Supplement firm Biotropics Malaysia is tapping into the country's own herbs and botanicals to develop products it claims are clinically tested and proven to work.
One of its key areas of focus is men's health — particularly older men — for which it has developed Physta, a standardised extract of tongkat ali.
The ingredient is present in supplements in several different formulations, including tablets, premix drinks, chocolate products, and cereal bars.
It also has functional food potential. According to Biotropics' head of research Annie George, it can be added into beverages such as coffee and energy drinks for sustained energy, and enhanced mood and immunity.
George told NutraIngredients-Asia: "It is also backed by clinical research to be effective in increasing energy, vigour, strength, immunity, reproductive health, sexual health, fertility, endurance, recovery from fatigue, and stress relief, and promoting lean muscle development."
She added that it was the only clinically researched tongkat ali extract on the market, with the raw material first subject to authentication to make sure the correct plant (Eurycoma longofolia) and plant part (root) are used.
In the US, it has already attained self-affirmed GRAS (generally recognised as safe) status, and is currently awaiting novel food approval in the EU.
George revealed that the testing methods for the clinical trials conducted on Physta so far were based on validated questionnaires for quality of life, and the researchers had indeed observed an improvement in the participants' quality of life, as well as a reduction in ageing symptoms.
In addition, they saw a reduction in tension, anger, confusion, and cortisol levels in the study subjects, as well as an increase in testosterone levels. Lower susceptibility to muscle damage was also observed, along with a reduction in fat mass.
George explained, "Physta is an adaptogen. Hence, it stimulates the enzymes responsible in the testosterone biosynthetic pathway, thus increasing testosterone when it is depleted by stress, oxidative stress, ageing, or intensive training."
Not just a man's world
In an uncommon marketing move, Biotropics Malaysia has positioned Physta as beneficial to women as well.
George said, "Women, too, produce testosterone — albeit 10 times less than men — as it is required for physical and mental energy and acuity, mood improvement, stress reduction, and strength.
"Clinically, Physta was evaluated and found to improve stress levels, strength, and immunity in women."
Botanicals for brain health
Another up-and-coming botanical extract Biotropics is working on is BioKesum extract, derived from kesum, an indigenous plant of Malaysia and South East Asia that is available all year round.
Kesum is also called 'smart weed', and has traditionally been used to flavour soups and other dishes, or consumed as a salad for anti-ageing purposes, as a digestive aid, or as a postpartum tonic.
BioKesum extract is a patented, standardised water-extract of kesum, meant to function as an all-around anti-ageing ingredient.
George said BioKesum was rich in polyphenols and flavonoids, and contains quercetin-3-glucoronide, which previous research has found to be able to help prevent Alzheimer’s disease by reducing beta amyloid production in the brain.
She added: "The high antioxidant content protects against free radical damage that can affect the body, including the brain, which requires a large amount of oxygen to thrive. It also has anti-inflammatory, immune-boosting and anti-wrinkle effects. The entire extract can be used for these purposes."
Presently, capsules containing a concentrated form of kesum are the chosen delivery format for BioKesum extract, but George said it could also be formulated into a functional beverage.
The target demographic for the extract are adults aged 35 and above, particularly educators and busy executives, due to the tendency toward cognitive decline from that age onwards.
Consumers looking to supplement their brain function and increase its potential can also partake, said George.
Biotropics Malaysia, which has been in operation for 11 years, has a primary goal of developing and commercialising Malaysia's native herbs as health products for the international market.
The company has invested heavily in the R&D, clinical research, commercial extraction, manufacturing and marketing of natural health products, including proprietary standardised extracts and dietary supplements, as well as functional food and nutraceutical ingredients.
Its aim, it says, is to ensure all its products are "scientifically tested and verified to meet the highest quality, safety and efficacy standards".
Currently, its products are available in Malaysia, Singapore, Japan, Vietnam, Hong Kong, China, the Middle East, Russia, Canada and the US.
George said, "We are looking to penetrate Indonesia, (further into) the Middle East, Europe, and several ASEAN countries in the near future.
"In Indonesia, the population is familiar with herbs, but clinically researched, high-quality herbal supplements are lacking, hence the demand for them. In the Middle East, there is a demand for halal products for well-being."