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ABC-AHP-NCNPR Botanical Adulterants Prevention ProgramPublishes Ashwagandha Root and Root Extract Bulletin

Bulletin emphasizes the issue of undeclaredaddition of ashwagandha leaf materials to ashwagandha root products

AUSTIN, Texas (January15, 2019) — The ABC-AHP-NCNPR Botanical Adulterants Prevention Program (BAPP) hasreleased a BotanicalAdulterants Prevention Bulletin on ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) root and root extract. Thepowdered roots of ashwagandha, a member of the nightshade (Solanaceae) plantfamily, have a long history of use in Ayurvedic medicine, an ancient traditionalmedicine system in India, for a wide array of purposes—to treat inflammatorydisorders, as an adaptogen for its immunomodulatory effects, to invigorate andstrengthen the body, and to improve sexual stamina.

Ashwagandha is one of the most popular Ayurvedic herbs in the United States. Itwas the sixth top-selling dietary supplement in natural retail stores in 2017, withsales totaling roughly $10.6 million, a 25.6% increase from the previous year,according to the HerbalGram 2017Herb Market Report. Mainstream sales of ashwagandha supplements grew bymore than 67% during the same period.


Various reports havedescribed the addition of undeclared material from ashwagandha aerial parts (i.e.,plant leaves and/or stems) to ingredients and products labeled to contain onlyashwagandha root powders or root extracts. Aerial parts are typically availableat a lower cost and contain some of the same types of chemicals (known as withanolides)as the roots.


The bulletin is acollaborative effort among Natural Remedies Private Limited (Bengaluru, India),Alkemist Labs (Garden Grove, California), and other members of BAPP. It summarizesthe published data on ashwagandha adulteration, supply sources, marketimportance, and analytical methods to detect adulteration. Seventeen experts inquality control of medicinal plants from academia, government, and the herbindustry provided input on the bulletin during the peer-review process.

“The inappropriate and unethical practice of increasing the amount ofwithanolides in ashwagandha root powder and extract by adding undisclosed, lower-costdry leaf material and/or its extracts has been confirmed,” said Mark Blumenthal,founder and executive director of the American Botanical Council (ABC) andfounder and director of BAPP.


“This type ofadulteration will fool only those companies and laboratories that do not use adequateanalytical efforts to properly test their ashwagandha materials,” he added. “Arobust analytical methodology, such as high-performance thin-layerchromatography (HPTLC), or other methods that can provide the chemicalfingerprint of withanolides, can determine if additional withanolides from undeclaredleaf material are present in the analyzed sample.


“We are aware ofnumerous companies that provide various types of authentic ashwagandha root rawmaterials and extracts,” Blumenthal continued. “As we have done with respect tothe adulteration of other popular botanical raw materials and extracts, ourintention is to advise members of industry of the confirmed adulteration ofsome ashwagandha raw materials and extracts and for industry quality controllaboratories to be doubly aware of the need for appropriate testing toauthenticate the materials.”


Stefan Gafner, PhD,chief science officer of ABC and technical director of BAPP, commented: “Herbalingredients that have a history of use in Indian traditional medicine systems,and for which their benefits are supported by multiple clinical trials, haveseen some of the highest sales increases in the United States in recent years.At the same time, these ingredients — which include boswellia (Indian frankincense;Boswellia serrata), turmeric (Curcuma longa), and ashwagandha, amongothers — reportedly have been subject to adulteration by unscrupuloussuppliers. This supports the idea that there are clear links among marketsuccess, supply shortages, and adulteration.”


Blumenthal added: “Akey factor in adulteration is concealment. If a manufacturerchooses to openly combine ashwagandha root and leaf extracts into proprietarybotanical products, this is appropriate so long as the labeling is transparent.Such a clearly labeled ingredient or product is not within the scope of thisbulletin.”


The ashwagandhabulletin is the 17th publication in the series of Botanical Adulterants PreventionBulletins and the 48th peer-reviewed publication published by BAPP. The goal ofthe Botanical Adulterants Prevention Bulletins is to provide accounts ofongoing issues related to botanical identity and adulteration, thus allowingquality control personnel and lab technicians in the herbal medicine, botanicalingredient, dietary supplement, cosmetic, herbal tea, conventional food, andother industries where botanical ingredients are used to be informed onadulteration problems that are apparently widespread and/or imply safetyconcerns.



About the ABC-AHP-NCNPR Botanical Adulterants Prevention Program

The ABC-American Herbal Pharmacopoeia (AHP)-National Center for NaturalProducts Research (NCNPR) Botanical Adulterants Prevention Program is an internationalconsortium of nonprofit professional organizations, analytical laboratories,research centers, industry trade associations, industry members, and otherparties with an interest in herbs and medicinal plants. The program advisesindustry members, researchers, health professionals, government agencies, themedia, and the public about the various challenges related to adulteratedbotanical ingredients sold in commerce. To date, more than 200 US andinternational parties have financially supported or otherwise endorsed theprogram.

To date, the program has published 48 peer-reviewed articles, BotanicalAdulterants Prevention Bulletins, Laboratory Guidance Documents, and BotanicalAdulterants Monitor e-newsletters. All of the program’s publications are freelyavailable on the program’s website (registration required).