Analytical Services news

An active ingredient promoting healthier skin is hidden in the roots of the peony plant (photo courtesy of Dove River Peonies)
6 October 2017

Assisting local producers to add value

Nelson Tasman business Dove River Peonies is coming up for 5 years of using the active ingredient paeoniflorin from the peony root to make a range of skin care products, with a special focus on helping people suffering from eczema and other skin complaints.

The owners Georgia Richards and Dot Kettle looked to Cawthron Institute to help them measure the level of active ingredient in their products at a very early stage in their business journey.

“It was absolutely essential for us,” says Dot. “We wouldn’t have been able to get a product to market with confidence if Cawthron hadn’t able to assist with measuring the composition of the product.” Cawthron measured the composition according to the British Pharmacopeia, which is recognised as the international standard for natural products testing that contain active ingredients.

“We saw this as an opportunity to support a local start-up business and with some support from the Callaghan Innovation Fund we were able to assist,” says Augusta van Wijk, Business Development Manager for Cawthron Analytical Services.

“Had they not been willing to do that we would have had to send our product to Australia for testing, at a cost of $2,000 per sample,” says Dot.

Dot and Georgia visiting Tracy at Cawthron's Good Manufacturing Practice laboratory

Another benefit of having Cawthron on their doorstep was that Dot and Georgia were able to test multiple varieties of peony root and discovered that there was significant variance in the level of active ingredient found in different root varieties. “We were excited to find that levels in some varieties were two-three times higher than the standard required to make it usable as an extract,” says Georgia.

As a result, Dove River Peonies is now embarking on a benchmarking project with Cawthron to identify if there is variation depending on time of harvest, peony root variety, the age of the root, or the amount of time that the root is stored before the extract is gathered.

The ability to discuss their research and development plans with Tracy Healy, Cawthron’s Good Manufacturing Practice Senior Technician is extremely helpful, says Dot, given that Dot and Georgia have no in-house R&D resource within their business. “It adds to the robustness of our testing plan and helps significantly,” says Dot. “Tracy is also able to communicate what our results mean in a way that we can understand.”

Cawthron’s enthusiasm, flexibility, and willingness to work with Dove River Peonies and their understanding of the commercial demands the business faces have been key factors in the business’ success, says Georgia.

“We’re not just a number to the team at Cawthron. When we ring up they know who we are and what we’re about and they’re genuinely enthusiastic about our business and our products.”