Herbert H.C. Puntan studied at the University of Aberdeen. In 1888 he married Helen Forbes, with whom he had two children. He came to the Natal Colony in 1889, was licensed as a chemist and druggist the next year, and settled as an analyst and assayer in West Street, Durban. By 1897 he held the position of Borough analyst. In 1898 he served on the management committee of the Durban Botanic Society, which was in charge of the Natal Botanic Gardens in Durban. He was a Fellow of the (British) Chemical Society (FCS). During the Anglo-Boer War (1899-1902) he was on active service, rising to the rank of lieutenant-colonel. He commanded the First Brigade of the Natal Field Artillery and was awarded a medal and four bars.
At the annual meeting of the South African Association for the Advancement of Science in Natal in 1907 Puntan presented a paper on "Standardisation of coal analysis". The paper was published in the Association's Report for 1907 (pp. 54-57). In September 1910 he was elected a member of the first council of the (short-lived) Natal Scientific Society. He became a founding member of the South African Association of Analytical Chemists (from 1921 the South African Chemical Institute) in 1912 and was still a member in 1922. In 1916 he was listed in the General directory of South Africa as "Borough analyst & assayer" in West Street, Durban. During 1912-1913 he applied to lease a site for a house at Amanzimtoti, perhaps with a view to retiring there.