Interview with Interview with Atef Mekael of the Overseas Natural Ingredients Corporation

Q: Can you please tell us a little bit about yourself (personally and professionally)?

A: I graduated in 1994 with a B.Sc of Telecommunications Engineering. Just prior to my graduation myself and a USA-based business partner joined forces to start various importing/exporting activities centered on Egyptian products. In 2004 we began to see more demand for high quality herbs, spices and dried vegetables

Q: Why herbs and spices? What makes Egyptian products so special?

A. In ancient Egypt, herbs have been used for thousands of years for healing uses and played a huge role in Ancient Egyptian medicine. Ancient Egyptians used more than 700 herbs for their healing benefits.

The most famous plant – medicine “encyclopedia” in the world comes from Egypt. It is the Ebers Papyrus and is 20 meters long with 110 pages.

The Egyptian food and herbal ingredients spread across the world and are part of modern society’s universally known culinary ingredients.

Q: What is the difference between Chinese herbs and Egyptian herbs?

A: Egyptians use herbs in simple recipes for medications, which were typically added to common food in the form of spices and drinks. The Chinese had much more complicated  medications and a far different range of herbs.

Q: What are some of the most famous Egyptian herbs that are used around the world today?

A: Ancient Egyptians documented the use of hundreds of herbs and vegetables that we will recognize today including fennel, thyme, juniper, and even aloe. Fresh garlic cloves were peeled, mashed and macerated in a mixture of vinegar and water and used as a rinse for sore throats and toothaches. They also consumed raw garlic and onions for endurance and to heal asthma and bronchial-pulmonary issues.  Many ancient recipes called for the herbs to be steeped in wine and used as oral medicine. These were natural herbs, untainted by pesticides, herbicides, insecticides, or fluoridated water.

Overseas Natural Ingredients exports these types of herbs, along with many others, today.

Q: Can you tell us some more about Ancient Egyptian Papyrus documenting the use of herbs for wellbeing?

A: The Kahoun Papyrus is one of the oldest and dates from 1840-1792 B.C. but it was evidently copied from an earlier document which was even older.

This document consists of three sections – the first one deals with human medicine, the second with veterinary science and the third with mathematics. The first two pages of the medical section contain 17 gynecological prescriptions and instructions. No surgery is prescribed in the document but it recommends beer, milk, oil, dates, herbs, incense and sometimes repulsive substances. Use is often made of fumigations, pastes, and vaginal applications. The third page contains 17 prescriptions concerning the assessment of fertility.

The Hearst Papyrus covers 18 and a half pages and describes 260 medical cases of which 96 are found in the Ebers Papyrus. It contains also a chapter on bone affections.

The Ebers Papyrus is the best known and longest of all the known papyri and, without a doubt, the most important. It is complete in 108 pages and bears the date of the 9th year of the reign of Amenophis I (1550 B.C.).

Q: What sort of herbs were the Ancient Egyptians using exactly?

A. Most of the herbs you will still recognize the names of today because their use spread around the world! Some of the specific herbs and their treatments are as follows:

