A Rapid Cleanup Method for the Isolation and Concentration of Pyrrolizidine Alkaloids in Comfrey Root

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Preparations from comfrey (Symphytum officinale and S. x uplandicum) root and leaf contain varying levels of the hepatotoxic pyrrolizidine alkaloids (PAs). Reference compounds for comfrey are not commercially available, and there is currently no rapid extraction or analytical method capable of determining low levels in raw materials or as adulterants in commercially available extracts. A solid-phase extraction (SPE) method was developed using an Ergosil cleanup column that specifically binds the PAs. With this method, powdered comfrey root was extracted by sonication and shaking with basic chloroform. The extract was applied to the cleanup column under vacuum, washed with 2 mL acetone–chloroform (8 + 2, v/v) followed by 2 mL petroleum ether to remove excess chloroform. The column was dried under vacuum, and the PAs were eluted with 2 successive 1 mL aliquots methanol. Percent recoveries of the PAs following Ergosil SPE had an overall average of 96.8%, with RSD of 3.8% over a range of 1.0 to 25.0 g extracted in 100 mL. Average precision of the method (n = 3 over 4 extraction concentrations) gave an overall RSD of 6.0% for the 5 alkaloids, with a range of 0.8% (5 g in 100 mL) to 11.2% (25 g in 100 mL). Recovery optimization testing showed that 1.0 g comfrey root extracted in 100 mL yielded the greatest recovery (% dry weight) of the PAs, with an extraction efficiency and accuracy of 94.2%, and RSD of 1.7% (n = 9). The unique properties of the Ergosil cleanup column provide rapid sample cleanup, volume reduction, and concentration of PAs from comfrey extracts, and allow the eluant to be analyzed directly by traditional chromatographic methods.

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Midwest Research Institute, 425 Volker Blvd, Kansas City, MO 64110-2299. 2: University of Missouri, Veterinary Medical Diagnostic Laboratory and MU Center for Phytonutrient and Phytochemical Studies, Columbia, MO 65211.

Publication date: September 1, 2004

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  • The Journal of AOAC INTERNATIONAL publishes refereed papers and reviews in the fields of chemical, biological and toxicological analytical chemistry for the purpose of showcasing the most precise, accurate and sensitive methods for analysis of foods, food additives, supplements and contaminants, cosmetics, drugs, toxins, hazardous substances, pesticides, feeds, fertilizers and the environment available at that point in time. The scope of the Journal includes unpublished original research describing new analytical methods, techniques and applications; improved approaches to sampling, both in the field and the laboratory; better methods of preparing samples for analysis; collaborative studies substantiating the performance of a given method; statistical techniques for evaluating data. The Journal will also publish other articles of general interest to its audience, e.g., technical communications; cautionary notes; comments on techniques, apparatus, and reagents.
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