Located in Tempe, Arizona, Sonoran University of Health Sciences is honored to be home to the Ric Scalzo Institute for Botanical Research. In collaboration with the natural products industry and other academic institutions, this state-of-the-art molecular biology/phytochemistry laboratory is dedicated to developing new products and improving existing botanical therapeutics through scientific exploration grounded in clinical herbalism’s rich tradition.
Mission: “Explore traditional medicine at the cellular, molecular and cultural level to create novel botanical solutions that support people, plants and planet.”
Researchers at the Ric Scalzo Institute seek to improve therapies for global health concerns including viral diseases, antibiotic resistant bacteria, fungal infections, immune disorders and cancer. In collaboration with the advanced facilities of affiliated institutions, faculty and students at Sonoran University have the resources to conduct cellular and molecular biology laboratory-based research activities and botanical constituent isolation and identification that can be further translated into clinical trials at Sonoran University and with partner institutions.
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Botanical formulations present challenges for rigorous scientific testing to understand their actual therapeutic efficacy.
To assess a botanical’s medicinal potential, two factors need to be understood:
Once assessed, valid plant material is obtained and tested for basic biological activity. This in vitro system will be optimized and modified to develop a consistent and reliable method to evaluate and/or validate the biological activity of a specific botanical. From this, optimal extraction, concentration and delivery methods can be developed, pilot clinical trials performed, and further deciphering of the specific mechanism of action of the botanical completed.
In addition, through bioassay-guided fractionation and purification, the constituent profile of a botanical can be used to standardize botanical therapies and the active therapeutic compound(s) isolated and identified.
By combining this in-depth analysis of botanicals, novel synergistic botanical blends can be designed and traditional formulas can be optimized to target different aspects of a disease. Thus, the therapeutic claims can be validated, as well as herbal product standardization and quality control can be performed to develop evidence-based, standardized natural products.
As one of North America’s most respected herbalists and botanical researchers, Richard “Ric” Scalzo has more than 35 years of clinical and practical experience with herbal medicines. As an innovator and pioneer in the herbal products industry, he is a leading authority on the cultivation of herbs, extraction processes, whole plant standardization, and traditional herbal therapies. In addition, Ric is a lifelong student of Vedic philosophy and spiritual practices.
After studying herbal medicine at the School of Natural Healing under Dr. John Christopher, Ric practiced as a clinical herbalist in a New England medical center.
In 1987, he founded Gaia Herbs, a nationally-branded grower and manufacturer of herbal wellness solutions that reinforce the inherent connections between healthy bodies, communities, and ecosystems. He and his team of herbalists and researchers grew the company into a vertically integrated, organic seed to finished botanical dietary supplement manufacturer and farming operation. Under his leadership and vision, the company set industry standards for its organic commitment, sustainable methods, educational curriculum, and quality assurance program.
In 2019, Ric made a philanthropic donation to Sonoran University for the development of the Ric Scalzo Institute for Botanical Research, a state-of-the-art molecular biology/phytochemistry laboratory.
Ric is now focusing his efforts on Biodynamic and Organic Herb Cultivation in Valle Encantado Costa Rica on his farm called CR Medicinal Farms. He is also offering his years of knowledge and guidance on the direction of research at the Institute in his name in hopes of understanding how traditional plant medicines operate on a cellular level in order to create novel botanical solutions that support people, planet, and plants.
Ric Scalzo holds an honorary Doctorate in Naturopathy from Sonoran University of Health Sciences (formerly Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine) in Tempe, Arizona, and received a Master Herbalist degree in 1982 from the School of Natural Healing.