John Goicovich and Elaine Sheff have spent the last 14 years perfecting herbal remedy recipes in their basement lab at Meadowsweet Herbs. But a host of federal regulations pulled the plug on their wholesale operation this summer, and the duo has already begun stocking tinctures from out-of-state suppliers.
"The ruling is not clear about what is or is not going to be enforced," Goicovich says of the Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) Current Good Manufacturing Practices for dietary supplements. "For a small business, they have to ask if it's worth complying on a bunch of maybes and the discretion of an inspector...We didn't want to make tinctures for the man, I guess."
The new regulations stem from the 1994 Dietary Supplement and Health Education Act (DSHEA), which granted the FDA authority to establish practices for manufacturing herbal medicines. The FDA issued its final ruling in June 2007, and those standards went into effect for smaller businesses like Meadowsweet this June. According to the FDA, compliance with the regulations would cost such stores an additional $46,000 a year.
"It's just cost prohibitive for small companies," Goicovich says. "Only the largest of herbal companies or pharmaceutical companies...would be able to comply to that."
Sheff says the store is allowed to sell off tinctures made before a late June deadline, but the supply will only last into the fall. All told, Meadowsweet will lose 135 products from its line.
Katrina Farnum, a local caregiver and owner of Garden Mother Herbs, says she uses Meadowsweet's tinctures on a daily basis either for herself or her clients. Numerous Missoula businesses like the Good Food Store carry the brand. Buying from non-local suppliers is "money we could be keeping in the local economy," Farnum says.
"One thing we might see is the cost of those kinds of things go up if companies have more regulations put on them," Farnum says. "They have to spend more money in production, and we'll probably see those costs as consumers."
Goicovich and Sheff choose to ignore the negatives. They've refocused their efforts on educating Missoulians on making home remedies. Sheff has turned a summer course in wildcrafting into a monthly winter class. Goicovich says they're stocking more equipment and bulk herbs.
"Now it's time to let those go," Sheff says of the tinctures, "and move on to just doing it in a different way."