Adam Voysey is a remarkable compost gardener, with an interest in medicinal herbs and nutritional diets for the treatment of cancer. The story of his garden first appeared in Acres Volume 8 #3. In this story, we focus more upon his natural healthcare products. His story reveals the advantages of value adding, for a small grower with a quality focus. It is also a story about long hours of research, experimentation and the trial and error proving of unique, innovative and truly natural products.
In the natural healthcare, cosmetics and herbal product market, the term ‘natural’ can be a major marketing asset. It can also be greatly exaggerated and abused descriptive term, applied by cynical and sometimes knowingly deceptive operators, to confuse, confound and ‘con’ the customer.
Peruse your local supermarket for shampoos and conditioners that feature ;Organic’ in the title, with no organically produced ingredients whatsoever. Even some well-known and generally respected high-end brands apply terms like ‘natural’ or even ‘organic’, to products that contain only a few percent of organically grown ingredients. They make large profits from the water and cheap carriers that make up the bulk of the product, and fudge on the safety and desirability of the solvents, spreaders and other secondary ingredients.
From my first meeting with Adam Voysey, I was impressed with the way he approached new products and ideas discarded as too difficult or impractical by others; researched everything he did; designed with an aesthetic eye; and brought off construction and manufacturing projects in a very short time. Even more rare in the cosmetics and healthcare business, was his focus upon a fair return rather than a massive profit, and his willingness to share information with others.
Adam was an engineer in a stressful job, which eventually affected his health and led to blood pressure, digestive and reflux problems. Adam battled these problems for a while, before he realised that a change of lifestyle was required. He accepted a long-standing offer from his grandmother, to live in her empty house at Mylor, in the Adelaide hills, and retreated to an easier life and a new-found gardening pastime.
Adam's mother gave him a birthday present - an enrolment in a series of Peter Bennett's organic gardening classes, to encourage his newly acquired, healthful gardening habits. The fifteen-week course set Adam on a new life-course, and confirmed his interest in organic growing, nutrition and eventually, cancer therapy.
Adam began his experiments by ordering a large load of Jeffries Certified Organic Compost. Adam says he chose this product because it would be easier for him to seek organic certification if he used an ”already certified” product, and because he believed it could grow a good product. He continues to buy compost, and to make his own
Adam built raised beds 40 centimetres deep, much deeper than the usual single sleeper high veggie beds, which are about 20 cm. He wanted a good depth for root crops and some of the exotic and medicinal herbs, such as ginseng. The beds are filled with compost, which has been re-composted and aged by Adam. This extra step is necessary because he grows entirely in compost, with no soil. Adam will now reconsider growing in pure compost, because of cost, however he found that the pure compost, if thoroughly aged, was a very satisfactory, weed-free medium.
The high beds help to avoid invasion of the growing area by roots of the native trees that cover the block. Some exotic trees have the ability to severely invade gardens, but most natives will not grow roots very far into the beds, as long as they are above ground, and are occasionally turned or disturbed. Shade from these trees is useful for plants like ginseng, which prefers a very shady environment.
The garden uses good rotation practice, and is very aesthetic. This makes it both an attractive place to work, and potentially a venue for bus tours and other visitor activity. It is already in demand for field days from local groups. Adam says that he has “given up engineering, to engineer a garden”. The best feature of all in this garden, is that weeds are not just tolerated, they become an essential, productive part of the garden, as many common weeds have use as medicine or other product ingredients.
With newfound time on his hands, some disappointment with the lack of help from ‘conventional’ medicine, and a healthy dose of independent personality and self-sufficient yearning, Adam researched his own medical condition, and cures. He experimented on himself, eventually discovering not only symptom relief, but also the influence of various foods and herbs, and a fundamentally different approach to diet, health and lifestyle.