  • Acacia (acacia nilotica)- vermifuge, eases diharea and internal bleeding, also used to treat skin diseases.
  • Aloe vera – worms, relieves headaches, soothes chest pains, burns, ulcers and for skin disease and allergies.
  • Basil (ocimum basilicum)- excellent for heart.
  • Balsam Apple (malus sylvestris)or Apple of Jerusalem – laxative, skin allergies, soothes headaches, gums and teeth, for asthma, liver stimulant, weak digestion.
  • Bayberry (Myrica cerifera) – stops diarrhea, soothes ulcers, shrinks hemorrhoids, repels flies.
  • Belladonna – pain reliever;camphor tree – reduces fevers, soothes gums, soothes epilepsy.
  • Caraway (Carum carvi; Umbelliferae)- soothes flatulence, digestive, breath freshener.
  • Cardamom (Eletarria cardamomum; Zingiberacae)- Used as a spice in foods,digestive, soothes flatulence.
  • Colchicum (Citrullus colocynthus) – also known as “Meadow Saffron”, soothes rheumatism, reduces swelling.
  • Common Juniper tree (Juniperis phonecia; Juniperus drupacea)- digestive, soothes chest pains, soothes stomach cramps.
  • Cubeb pepper (Piper cubeba; Piperaceae)- urinary tract infections, larynx and throat infections, gum ulcers and infections, soothes headaches.
  • Dill (Anethum graveolens)- soothes flatulence, relieves dyspepsia, laxative and diuretic properties.
  • Fenugreek (Trigonella foenum-graecum) – respiratory disorders, cleanses the stomach, calms the liver, soothes pancreas, reduces swelling.
  • Frankincense (Boswellia carterii) – throat and larynx infections, stops bleeding, cuts phlegm, asthma, stops vomiting.
  • Garlic (Allium sativa) – gives vitality, soothes flatulence and aids digestion, mild laxative, shrinks hemorrhoids, rids body of “spirits” (note, during the building of the Pyramids, the workers were given garlic daily to give them the vitality and strength to carry on and perform well).
  • Henna (Lawsomia inermis) – astringent, stops diarrhea, close open wounds (and used as a dye).
  • Honey was widely used, a natural antibiotic and used to dress wounds and as a base for healing unguants, as was castor oil, coriander,beer and other foods.
  • Licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra – mild laxative, expels phlegm, soothes liver, pancreas and chest and respiratory problems.
  • Mustard (Sinapis alba) – induces vomiting, relieves chest pains.
  • Myrrh (Commiphora myrrha) – stops diarrhea, relives headaches, soothes gums, toothaches and backaches.
  • Onion (Allium cepa) – diuretic, induces perspiration, prevents colds, soothes sciatica, relieves pains and other cardiovascular problems.
  • Parsley (Apium petroselinum) – diuretic.
  • Mint (Mentha piperita) – soothes flatulence, aids digestion, stops vomiting, breath freshener.
  • Sandalwood (Santallum albus) – aids digestion, stops diarrhea, soothes headaches and gout (used, of course, in incense).
  • Sesame (Sesamum indicum)- soothes asthma.
  • Tamarind (Tamarindus indica)- laxative.
  • Thyme (Thymus/Thimbra) – pain reliever.
  • Tumeric (Curcumae longa) – closes open wounds (also was used to dye skin and cloth).
  • Poppy (papaver somniferum) – relieves insomnia, relieves headaches, anesthetic, soothes respiratory problems, deadens pain.

Q: What type of companies are doing business with you now?

A: Our main customers are herb, spice and tea packaging facilities in Europe and South America. Most operate under their own brand names and are looking for quality products which they can package in materials of their own design or which they can use to blend with other products. Many of these companies buy from us because of our focus on providing high quality natural products, the likes of which are not found elsewhere.

There is a significant difference with the quality of Egyptian herbs than those produced elsewhere – particularly as Egypt is the original source for most of the herbs in use worldwide today.

Q: What are some of your “keys to success” in building your customer base?

A: There are four keys to the success of our business, and just about every business in the field of manufacturing. Those are:

  1. Providing premium quality – without quality there’s nothing!
  2. Reasonable prices
  3. After delivery customer satisfaction – it’s fine to sell a product but we have to ensure that the customer is happy with what they have received so that we can continue to maintain a good working relationship and continually improve.
  4. Resolve and customer problems with speed and honesty – not everything goes perfectly all the time and one small mistake can jeopardize a business. It is important to find any mistakes and fix them in a way which makes the customer happy and ensures that the source of the problem is rectified permanently.

Q: Is there anything about your business that you feel makes it special?

A: Everything! It is an honest business  connecting me to thousands of years of history where Egypt was at the world’s center of herbs and spices.  Our products are natural and come from the best sources anywhere in the world – no genetically modified crops, no harmful farming mechanisms.

Q: Where do you see your business in the next year? In the next five years? In the next ten years?

A: We are looking towards providing more natural plant extracts. We are also looking towards implementing a new CO2 Supercritical extraction unit – as this provides an exceptionally clean and pure way to extract plant oils.

Overseas Natural Ingredients Corp

Overseas Natural Ingredients Corp
62B Center Masr October, 2nd district, 8th Sector
6th October city, Egypt
Tel: +20-11-1027717
Fax: +20-2-37404122
Email: sales@herbs-eg.com
Website: www.herbs-eg.com
Skype: ateftifa
MSN: overseas51@link.net
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