Bilberry Vaccinium myrtillus

Bilberry (Vaccinium myrtillus)

Botanical Adulterants Program introduces bulletins to raise awareness of herb adulteration

New bulletins from the Botanical Adulterants Program offer short reviews of ingredients to keep industry personnel and laboratories informed of adulteration problems in a timely manner.

The Botanical Adulterants Program is publishing a new series of reviews on adulteration of botanical ingredients, the Botanical Adulterants Bulletins (BABs), to provide information about adulteration of plant materials.

The goal of the bulletins is to provide accounts of ongoing issues related to botanical identity and adulteration, including those that have not been covered by the program or that complement previously published reviews.

Consequently, quality-control personnel and lab technicians in the herbal medicine, botanical ingredient and dietary supplement industries can be informed on adulteration problems that are apparently widespread or that might imply safety concerns.

Mark Blumenthal, founder and executive director of the American Botanical Council and director of the program, said, “Compared to our extensive laboratory guidance documents, the bulletins are a more rapid means of confirming suspected and/or alleged adulteration and will become one of the key publications of the program’s educational activities.”

The bulletins offer general information on the plant species, as well as data on cultivation, harvest and market size. The main section covers known adulterants, frequency of adulteration (when known), possible therapeutic and/or safety issues with the adulterating species, and analytical approaches to detect the adulterant. As with all publications in the program, the bulletins are freely accessible on the program’s website.

In April, bulletins regarding bilberry extract, grape seed extract and skullcap were issued.

The Botanical Adulterants Program was initiated by three nonprofit organizations, the American Botanical Council, the American Herbal Pharmacopoeia and the National Center for Natural Products Research. This international consortium includes nonprofit professional organizations, trade associations, analytical laboratories, industry members and others. The group advises industry, researchers, health professionals and the public about adulterated botanical ingredients sold in commerce.

Stefan Gafner, Ph.D., ABC chief science officer and BAP technical director, said, “The data included in the Botanical Adulterants Bulletins are predominantly from published reports on adulteration of a particular plant species or botanical extract. However, in some instances, industry companies and analytical laboratories have been forthcoming with unpublished information in their particular area of expertise, adding valuable information to the knowledge already published in the peer-reviewed literature, thus making each bulletin a more informative and relevant document.”

In keeping with the program’s traditional, extensive peer-review of its publications, 17 expert reviewers provided input on the first three bulletins, with each bulletin reviewed by at least 13 experts.

“We are deeply grateful to the many experts from academia, government, and industry who donated their time and energy to provide peer-review services to help ensure the accuracy of these bulletins,” Gafner said. “With their invaluable assistance, these documents have a significantly high degree of credibility and authority.”

The Botanical Adulterants Program plans to release additional bulletins in the coming months. Currently in peer-review are bulletins on arnica (Arnica montana) flower, black cohosh (Actaea racemosa) root and rhizome, and goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis) root and rhizome.

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