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Industry Collaborates on Adulterated St. John’s Wort, Proposes Enhancements to Authentication


Sidney Sudberg, Alkemist Labs (Costa Mesa, CA) founder and CSO, and other notable industry experts co-authored a study that identified adulterated St. John’s wort (SJW) products and recommended specific ways to improve testing of the popular herb.

Non-GMO Project

The study, “St. John’s Wort versus Counterfeit St. John’s Wort: An HPTLC Study,” published in the Journal of AOAC International (Vol. 99, No. 5, 2016) was a collaborative effort by Débora A. Frommenwiler and Eike Reich of CAMAG, Maged H.M. Sharaf of American Herbal Products Association (AHPA), Anton Bzhelyansky of United States Pharmacopeial Convention (USP), Ben Lucas of Arizona Nutritional Supplements, and Sidney Sudberg. The article can be found here: www.ingentaconnect.com/content/aoac/jaoac/2016/00000099/00000005/art00010.

The study, which investigated SJW ingredients and products suspected to be adulterated based upon a simple preliminary test, proposes enhanced authentication procedures along with a decision flowchart to systematically rule out SJW adulteration.

One of the top-selling botanicals globally for many years, the high value of SJW makes it a target for adulteration. From a total of 37 samples of SJW herb, dry extracts, and commercial products tested in this study, approximately 38 percent were proven inauthentic either due to admixture of synthetic dyes combined with an uncharacteristic flavonoid pattern (approximately 22 percent) or by exhibiting an uncharacteristic flavonoid pattern only (approximately 16 percent). None of the raw herb samples were adulterated with dyes; the latter were only found in extracts and finished products.

“It’s common knowledge that when an herbal product is a strong seller, there will be unscrupulous vendors who try to find ways around established testing methods,” said Sudberg. “Collaboration between industry experts to strengthen analytical methods is the best way to combat this practice, and for people like us, it’s incredibly satisfying.”

“I think this work is an excellent example illustrating the great potential of HPTLC, unlocked by standardized methodology, suitable equipment and validated methods provided by CAMAG, when it comes to analysis of highly complex and naturally variable samples such as botanicals,” stated Frommenwiler.

For more information, visit www.alkemist.com.