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Preparation of herbal medicines

Santana Enterprises, Uppala 670322
Kerala, India


Herbal preparations are increasingly becoming popular. In India where 75% of the population depend on herbal preparations, 540 plant species are used in different formulations. As with modern medicine a preparation may be of a single herb or a combination of different herbs.

Usually fresh preparations are the most commonly used. However, there are limiting factors, namely availability, which may vary according to seasons, area of collection, convenience and potency.

Herbal medicines are usually prepared as an extract, powder, tablet or a pill. In order to have good results in herbal processing, it is important to have skilled manpower throughout, i.e., from collection to processing and usage. Apart from skilled manpower, other factors which may affect herbal processing include technology, required time for preparations, storage, packing and cost of production.

The production of herbal medicines for therapeutic use at a company in Kerala India, the Santana Enterprises, is discussed. Although the company has no definite production list, it has so far several formulas of different forms and different therapeutic uses. The paper ends by pointing out that the Santana Enterprises Company has a well equipped pharmacy laboratory, physicians, skilled manpower, and herbal medicines may be prepared for anybody on request.


The popularity of herbal preparations is increasing daily because herbs have minimal side effects, and also give permanent relief. Statistics show that India is on the top of the list of countries which use herbal drugs: the country uses nearly 540 plant species in different formulations. 75% of its population depends on herbal medicine for the treatment of various ailments. In fact, India was one of the pioneers in the development and practice of herbal medicine. The most notable healing system in India is what is known as ayurveda. In ayurveda, thousands of herbal preparations are discussed and information is given on their medicinal applications.

Uses of herbal preparations

A single herb, or a combination of different herbs, can be used as preventive, promotive, and curative substances. Fresh preparations are the most commonly used, but there are many limiting factors, namely, availability, area of collection, convenience, and potency.

Adequately grown herbs are available in certain seasons, but sometimes their collection is restricted to certain seasons. Herbal drugs are also not available in all localities. In some cases the potency of & herbal drug does not depend on the season only but also on the area. The tastes of patients differ from one individual to another, and, because of this, herbal drugs have to be prepared in different forms to suit the individual patients. Finally, the potency of herbal medicine can be modified according to the patients' need for utilizing different methods of preparation. Therefore, the potency of the herbal drug can be increased, decreased, or restored.

Forms of herbal preparations

Herbal medicine can be prepared in four ways: as an extract from fresh herbs; as a powder, as a tablet, and as a pill after shade-drying, powdering or processing to produce a tablet or a pill.

When preparing the medicine from fresh material, the fresh or dried herbs are boiled in water and used as a decoction. In some eases natural preservatives are used in the preparations. For example, in Arista and Avaleha, jaggery is the preservative, but the difference is that the Arista is fermented and taken in a liquid form. In case of Avaleha, it is not fermented, and, therefore, it is taken in a solid form. Also in the medicated oil or ghee, the oil and ghee are the natural preservatives.

Processing of herbal medicines

In the preparation of herbal medicines, three points must be considered in achieving good results: quality, quantity, and presentation. In order to achieve the above, skilled persons in the field are required. These will use specific techniques in the preparation of powder or tablets. Such skills are also necessary in the preparation of Avaleha, Arista, and medicated oil or ghee.

Limiting factors in herbal medicine processing

(a) Technology

Although modern technologies are available in the preparation of herbal medicines, such technologies can affect the potency of the preparations. Therefore, specific techniques indicated in ancient textbooks must be evaluated. For example, the drying of herbs in a shade has advantages, since this presents photo-destruction of some active principles. In the preparation of Arista, forty-eight days are required for fermentation without addition of organisms to speed up the fermentation process.

(b) Skilled persons

In herbal medicine processing, the requirement of skilled persons is mandatory. For example, there are no documented recipe on the preparation of Avaleha. Only a few skilled persons know how to do it.

(c) Time

There is a time limit for the preparation of herbal medicines. In the preparation of oil, three days are required. In the preparation of Arista, 48 days period is a minimum time. The following is the required time for various preparations:

· tablet, pills, powder: 1-3 days;
· medicated oil/ghee: 3-108 days;
· Avaleha: 3-7 days;
· Decoction: 3-48 days; and
· Arista, Asava: 48 - 365 days.

(d) Storage of medicines

In order to retain the potency of herbal medicine preparations, airtight and light proof packaging is a necessary requirement. However, one cannot use the preparation indefinitely, as they have an expiry date. For example:

· Powder: 2-6 months;
· Tablets, pills: 1 - 3 years;
· Avaleha: 1-2 years;
· Medicated oil/ghee: 4-12 months;
· Arista, Asava: no time limit.

(e) Packing

Proper packing is important in order to restore potency, to facilitate transport and to avoid damage to the products, and finally, for the satisfaction of the patients. The packages are separated, weighed and counted.

(f) Cost of production

The cost of production varies according to the following reasons: collection costs, processing costs, packing costs, etc. The collection costs largely depend on the source of collection. If the collection of the materials is from sporadically distributed flora, the unit transport costs become very high. These can be reduced by reverting to the cultivation of medicinal herbs. On processing, if the processing is easy and simple, the production coat is lower, but if it is a difficult process, requiring skilled persons and a lot of time, etc. the costs increase. On packing, the cost varies according to the nature of the product and the nature of packing. On transportation, the cost of production increases according to the distance involved in the transportation of the herbal medicines. On the profit, the Santana Enterprises does not receive more than 30% of the total ex-factory charges as profit, but the company gives profits to agents, sub-agents, and distributors, etc. On taxes, the cost of herbal medicine varies according to the taxes paid, for example, sales tax, state tax, central tax and local tax.

Production of herbal medicine for therapeutic use

The therapeutic results of a herbal medicine changes depending on the parts of the herb used, a combination of herbs, and the present form of the herb. The company under discussion has several formulas of different forms and different therapeutic uses. The company does not have a definite production list. The following is an example of five medicinal herbs, with their uses:

(a) Pippal: Piper longum, Linn.
(b) Haritak: Terminalia chebula Retz.
(c) Brahm: Centella asiatica (Linn) Urban.
(d) Bala: Sida cordifolia Linn.
(e) Nimba: Azadiracta indica A. Juss.

The above herbs can be used singly or in combination in the treatment of different ailments. By changing their preparations and form, the ultimate therapeutic results can also be changed.

In the case of Piper longum Linn; the fruit is the part used, and has a pungent taste. The powdered fruit, mixed with honey, is used in cough and loss of appetite. Its Aveleha, if prepared and taken with milk, is good for the improvement of digestion and body strength. If Piper longum (50%) and Terminalia chebula (50%) are mixed together and incorporated in honey, the preparation becomes effective in the treatment of asthma.

In the case of Centella asiatica, the plant is an important herb whose fresh extract is used to improve mental ability. Its Avaleha is taken for 48 days with cow milk.

In the case of Sida cordifolia, the root is the main part used. If the root is prepared with oil, it is used in curing arthritis, body ache, debility, and paralysis. With respect to Azadiracta indica, the bark, leaf and fruits of the plant are the main parts used. The oil from the seeds and the paste are applied to cure a variety of skin diseases. 1/2 a cup of its juice every rooming for 24 days is good for the body.


The company (Santana Enterprises) prepares many herbal medicines. It has a well equipped pharmacy laboratory, physicians, skilled and trained workers capable of preparing herbal medicines. The company will be happy to prepare any medicine as needed.