Adam soon discovered that calendula oil was very helpful for his condition. Although it was not a cure, it allowed him to get significant relief. His research eventually produced Adam’s first manufactured product, the “Happy Tummy Tonic”. Adam now believes that he had been subjected to an intestinal parasite in Tonga, when he was twelve years of age. After some time on the tonic and an altered diet, he eventually passed a section of bowel lining. He was then able to digest food better, derive more nutrition from his food, and to eat and drink most things without discomfort. The role of calendula oil was to help with digestion and passage of fats, and control the acid response in his stomach.
Adams approach was to read and talk as widely as possible, amassing a great deal of information on cures and symptom relief. As there is often conflicting information available, he then went through these products eliminating the ones with the worst potential for side effects. Eventually he combined all the remaining ingredients, looking for the right balance for effectiveness, taste, shelf life and cost.
According to this plan, some products have a lot of ingredients, like the Happy Tummy Tonic, with 37. These ingredients include vegetable oils such as grapeseed, evening primrose, flaxseed, sweet almond, turmeric and neem, essential oils such as star anise and cornmint, plant extracts such as pineapple, calendula flower, garlic, ginger, sage flower, St Johns’ Wort, and bacterial foods such as Orris root, slippery elm, soy lecithin, guar gum, xanthum gum and licorice root.
It is important to note that these products are not just made on the basis of ‘tip a little of each into a jar and hope for the best”. They are researched thoroughly, and scientifically constructed to preserve the desired effect, without detrimental reaction between ingredients. Home herbalists without Adam’s background should use caution before mixing so many ingredients into one product.
The components of Happy Tummy Tonic are selected on the basis of their action as an anti-microbial, anti-parasitic, digestive aid, immunosuppressant, detoxifying agent, liver support, peristalsis promotion, or as bacterial food (to encourage beneficial gut flora) and healing agent.
A variety of influences pushed Adam into product development. His natural curiosity and engineering approach drives him to want to understand how things work. His independence of spirit and thought propels him towards self-reliance. It also soon became apparent to Adam, that the return from raw-ingredients he was producing in the raised beds was a fraction of their final value, when delivered to the end-point consumer in a manufactured product. Fore instance, Adam quotes the price of one kilo of organically grown and certified calendula flowers at around $38 - $40, however the same quantity of calendula flower will produce 10 litres of calendula oil, which sells for $40 – 60 per litre wholesale. The calendula oil then goes into another product, with an even greater value.
Manufacturing is not just assembling the ingredients together. There is a significant role for technique, and that is where much of Adams innovation has payed off. He is gradually learning to make things such as oil-free carriers. While some carriers are very good at extracting and holding onto the active ingredient while in the jar, they may actually interfere with the release of the ingredient in the digestive tract, or otherwise negatively stimulate the intestines, or other systems in the body. So the techniques Adam is developing and refining relate to product cost, ease of manufacturing, efficiency and effectiveness of the product, presentation of the product, reduction of side effects, stability and shelf life.
Adam tends to rely on a wider range of research sources than most. He looks at various traditional information streams, from east and west, including Auyervedic medicine. He also looks into the pharmacology of ingredients. He says “by researching deeply and thinking about the product, I am generally able to visualise the product as a whole, before I start experimenting with manufacturing practice”.
Adams significant research and product knowledge is reflected in his products, and his success allows him to become critical of both ingredients and processes used in some other products. For instance, he says “I can tell from just looking at many products that their technique is not up to scratch. For instance many of the home-made products such as gels and creams that I see at markets, have a depressed centre, indicating that they got the temperature wrong (too high). The unnecessary heat is not good for these products.
The product range, and market positioning
Eventually Adam hopes to have a full range of health care products, such as tonics, salves, lotions, powders, gels, ointments, tinctures and rubs. He has had considerable success with products delivered via sprays too, as these are easy to keep to hand, and can be applied more conveniently than oily creams or rubs.
