Devapriy aNugewela, Link’s chairman and chief executive said they are working on an anti-diabetic drug, a sleep enhancer, and herbal remedy to improve the quality of life of patients receiving chemotherapy and radiotherapy treatments.
"All our products are aimed at improving the quality of life of people, by using a wide range of herbs and medicinal plants," Nugewela told reporters during a tour of the firm’s plant in Dompe, some 35 kilometres north-west from Colombo.
For instance, ongoing surveys on the firm’s herbal toothpaste, Link Sudantha, looks at the benefits people get through daily usage.
The herbal toothpaste, which contains extracts of nine herbs, keeps teeth and gums healthy according to traditional Ayurveda treatments.Link, which produces some 30,000 tubes of Sudantha toothpaste a day, says it has healing effects on many conditions of gums and mouth, while it prevents bacterial infections, tartar build-up, sensitivities and bad breath.
The company recently wrapped up a clinical trial on how the daily use of its popular herbal drink, Samahan, can prevent or reduce 15 common ailments like colds, catarrh and viral inflammations of the throat.
Professors Colvin Goonaratna and Roshini Sooriyarachchi, who conducted the trial, recruited over 800 healthy volunteers from the nearby Linea Aqua clothing factory for the 12-week study last year.
Samahan, which is an instantly soluble granules that comprises extracts of 14 medicinal plants (including black pepper, ginger and coriander), reduced the daily ailments of the sample group.
"There is no other medicinal product in either the allopathic or in any other system of medicine, which has been shown by a scientifically acceptable to prevent and reduce the severity of all the 15 symptoms simultaneously, except Link Samahan," Goonaratne said.
He said the clinical trial on Samahan was the largest-ever one carried out on any kind of medicinal product in Sri Lanka, and the largest for a herbal product in Australasia.
"The simple remedy for minimising the 15 symptoms and their severity is to take one sachet of Link Samahan daily in hot water, tea or coffee,” Goonaratne said.
SarindaUnamboowe, Linea Aqua’s Managing Director noted that absenteeism was much lower and the productivity was higher among the employees who took Link Samahan daily.
"We might make it an option to offer a free sachet of Samahan to our staff during the tea break, after seeing the wonderful results from the trial," Unamboowe said.
Samahan, which began production in 1995, remains the flagship brand of Link. The company produces around 1.4 million sachets a month, which is mostly consumed in the local market.
Exports of Samahan remain a growing lucrative avenue, led by India, Malaysia, Japan, the USA, Canada and Russia. In Japan, it retails under the brand name “Onka” and the pink packaging is sold as an organic tea. In the US it sold under the brand “Herbal Zap.”
In its 30-year, Link began operations by making essential oils which are used as food flavours or fragrances. The short supply of raw materials creates a big export demand for this line of business.
"For instance we need 100 kilos of nutmeg to produce six kilos of essences," said Samantha Tennakoon, Link’s head of research and development.
"We need 100 kilos of cinnamon bark to make one kilo of essence. We don’t have enough people growing medicinal or herbal plants on a large commercial scale."
Link, which made 1.2 billion rupees in revenues for the financial year ended March 2011/12, also makes herbal oils and herbal tonics. Its spa products are retailed at high-spenders and are found in many local hotels.