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Herbal experts storm Asheville

Herbal experts storm Asheville
Here are highlights from the recent botanical identity training series for herbal industry professionals.

An outstanding group of herbal experts came together in April near Asheville, N.C., to offer a three-day botanical identity training series for herbal industry professionals. Techniques and regulatory requirements for evaluating plant materials were the focus of the course, which included lectures, discussions and hands-on activities. The organizers’ goal was to provide an overview of current good manufacturing practices (cGMP) requirements for botanical identity testing, with specific focus on classic and currently used methodology.

American Herbal Pharmacopoeia’s Roy Upton, RH, DAyu, led the macroscopy and organoleptics session. Students received useful information about the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) inspection process while learning key botanical terms and gaining valuable experience using sensory evaluation to look for characteristic features of numerous plant samples. Upton’s extensive knowledge was paired with an energetic teaching style that served as an excellent start to the series.

The following day, Dr. Eike Reich, head of CAMAG Laboratory, gave a comprehensive overview of high performance thin layer chromatography (HPTLC) for identification of herbal material in a powdered or extracted form. A complete HPTLC system was set up so that CAMAG laboratory manager Judy Nichols could demonstrate the analysis of a turmeric root sample. Class participants appreciated the opportunity to move beyond theory and to see state-of-the-art analytical equipment in action.

In the evening, a networking dinner for participants was followed by a public lecture given by Roy Upton on the importance of herbal medicine in American healthcare. Greg Cumberford of Bent Creek Institute then led a panel discussion on safety and quality concerns in the herbal supply chain.

The final day of class focused on taxonomy and retention specimens. It was led by Dr. Joe-Ann McCoy, PhD, director of the NC Arboretum Germplasm Repository. She guided students through identifying a couple of local plants using a dichotomous key and then preparing herbarium quality voucher specimens. This activity was a great way to wrap up the training session, plus students each got to take home a mounted specimen.

In addition to three days of lectures, lab exercises, and discussions, participants toured the BioNetwork laboratory at Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College and the Blue Ridge Food Ventures (BRFV) manufacturing facility. BRFV an innovative shared-use commercial kitchen facility hosting the nation’s first shared-use GMP-compliant Natural Products Manufacturing Facility. Here clients can grind, extract, press, formulate, bottle and label their botanically based natural products for commercial sale.

Course participants represented multiple industry segments, including: natural products quality control and R&D; wholesale botanical material distribution; and sole-proprietorship herbal businesses. Many of the students found it valuable to discuss their backgrounds and experiences with their classmates after class or during lunch, which was provided by local vendors. The small class size made it possible for attendees to interact directly with the session leaders as well. Some interesting side discussions and the high quality of the instruction made for an interactive, informative series.

A new webinar series emerged by popular demand out of this exciting partnership. Titled “Botanical Pharmacognosy and GMP Compliance,” the webinar will cover identity and quality assessment of botanical ingredients for quality control personnel in the US commercial supply chain. This addresses a key unmet need for practical and affordable methods for GMP-compliant botanical authentication. Convened by The American Herbal Pharmacopoiea and BioNetwork, the series will kick off on July 18 with a webinar on Quality Control Assessment Techniques: Strengths and Weaknesses. The 8-part webinar series will be offered at $100 per webinar, or $650 for the whole series. For more information go to:

The Botanical Identity Training Series event was made possible by the following entities: Asheville Buncombe Technical Community College, BioNetwork, Bent Creek Institute, The North Carolina Arboretum Germplasm Repository, CAMAG Laboratory, American Herbal Pharmacopoeia™ and Blue Ridge Food Ventures.


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