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Open Access Phytochemical Assays of Commercial Botanical Dietary Supplements

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The growing popularity of botanical dietary supplements (BDS) has been accompanied by concerns regarding the quality of commercial products. Health care providers, in particular, have an interest in knowing about product quality, in view of the issues related to herb-drug interactions and potential side effects. This study assessed whether commercial formulations of saw palmetto, kava kava, echinacea, ginseng and St. John's wort had consistent labeling and whether quantities of marker compounds agreed with the amounts stated on the label. We purchased six bottles each of two lots of supplements from nine manufacturers and analyzed the contents using established commercial methodologies at an independent laboratory. Product labels were found to vary in the information provided, such as serving recommendations and information about the herb itself (species, part of the plant, marker compound, etc.) With regard to marker compound content, little variability was observed between different lots of the same brand, while the content did vary widely between brands (e.g. total phenolic compounds in Echinacea ranged from 3.9–15.3 mg per serving; total ginsenosides in ginseng ranged from 5.3–18.2 mg per serving). Further, the amounts recommended for daily use also differed between brands, increasing the potential range of a consumer's daily dose. Echinacea and ginseng were the most variable, while St. John's wort and saw palmetto were the least variable. This study highlights some of the key issues in the botanical supplement market, including the importance of standardized manufacturing practices and reliable labeling information. In addition, health care providers should keep themselves informed regarding product quality in order to be able to appropriately advise patients utilizing both conventional and herbal medicines.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: UCLA Center for Human Nutrition, 900 Veteran Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90095, USA

Publication date: January 1, 2004

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