Four health practitioner groups have offered their endorsement and support to the ABC-AHP-NCNPR Botanical Adulterants Program. The Program is an international consortium of nonprofit organizations, analytical laboratories, professional scientists, healthcare practitioners, industry members, and others that educates and provides advice about the various challenges related to adulterated herbs, botanical extracts, and botanical ingredients in commerce.
The Academy of Integrative Health and Medicine (AIHM), the American Herbalists Guild (AHG), the Integrative Healthcare Policy Consortium (IHPC), and the Irish Register of Herbalists (IRH) collectively represent hundreds of thousands of integrative health practitioners across the United States and Ireland.
The ABC-AHP-NCNPR Botanical Adulterants Program is a coalition of three American nonprofit groups: the American Botanical Council (ABC), the American Herbal Pharmacopoeia (AHP), and the University of Mississippi’s National Center for Natural Products Research (NCNPR), with more than 140 other American and international parties supporting and cooperating with the Program. Adulteration refers to the accidental or intentional substitution or dilution of a material with an undisclosed, usually lower-cost ingredient, thereby giving the consumer a false sense of the value or quality of an ingredient or product containing such an adulterated ingredient.
AIHM is a professional group that brings together many different licensed integrative health practitioners, including family doctors, acupuncturists, nurses, psychologists, and doctors of oriental medicine, and advocates for affordability and accessibility for patients. The Academy also offers courses for continuing education in integrative medicine and healthcare strategies. In a letter dated Jan. 21, 2015, AIHM Executive Director Nancy Sudak, MD, wrote, “We support [the Program’s] mission to preserve botanical purity, and thank you for the effort that the [Program] has made to expose the challenges associated with adulterated herbs in commerce around the world. We will be proud to add our name to [the] growing list of underwriters, endorsers, and supporters.”
Founded in 2003, IHPC advocates for an integrative healthcare system with equal access to a full range of health-oriented, person-centered, regulated healthcare professionals. IHPC represents more than 400,000 licensed professionals and, by extension, millions of patients, regarding the advancement of integrative health in the United States.
The 25-year-old AHG promotes the profession of clinical herbalism and access to herbal medicine. The Guild celebrates the diversity of the practice and encourages the development of high education standards for its members. AHG members range from those who practice traditional and indigenous herbalism to modern clinical phytotherapy. AHG Executive Director Mimi Hernandez, MS, RH(AHG), confirming the endorsement, wrote, “The adulteration of herbal medicines throughout history has had a deep impact on the integrity of professional herbalists and I am certain that our membership will benefit from the important educational aspects of the Program as well as the confidence attributed to a high-quality supply chain of herbal medicines.”
The IRH is a professional association for traditional herbalists in Ireland. “The IRH [supports] the Botanical Adulterants Program because we strongly believe in the safety and efficacy of the herbs we use in clinical practice,” wrote IRH Vice President Danny O’Rawe, ND. “As an accountable professional organization for herbalists in Ireland of all traditions, part of our role is to promote best practice throughout the herbal sector and we have no hesitation in supporting this important initiative to keep the herb chain free of adulteration and contamination for the good of ourselves and future generations.”
“We are most grateful to these organizations of healthcare providers for their expression of support for the Botanical Adulterants Program,” said ABC Founder and Executive Director Mark Blumenthal. “Although much of the Program is focused on educating members of industry about the confirmed cases of adulteration of herbs, extracts, and other botanical materials, we are also attempting to help educate other stakeholders in the domain of herbal medicine, particularly healthcare providers who recommend and/or utilize botanical preparations in their clinical practice.”
The Botanical Adulterants Program was previously endorsed by the National Institute of Medical Herbalists, a 150-year-old organization representing herbal medicine practitioners in the United Kingdom, and the British Herbal Medicine Association. Other endorsing organizations of healthcare professionals include the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians, the Council of Colleges of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine, and the Personalized Lifestyle Medicine Institute.
The Program has also been endorsed by leading organizations of medicinal plant research scientists, including the American Society of Pharmacognosy, the Society for Medicinal Plant and Natural Product Research (GA), and the Natural Health Products Research Society of Canada.
The ABC-AHP-NCNPR Botanical Adulterants Program has published extensively peer-reviewed and referenced articles on the history of adulteration, adulteration of the herbs black cohosh and skullcap, and adulteration of bilberry fruit extract and so-called “grapefruit seed extract.” These open-access articles are available on the Program’s webpage.
The Program also publishes a quarterly newsletter, “The Botanical Adulterants Monitor,” which highlights new scientific publications related to botanical authenticity and analysis to detect possible adulteration, recent regulatory actions, and Program news. The latest issue of the Monitor, released in March 2015, contains summaries of new research on adulteration of botanicals used in Ayurvedic traditional medicine in India, proanthocyanidin-containing extracts from fruit sources, and true cinnamon, among others.
The Program recently released its first in a series of Laboratory Guidance Documents to help industry and third-party analytical laboratories determine the most effective analytical methods for detecting adulteration and authenticating botanical raw materials and extracts. The first of these was published on skullcap, an herb subject to documented adulteration. Additional publications from the Program, including Laboratory Guidance Documents on bilberry extract and black cohosh, are scheduled for release in the coming months.