Botanical Ingredient Forensics: Detection of Attempts to Deceive Commonly Used Analytical Methods for Authenticating Herbal Dietary and Food Ingredients and Supplements

J Nat Prod. 2023 Jan 30. doi: 10.1021/acs.jnatprod.2c00929. Online ahead of print.


Botanical ingredients are used widely in phytomedicines, dietary/food supplements, functional foods, and cosmetics. Products containing botanical ingredients are popular among many consumers and, in the case of herbal medicines, health professionals worldwide. Government regulatory agencies have set standards (collectively referred to as current Good Manufacturing Practices, cGMPs) with which suppliers and manufacturers must comply. One of the basic requirements is the need to establish the proper identity of crude botanicals in whole, cut, or powdered form, as well as botanical extracts and essential oils. Despite the legal obligation to ensure their authenticity, published reports show that a portion of these botanical ingredients and products are adulterated. Most often, such adulteration is carried out for financial gain, where ingredients are intentionally substituted, diluted, or “fortified” with undisclosed lower-cost ingredients. While some of the adulteration is easily detected with simple laboratory assays, the adulterators frequently use sophisticated schemes to mimic the visual aspects and chemical composition of the labeled botanical ingredient in order to deceive the analytical methods that are used for authentication. This review surveys the commonly used approaches for botanical ingredient adulteration and discusses appropriate test methods for the detection of fraud based on publications by the ABC-AHP-NCNPR Botanical Adulterants Prevention Program, a large-scale international program to inform various stakeholders about ingredient and product adulteration. Botanical ingredients at risk of adulteration include, but are not limited to, the essential oils of lavender (Lavandula angustifolia, Lamiaceae), rose (Rosa damascena, Rosaceae), sandalwood (Santalum album, Santalaceae), and tea tree (Melaleuca alternifolia, Myrtaceae), plus the extracts of bilberry (Vaccinium myrtillus, Ericaceae) fruit, cranberry (Vaccinium macrocarpon, Ericaceae) fruit, elder (Sambucus nigra, Viburnaceae) berry, eleuthero (Eleutherococcus senticosus, Araliaceae) root, ginkgo (Ginkgo biloba, Ginkgoaceae) leaf, grape (Vitis vinifera, Vitaceae) seed, saw palmetto (Serenoa repens, Arecaceae) fruit, St. John’s wort (Hypericum perforatum, Hypericaceae) herb, and turmeric (Curcuma longa, Zingiberaceae) root/rhizome, among numerous others.

PMID:36716213 | DOI:10.1021/acs.jnatprod.2c00929