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New Series of ‘Botanical Adulterants Bulletins’ to Help Raise Awareness of Current Herb Adulteration
First Bulletins on grape seed extract, bilberry extract, and skullcap provide timely information and updates on adulteration issues to the international herb industry and natural products community

The ABC-AHP-NCNPR Botanical Adulterants Program announces a new series of reviews on adulteration of botanical ingredients. These documents, the Botanical Adulterants Bulletins (BABs), provide information about adulteration of plant materials that have not been covered by the Program (e.g., grape [Vitis vinifera, Vitaceae] seed extract), or that complement previously published reviews (e.g., bilberry [Vaccinium myrtillus, Ericaceae] fruit extract and skullcap [Scutellaria lateriflora, Lamiaceae] herb).

The goal of the Bulletins is to provide accounts of ongoing issues related to botanical identity and adulteration, thus allowing quality control personnel and lab technicians in the herbal medicine, botanical ingredient, and dietary supplement industries to be informed about adulteration problems that are apparently widespread and/or that may imply safety concerns.

The Bulletins begin with general information on the plant species, followed by 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.

The American Botanical Council (ABC)-American Herbal Pharmacopoeia (AHP)-National Center for Natural Products Research (NCNPR) Botanical Adulterants Program (BAP) is an international consortium of nonprofit professional organizations, trade associations, analytical laboratories, industry members, and others that advises industry, researchers, health professionals, and the public about the various challenges related to adulterated botanical ingredients sold in commerce. To date, more than 175 US and international parties financially support or otherwise endorse the Program.

“The Botanical Adulterants Bulletins represent a new phase of the Botanical Adulterants Program,” said Mark Blumenthal, founder and executive director of ABC and director of the Program. “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.”

Stefan Gafner, PhD, 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 areas 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 tradition of extensive peer-review of its publications, a total of 17 expert reviewers provided input on the first three Bulletins, with each Bulletin being 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,” said Gafner. “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 the Bulletins on arnica (Arnica montana, Asteraceae) flower, black cohosh (Actaea racemosa, Ranunculaceae) root and rhizome, and goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis, Ranunculaceae) root and rhizome.

—ABC Staff