Over the coming weeks and months, Beauty and the Bees will be sharing content about the unique Tasmanian businesses we work with and admire, from farmers and beekeepers to scientists and artisans. Our first piece focuses on Marleen Herbs, suppliers of some of our finest ingredients.
From seaweed to goat’s milk to Leatherwood Honey, Beauty and the Bees’ natural products are built on our proximity to the wonderful raw ingredients of Tasmania. It’s science with a touch of magic.
And some of our most exquisite ingredients are sourced from Marleen Herbs; its owners have supplied us with essential herbs for more than two decades.
”I have been buying herbs from the owners, Ronald and Marleen, for 23 years. They are just the most lovely, hardworking Dutch farmers you can imagine,” says Beauty and the Bees Founder Jill Saunders.
“They’re as passionate about the quality of their products as we are. They simply live to grow the finest medicinal herbs anywhere in the world. Indeed Brauer, the German medical company, still works with them because what they produce is absolutely unique in Australia: super-potent fresh plant tinctures and extracts, not dry herb material like all others here, capturing the whole essence of the plants, processing them literally metres from where they are grown”.
Almost 4 Decades of Herb Farming
The van de Winckels began growing herbs in 1982 in their native Holland. Initially, Marleen and Ronald focused on about 10 different medicinal herbs, used to produce herbal teas. In 1990, they began focusing on medicinal plants intended for use in phytotherapeutic (the use of extracts of natural origin as medicines or health-promoting agents) and homeopathic preparations.
Marleen Herbs was officially launched in 2011, though the van de Winckels had already been farming in Tasmania for many years, traveling back and forth between Tassie and Holland. It has grown from a 40- to 80-hectare mixed-farm, where the van der Winckels now raise more than 150 different herbs, from aloe, echinacea, and other well-known herbs to mugwort, wormwood and such curiously named tinctures as native pigface and shepherd’s purse.
The farm is entirely organic, using no fertilizers, pesticides, and minimal irrigation. The only producer of herbal medicinal plant extracts in the country, the family-owned business was built on the couple’s passion for herbs, as well as Ronald’s training; he earned a degree in Agricultural Engineering at the University of Wageningen.
Located in Barrington, a rural community in the Northwest region of Tasmania (near Devonport), the farm benefits from rich volcanic soil and the efficient use of modern specialized cultivation- and processing-machinery.
The northern Tassie climate — with its often extreme drops in temperature between day and night — stimulates the plants to produce more of the medicinal properties for which the herbs are raised. What protects the plants also protects us!
An Important Tradition
Saunders emphasizes the importance of the farm’s “European Tradition,” which emphasizes extracting oil from fresh herbs rather than dried, which are far less potent.
Indeed, they are the only ones making plant gemmos, rare extracts that capture the essence of trees, fruits, herbs, and flowers Saunders says. “Their process captures the very essence of the growing life force of the plants by laboriously hand-harvesting the buds of blackcurrant and birch, for example.”
Among the products Beauty and the Bees uses from Marleen Herbs include:
- Calendula flowers. which we have delivered fresh before we carefully dry them to macerate them in extra virgin olive oil at low temperatures. “Their product is simply amazing, in part because the area that they farm has the most incredibly rich red volcanic soil,” Saunders says. “It’s in the heartland for vegetable production on the island.” Plus…
- Farm-made extracts, including Chamomile, Oats Cleavers, Calendula Green, Comfrey Root, Nettle, and
- Tasmanian Blackcurrant Gemmo. Beauty and the Bees is the world’s first skincare producer to use this ingredient in cosmetics!
Farm to Table? No, Farm to Lab
Another unique feature of Marleen Farms is its on-site TGA (Therapeutic Goods Administration) certified lab, where all the tinctures, hydrosols, extracts, and more are produced.
“Ronald does that directly with all the fresh plant material grown about 50 metres away,” Saunders says. “After herbs are harvested, they’re extracted, macerated, and pressed onsite immediately to ensure quality and capture the vitality and life force of the plant”
During these stages, extraction liquid is combined with plant pulp in stainless steel vessels. The mixture, which also includes ethanol, is left for several weeks to extract at room temperature while being stirred regularly, the process of maceration.
Herbalists and science geeks will also love to know that, in addition to maceration, the Marleen Herb’s lab uses percolation and vacuum-distillation; separation by vacuum-filtration or centrifugation and concentration/standarisation by vacuum-distillation, with all processes adapted to the newest GMP rules and regulations.
“For processing, we use an herb-drier and a laboratory for the production of plant-extracts,” their website reads.
Our Values Match
The van de Winckels’ commitment to quality and core values align perfectly with Beauty and the Bees’ practices and beliefs.
Marlene Herbs’ house and other buildings are built to be sustainable, incorporating plantation wood, water-based paint, insulation with mineral wool (plus agricultural waste-products!), and reusing of building materials.
The herb-drier uses the warm air created by the 400 m2 steel-plated roof from the processing building, while the house, lab, and even their electric tractor are powered by a solar-based energy system.
Ronald van de Winckel emphasizes that very little of Marleen Herbs’ crop goes to waste. “We use all parts of the plant in different extracts. We mainly use the above-ground part of the plant and make an extract of that, but you can also dry it. You can harvest the root. And even the seed is being used because of its medicinal properties,” he says.
Though they’ve been farming for almost four decades, Ronald and Marleen show no signs of slowing down. “It’s hard work on the farm, but I wouldn’t like to change to another job,” Marleen says.
Marleen Herbs is a Tasmanian business that combines an eco-friendly approach to organic farming combined with the best of 21st Century science and technology to produce a world-class product that Beauty and the Bees is lucky to have close at hand.