In positioning his products, Adam considered the huge range of personal care products in the marketplace. He would eventually like to make shampoos etc, but has avoided these so far as there are too many competitors. He has also decided not to try and compete with the well cashed-up cosmetics manufacturers, who can invest significantly in product development and marketing. He has instead selected a range of very simple products that are cheaper to set up for manufacture, in an area that he considers is less crowded than other sectors of the marketplace. At present this is a range of natural products for bruises and strains, and some specialised health products that service only a small and very specialised part of the market. His “Achey-Breaky” range of bruise and strain products have been particularly successful. Most commercial products available in this sector are definitely not organic or even particularly ‘natural’. They also include a lot of oily rubs that are not convenient or comfortable to use. The Achey-Breaky range includes about 40 ingredients, is available as a non-oily rub or as a convenient spray bottle, in a ‘short time acting’ or ‘longer-time acting’ formulation. These products work really well, bring significant relief quickly, and therefore are easy to market, especially to the sports and gardening fraternity. As a keen gardener and home composting enthusiast, with a history of back injury from a vehicle accident, I am a dedicated user of this product.
Another favourite product of mine is ‘Dream State’. I am not a good sleeper at the best of times, and a heavy travel itinerary often finds me tossing through the night in a strange bed. I have tried other products, but find them either completely ineffective, or undesirable because of their pharmacology, or their effect on me the next day. The Dream State spray contains only essential oils. Just a two or three very short sprays onto the bedclothes (not directly onto your person) works very well for me, with no negative effects.
Other products Adam has identified include, for instance, a scabies ointment. This services only a very small component of the market, but scabies sufferers have very few products available to them, especially natural and organic products. They therefore become a dedicated market, with significant product loyalty. It is also true that Adam derives significant personal satisfaction from helping these people.
Adam is now developing a range of sinus relief products, as this also seems to be an area where commercial products are, for the most part, definitely not organic and natural.
Friends and clients, who have come to him with a problem, have driven a lot of product development. One friend has a wife with MS, and Adam says there are very few products for MS sufferers. He suggests eyebright and gotacola, to help rejuvenate myelin on the nerve tissue.
He says “as a one man show, not driven by profit only, I can choose some of my projects based on current interests. And I am definitely ‘learning by doing’ on the job. I have several projects to manufacture really natural products to compete with common materials such as sorbolene.”
“I just regard it as a natural extention of engineering, with a different set of tools.”
“A few friends have died of cancer, and that has really driven my interest in the immune system. I am developing several chemo-supportive products, to manage cancer and improve outcomes, in the sense of longevity of life, but also an easier and more comfortable passage through chemotherapy. I believe it is possible to fortify the immune system with herbs and herbal products, to ‘normalise’ it somewhat, while conventional treatment is continuing.”
“For instance we should be able to increase the number of blood cells prior to treatment”
“Elderberry is of particular interest to me in this regard.”
“Many common weeds, such as petty spurge, kangaroo apple (and other solanums) and Canadian bloodroot are of great use in skin cancer. I tried petty spurge on my own basal cell carcinoma, with complete success.”
“My current projects are mainly ointments and salves, such as a sore nipple product made from sugar-loaf cabbage and chickweed. I am also exploring acne and dermatitis products, and a soft face wash. So many products are loaded with cyclocene, xeno-estrogens and sodium laurel sulphate, and I think we can do much better. I have recently learnt to produce guar gum products with a totally natural mineralised extract, so it is non-oily.”
It is techniques such as this that make Adam’s business so brimming with possibilities. Once these techniques are mastered, a huge range of products can be re-worked, in a more natural form, with better feel on the skin, using carriers that do not interfere with the release of the main active ingredient, and without negative effects. For instance the Achey-Breaky products are water based, so they are very fast acting. Adam says “get the base right and we can control delivery. Some products require water, or wax.” Shelf life is another technique that is occupying Adam. He says “many products such as clove oil have very strong bactericide properties, but we have to be careful. Cinnamon oil for instance, will kill everything at 0.1% solution, but it has an irritant effect. Aloe is a softer product, with bactericide properties, and even broadbean stem is strongly anti-fungal. Other preserving agents include European Mountain Ash and potassium sorbate, but the real trick is to match all the ingredients, for shelf life, controlled deliver and efficacy. For instance a soft product like Aloe may balance out an aggressive product like thyme oil.”
