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Investigation of Pyrrolizidine Alkaloids and Their N-Oxides in Commercial Comfrey-Containing Products and Botanical Materials by Liquid Chromatography Electrospray Ionization Mass Spectrometry

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Pyrrolizidine alkaloids (PAs) and their N-oxides are found in several plant families throughout the world. PAs are potentially toxic to the liver and/or lungs in humans and may cause acute liver failure, cirrhosis, pneumonitis, or pulmonary hypertension. PAs are also carcinogenic to animals, and they have been linked to the development of hepatocellular and skin squamous cell carcinomas as well as liver angiosarcomas. According to experimental studies, the quantity of PAs in some herbal teas and dietary supplements is sufficient to be carcinogenic in exposed individuals. A method for the extraction and identification of PAs and their N-oxides in botanical materials and commercial comfrey-containing products has been developed using liquid chromatography electrospray ionization mass spectrometry. Following optimization of the extraction procedure and the chromatographic conditions, the method was applied to the analysis of 10 herbal remedies. All of the products that were labeled to contain comfrey were found to contain measurable quantities of PAs.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: U.S. Food and Drug Administration, Forensic Chemistry Center, Cincinnati, OH 45237-3097.

Publication date: 2005-03-01

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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 The scope of the Journal includes unpublished original research describing new analytical methods, techniques and applications; improved approaches to sampling, both in the field and the laboratory; better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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