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Supply Spotlight: Draco Natural Products

Established in 1995, Draco Natural Products has since distinguished itself as a supplier of botanical ingredients for top product manufacturers in the dietary-supplements, functional-foods and cosmetics industries. "We're the first in the industry to offer full-spectrum and standardized in the same product," says company CEO Jerry Wu. "In addition, we're the first and only organic-certified manufacturer of herbal extracts in China."

Headquartered in San Jose, California, Draco processes its herbal ingredients at a 120,000-square-foot manufacturing facility in Shanghai, China. The entire Shanghai campus is certified ISO9000, HACCP, kosher and organic, by internationally recognized certifiers such as Norwegian certifier DNV (Det Norske Veritas) for ISO9000, and SGS and International Certification Services for organics.

Draco's carefully guarded water-based process allows for extraction of water- and lipid-soluble phytocompounds that other companies' alcohol processes can't get, says Brien Quirk, Draco's director of research and development, "and we're only beginning to understand the beneficial effects of some of these phytocompounds on the body." Quirk says the company's process enables them to extract phytocompounds from the pumice as well, where many of them would otherwise be lost.

Draco has gone to great lengths to ensure the quality of its products. Recent revelations about tainted Chinese goods cut two ways, Wu says. "On one hand companies like Draco look better by contrast to those that are making the quality errors. On the other hand, all companies that manufacture in China are feeling the pinch to some extent. We simply continue what we have been doing, producing high-quality products in a plant that is broadly certified."

There are other things the company has done to ensure quality. One is setting aside 10,000 acres of land in China for organics. USDA inspectors have certified the land as organic, and it will be used only for herbs grown for Draco. Another is maintaining consistent programmes of rigorous testing, including ones for constituent assay (HPLC, HPTLC, UV), moisture, bulk density, heavy metals (USP methods), pesticides, and microbiological plate counts. "We've got microcounts that typically are 100 times lower than competitors," Wu says. Draco's facilities and procedures adhere to international GMP guidelines, he says.

Draco manufactures more than 70 per cent of its products from wildcrafted plants (gathered from the natural environment). In traditional Chinese medicine, wildcrafted plants are considered to be more effective agents for promoting health.

The company invests heavily in educating its customers, who are consumer-product manufacturers and marketers, Wu says. "We don't focus on branding to consumers or educating them, but for manufacturers we have a comprehensive technical assistance program, and teach them how to get the most therapeutic formula for their specific application," he says.

As for the future, Wu says, "The baby-boomer population is ageing, providing a growing market for anti-ageing products. Also cosmeceuticals, superfruits and exotic fruits are rapid growth areas." Among items he sees as emerging with great potential are longan fruit (Euphoria longan), pomegranate-seed oil, wild jujube seed and Tiaga mushrooms. Euphoria longan has a lowering effect on blood pressure, and Quirk says it has a yang property; that is, it warms people who feel cold.

Some of Draco's fruit and vegetable extracts

Asparagus (Asparagus cochinensis) — high in polysaccharides and flavonoids such as rutin, kaempferol, quercetin and inulin
Artichoke (Cynara scolymus) — high antioxidant levels for hepatoprotective, choleretic and anticholestatic activity
Broccoli (Brassica oleracea) — high in alpha-lipoic acid; contains sulforophane and glutathione s-transferase, important for cancer protection
Cinnamon Bark (Cinnamomun spp) — warming properties, antioxidant; lowers blood sugar; lowers cellular insulin resistance
Cordyceps (Cordyceps sinensis) — athletic-performance enhancer; improves sex drive, physical stamina and energy; stimulates immune system; bronchodilator
Kiwi (Actinidia chinensis) — source of potassium, which lowers blood pressure. Also a source of Vitamin C and other nutrients
Luo Han Guo (Momordica grosvenori) — 250x sweeter than sugar with low glycaemic index; considered GRAS
Onion (Allium cepa) — good source of the antioxidant quercetin and folic acid; may help lower blood-sugar levels and inhibit ulcer-causing H pylori bacteria

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