The National Institute of Medical Herbalists (NIMH) and the British Herbal Medicine Association (BHMA) recently endorsed the ABC-AHP-NCNPR Botanical Adulterants Program, an international consortium of nonprofit organizations, analytical laboratories, industry members, professional scientists, and others that advises industry, researchers, health professionals, and additional communities about the various challenges related to adulterated herbs and botanical ingredients in commerce.
NIMH, which was founded in 1864 and is “the UK’s leading professional body representing herbal practitioners,” gave notice of its support in a letter dated December 15, 2014, from NIMH President Laura Stannard to Mark Blumenthal, founder and executive director of the nonprofit American Botanical Council (ABC) and general manager of the ABC-AHP-NCNPR Botanical Adulterants Program. In the letter, Stannard said of the decision: “The NIMH is happy to support the Botanical Adulterants Program. In lending our name to the program we hope that other professional associations will follow our lead. The adulteration of medicinal plants is an issue of grave concern for all herbalists and everyone involved in herbal medicine worldwide.”
BHMA, founded in 1964, promotes the advancement of “the science and practice of herbal medicine in the United Kingdom. It promotes the use of herbal medicinal products manufactured to pharmaceutical standards to ensure consistently high quality and effectiveness for the consumer.”
The BHMA’s support for BAP was confirmed on January 7, 2015. In an email to Blumenthal, BHMA Chairman Dick Middleton, PhD, commented: “The BHMA is delighted to endorse and support the ABC-AHP-NCNPR Botanical Adulterants Program. The principle objectives of the Program are pivotal to the ongoing development of high-quality herbal health products in the US and related markets, including the United Kingdom. The core thrust of the program involving education and training will also lead to the increasing global availability of high-quality herbal materials to herbal product manufacturers. This will help to create more robust, high-quality supply chains.”
Adulteration refers to the accidental or intentional substitution or dilution of a material with an undisclosed or 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.
The ABC-AHP-NCNPR Botanical Adulterants Program is a coalition of three American nonprofit groups: ABC, the American Herbal Pharmacopoeia (AHP), and the University of Mississippi’s National Center for Natural Products Research (NCNPR), with more than 130 other American and international parties supporting and cooperating with the Program.
“We are most grateful and encouraged by the strong show of support for our Program that we have received from our herb colleagues in the United Kingdom,” said Blumenthal.
“There is a long and robust history of the rational and responsible use of herbs as a form of selfcare and healthcare in the UK, going back centuries. Support for our educational efforts about how to detect adulteration and fraud in the herbal market will not only help enhance the quality of herb products in the UK, but will provide greatly welcome added impetus and cooperation to the international educational efforts of our Program,” Blumenthal added.
NIMH’s endorsement of the ABC-AHP-NCNPR Botanical Adulterants Program follows similar endorsements made by other professional organizations, including the International Society for Medicinal Plant and Natural Product Research (known by its German acronym, GA) and the American Society of Pharmacognosy (ASP), both highly respected international organizations composed of leading medicinal plant research experts. The GA and ASP are the two largest organizations of professional researchers in the field of medicinal plants and drugs of natural origin.
“As people continue to use herbal medicines, the role of qualified practitioners in supporting them in making informed decisions is essential. This has never been more important than now with the ongoing challenge of adulterations of ingredients used in the products. The endorsement of this program by organizations with the expertise and reputation of the NIMH and BHMA will only strengthen access to high-quality herbal medicines globally,” said Michael Smith, ND, member of the World Health Organization Expert Advisory Panel on Traditional Medicines and the ABC Advisory Board.
Other endorsements of the Botanical Adulterants Program by healthcare-oriented organizations include those from the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians and the Council of Colleges of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine.
BHMA’s endorsement also follows the endorsements of other leading trade organizations, both internationally and in the United States. These include the International Dietary/Food Supplement Trade Alliance (IADSA), the Australian Self Medication Industry, Complementary Medicines Australia (formerly the Complementary Healthcare Council), the Australian Tea Tree Oil Association, and, just recently, Natural Products New Zealand.
In the United States, the trade associations underwriting the Botanical Adulterants Program include the Consumer Healthcare Products Association, the Council for Responsible Nutrition, the Natural Products Association, and the United Natural Products Alliance.
To date, the ABC-AHP-NCNPR Botanical Adulterants Program has published five extensively peer-reviewed and referenced articles on the history of adulteration, the adulteration of the herbs black cohosh and skullcap, and adulteration of extracts of bilberry fruit and grapefruit seed. These open-access articles are available on the Program’s webpage: www.herbalgram.org/adulterants. The Program also publishes a quarterly newsletter, “The Botanical Adulterants Monitor,” that highlights new scientific publications related to botanical authenticity and analysis to detect possible adulteration, recent regulatory actions, and Program news. Further, 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 are scheduled for release in the coming months.