Adam says “the techniques are based upon a lot of thinking, some basic knowledge of chemistry, and trial and error. And lots of reading medical books.”
Adam is continually becoming interested in new plants and varieties. Some ingredients are rare or expensive, so Adam is slowly expanding the area under garden and the range of species. The actual choice of plants is influenced by price, workload, availability and Adam’s personal interest in the plant, as well as to be able to understand production so that the subtlety influences on quality can be further manipulated. In some cases it has been a project just to discover which part of the plant (roots, bark, flowers, seeds, leaves) contains the most active ingredient. He is very interested in growing as much of his own product as he can, and to help this process he is again experimenting with the recipes. For instance Adam thinks that he may be able to use a tincture of lemongrass in Achey-Breaky, rather than the essential oil. If so, this will enable a greater measure of self-sufficiency.”
Adam's self-reliant approach extends to marketing the products. He produces his own graphic art, using a colour laser printer for labels, and pays friends fold the cardboard boxes. As well as reducing cost, this gives Adam total product control. While he is developing and refining products, it also allows him to produce according to a “just-in-time” system, to amend labels as necessary and to avoid either waste or large cash outlays for a long print-run.
Adam sells most of the product through word of mouth or at various farmers markets and special events such as regional shows. He is a regular at the Battunga Organic Market. The product is gradually appearing in the smaller organic outlets too. Products such as the Achey-Breaky range of anti-inflammatory’s, are so effective that once discovered by, sportsmen and women, for instance, they tend to get passed around the change-rooms, and demand builds through exposure from friends, teammates and colleagues. Adam sells some product through mail order, and has begun to advertise a little in eco magazines, but he says he is still very uncertain about where advertising will pay off, whereas word of mouth is definitely effective.
Asked about the problem of label claims, Adam says “you have to be really smart. I can make simple claims, such as a product is nutritional for skin, but I can’t claim it kills skin cancer. I also try to educate people a little through the label.”
“In fact I would not want to claim the products were ‘cures’ as such, because they won’t necessarily work in every situation, and not every skin is created equal, plus of course, internal health is critical for skin too.”
An extract from one of Adam’s brochures
In ‘days gone by’ most medicines and healing agents were extracted naturally from plants and other materials directly.
Extraction was performed by distillation, direct juicing or by infusion in water, oils, alcohol and fats.
Now most pharmaceuticals can. And are, being synthesized in industrial laboratories. These new artificially contrived copies of natural compounds are very often not chemically, nor structurally, the same as the original plant compounds.
The differences between natural plant derived and artificial compounds comes about because often the cost of reproducing an exact copy of the natural substance is prohibitive or simply because skilled pharmaceutical chemists don’t know how to artificially synthesize nature’s gifts!
In some cases the imperfect artificial copies are quite hazardous and toxic when used alone as single dose pharmaceuticals.
Many of these synthetic pharmaceuticals also have shocking side effects and debilitating long term health consequences.
It is horrific to think that approximately 50% of current human pharmaceuticals are based on chemically manipulated, patentable synthetics or upon created and imperfect copies of natural plant substances!
Unfortunately the consumer is too often the experimental laboratory rat of powerful political and social manipulations, collective and corporate greed, immoral marketing practices and the hazy dreams of multi-national controlled research scientists.
All Roseneath Organics products are made by hand using safe edible plant fats, vegetable oils and gums, unrefined bees wax, apple cider vinegar, high purity essential oils, absolute grain derived alcohol, clean rainwater, organically grown herbs and wild plant material.
Wherever possible the ingredients in all Roseneath Organic products are derived from organically cultivated plants using biodynamic farming practices.
All Roseneath products are not tested on animals and contain no animal content.
Roseneath Organics Pty Ltd
08 8388 5261