The products, developed by an Israeli research firm, Antaki, use a number of plants common in Europe but in combinations, or for indications, previously unknown here.
Danish supplement company Sprunk-Jansen, set up recently by Erik Sprunk-Jansen, the former CEO of pharmaceuticals company Lundbeck, has bought the worldwide rights to 25 of the Antaki products and says its marketing approach will give the novel supplements a strong introduction to Nordic consumers.
Biochemist Dr Stephen Fulder, a leading herbal medicine expert working as consultant to the companies, told NutraIngredients.com: "European herbal medicine was originally derived from Arabic medicine but there are hundreds of herbs that are not well known in Europe. We wanted to use this intact tradition to create more effective products than many of those on the European market."
He explained: "European products today are often not very effective because they are not developed from a tradition but rather out of opportunistic thinking. The market is limited by this."
"The [European] market is in need of novel, effective and regulatable products. It has been selling the same things for the last 20 or 30 years but in many cases these are not effective enough," he continued.
"For example, camomile tea, one of the most widely used medicinal plants around the world, is used for just about everything but there is not really much evidence of its efficacy."
The new Arabic products will be marketed for indications including men's infertility, psoriasis, acne and increased cholesterol. The acne product includes saponaria, shown in research at Hebrew University to stop the production of sebum, in combination with two other plants that also work on the root of the problem.
"Saponaria has never really been developed and researched before but we have found proof of the tradition," said Fulder.
Other plants used in the new range include olive leaf for cholesterol-lowering and chicory, used in Arabic medicine in a similar way to dandelion root, for body cleansing and immune boosting. Many of the plants exist in Europe but have been overlooked, noted Fulder.
Antaki was founded around 10 years ago by a group of Palestinian researchers wishing to revive the Arabic medicine tradition and using the research capabilities in Israel to develop a scientific basis. It has carried out "a considerable amount of biochemical research" at prestigious Israeli universities to find proof of the tradition.
Some of the products could be registered under the forthcoming European directive for traditional medicinal herbal products, depending on their prior use in Europe.
Antaki is currently selling the extracts locally in Israel. Under the agreement with Sprunk-Jansen it will supply bulk extracts, produced under GMP conditions, to be encapsulated and packaged in Europe.
Sprunk-Jansen will initially be marketing the food supplements on the Danish market by the end of the year, and the Baltic countries in early 2005. Poland and the other Nordic countries will follow, and licensing agreements will be sought in markets such as the US, Russia and Asia.
Chairman Erik Sprunk-Jansen told us: "There is an opening for the combination of good products and branding we will do. We are looking after the marketing in a way that I have not seen done before in the herbal supplements industry."
The Danish firm is carrying out an online survey of Danish consumer opinion on food supplements and herbal medicine and has also involved GPs in surveys. It claims that all products will provide the user with an undisputed effect and detailed information and has involved an international branding agency in its campaign.
Sprunk-Jansen says he is aiming for sales of around $3-4 million in the first year on its home market, which makes about $100 million from supplements annually.