Mountain Meadow Herbs creates herbal tinctures, remedies
By David Reese, Montana Health Journal
Walking into the production area at Mountain Meadow Herbs, the aromas hit you first.
The smells are at once familiar and strange, like a memory or a faraway land. These wonderful aromas come from around the world, and have names dong quai root, cat’s clawbark, false unicorn, and cornsilk herb. Strange as the names may be, their healing properties have been around for centuries. Here at Mountain Meadow Herbs south of Kalispell, herbal remedies are being created, packaged and sold to thousands of customers all over the world.
David Amrein of Mountain Meadow Herbs
The company occupies a 23,000-square-foot warehouse and retail space on Montana 82, between Somers and Bigfork. A retail facility in the front of the shop is being created, with space for a restaurant. In the back of the facility the real magic takes place. Tall shelves are lined with dark-brown jugs of prepared tinctures. At one end of the production facility, a worker fills tiny bottles of tincture, while workers at the other end prepare boxes of the tinctures for shipping. Some herbs are so delicate they are kept in a quarantine room before being used and over 220 herbs are used in the manufacture of the herbal tinctures at Mountain Meadow Herbs. The manufacturing process resembles something between a cooking operation and a brewery. The dried herbs are cooked for two days in large, stainless steel vats, then allowed to simmer and cool before bottling. The cooked liquid of herbal recipes is blended with glycerin or alcohol as a preservative, then bottled and sold around the world.
Mountain Meadow Herbs creates over 50 herbal tinctures for a wide range of uses, for anti-inflammatory, arthritis, high blood pressure, even impotence and placenta release. Founder Kathy Garber knows firsthand how well herbal remedies can work. Her son had kidney disease at a young age, so she set out to find a solution that would not require drugs. She began making herbal capsules for his treatment then made liquid herbal extracts. Her son’s kidneys eventually returned to normal function. Seeing how successful herbal remedies were, she created a business around them and started Mountain Meadow Herbs in 2003.
David P. Amrein had been looking at buying a naturopathic business for several years and had scoured the country for the right business model and team. The Swiss native came upon Mountain Meadow Herbs in 2008 and purchased the business from Garber, who has remained on staff. About 60 percent of Mountain Meadow Herbs’ business is geared toward Amish and Mennonite communities. Amish believe that true healing must come from God, and that herbs are a gift from God to humans.
This is why they rely on natural remedies such as those sold by Mountain Meadow Herbs. The company remains focused on its popular existing products and its commitment to the Amish and Mennonite communities, but it also researches and develops its own new herbal remedies and recipes, such as those for weight loss, cholesterol and eyesight problems. Amrein is a lean, fit athlete who is a certified naturopath. He knows the value of the herbal remedies, having used them himself. But he also makes sure people know herbal remedies are not a quick fix. Herbal remedies are made to support and enhance the body’s own immune systems, so they take more time to show effectiveness, he said.
“Your body is a machine, and the idea is to let the body take care of itself,” Amrein said. People who use natural healing remedies tend to fall into two categories, Amrein said. The first are people who simply don’t trust modern pharmaceuticals. The others are people who have tried drugs, and are hoping for something effective and natural.
While much of Mountain Meadow Herbs’ business is focused on helping Amish and Mennonite communities, Amrein hopes to grow the market for his herbal remedies outside the religious community. That, however, is a delicate balance, as the Amish and Mennonite are a devoted, but skeptical, clientele. “You can’t be glossy, loud or self impressed,” he said. “That doesn’t work with them. You have to respect their values.”
With 20 employees, the company is just the right size to be able to achieve its goals, Amrein said. “I don’t want to create something anonymous and big,” he said.
Staying focused is important, as the market for natural remedies has expanded greatly in the last few years. “The market has seen a lot of innovation,” he said. “To set yourself apart from what is there, is not as easy as it once was.”
Trust and experience are keys to building a customer base that relies on quality herbal products, Amrein said. He’s also seeing traditional Western medicine embracing herbal remedies.
Creating and selling natural remedies requires complying with Food and Drug Administration guidelines. Since the herbal tinctures are classified as a food, Mountain Meadow Herbs cannot make medical claims. One of their tinctures that is used as an anti-diahreal can only be said to “balance the digestive system.”
Amrein lives in Switzerland and travels between Europe and Kalispell. Coming out of college armed with an MBA, he knew he didn’t want to go into business with aspirations of being a banker and occupying a corner office. “I wanted to do something meaningful,” he said. “I had a great job offer out of school but I would have been totally replaceable, and I wouldn’t have been trying to make the world better. The whole thing is very close to my heart. I’m in the business of making products that benefit people.”
On the web: mountainmeadowherbs.com