial activity, good compatibility, synergy with other antimicrobials such as Leucidal Liquid. Downside is lack of available data. Powdered form is not as easy to use as a liquid.
●Optiphen ND – synthetic, water dispersible, but not completely water soluble and works best with an emulsifier or surfactant. Downside is that it will not be a good choice for formulations with a pH greater than 5.5.

Here are a few supportive antimicrobials and/or chelating agents. Please read more about these water soluble/dispersible ingredients on our website product pages:

●Willow bark Extract
●Wasabi Extract
●Versene NA Crystals (Disodium EDTA) and Tetrasodium EDTA
●Citric Acid

Oil Soluble and Oil Dispersible Antimcrobials

Oil soluble antimicrobials are used in anhydrous or oily products such as salves and balms and other products that do not contain water. Oil soluble antimicrobials can also be used in emulsions such as creams and lotions because the emulsifier will help the oily antimicrobial move to the water portion. Since we know most of the microbial activity is happening in the water portion, this is an important consideration. Again, within this category there are more aggressive and less aggressive antimicrobials. Few are broad spectrum, with Optiphen being the exception. Optiphen has demonstrated good efficacy in a number of different formulations including emulsions. However, most of the oil soluble antimicrobials will play a supporting role instead of a primary one. Here are some examples of oil soluble antimcrobials and antioxidants:

●Rosemary Antioxidant CO2 Extract – both antioxidant and antimicrobial activity, multifunctional as skin soothing agent.
●Various essential oils such as geranium, lavender, tea tree, oregano, thyme, rosemary. Use caution since overuse of essential oils can be dangerous or sensitizing.
●Usnea Lichen CO2 Extract – water dispersible
●St. John’s Wort CO2 Extract
●Gramwell Root CO2 Extract
●Coviox T-50 – mixed tocopherols – antioxidant, will help delay oxidation of oils. Synergy with Rosemary Antioxidant CO2 Extract


The Herbarie at Stoney Hill Farm, Inc. – 10 Year Celebration – Thank You!

Time flies and before you know it, we’ve been in business for 10 years! As any successful business owner knows, we’ve worked very hard to achieve our success and we are proud of our achievements. But we certainly couldn’t have made it without our dear friends and customers! Many of our first customers are still with us after all this time and we are grateful for their loyalty. We are also happy to “meet” our many new customers every day!

During the month of November, every online order will receive a small gift as a special THANK YOU! We will continue to celebrate in December and into 2011 with special THANK YOU! gifts for our customers! The Herbarie Customers are the BEST!

Best Wishes for a Colorful Fall!