St. John’s Wort BAPP Lab Document Brings Clarity to Analysis of Complex Botanical Plants


The Botanical Adulterants Prevention Program’s new laboratory guidance document evaluates 67 different methods that were used to analyze St. John’s Wort (Hypericum perforatum) Raw materials and products. The document provides guidance for industrial, academic and regulatory testing laboratories to be able to accurately and adequately test for identity and authenticity and to detect potential adulteration of raw materials and extracts of St. John’s Wort.

Stefan Gafner, PhD, scientific director of the American Botanical Council and technical director of the BAPP, said that with all the attention to the ingredients for immunity during the pandemic, other ingredients have fallen a little under the radar. But with the main indication that St. John’s Wort is to help users cope with symptoms of mild depression, he said it stands to reason that more users would be interested in the weed during this unusually stressful time. And with more demand, there are always more opportunities for cheaters.

“I don’t have this data, but I wouldn’t be surprised if St. John’s Wort adulteration were on the rise,” Gafner told NutraIngredients-USA.

Human clinical trials of standardized extracts of St. John’s Wort and meta-analyzes of these trials confirm the safety and efficacy of preparations for supporting mood.

Growing demand

There is at least some data to show that interest in botany is on the rise. In 2020, St. John’s Wort dietary supplements were the 21st best-selling supplement in U.S. department stores, with annual mainstream sales totaling approximately $ 23.9 million, according to ABC’s annual Herb Market report.

This is a big increase from several years ago when sales were down. In 2016, weed saw sales of around $ 6 million on the mainstream channel, and that number fell to $ 5.8 million a year later.

The BAPP Guidance Document, written by Turkish expert Nilüfer Orhan, PhD, assesses 67 different analytical methods that have been published for St. John’s Wort. Gafner said it was an artifact of the ingredient’s enduring popularity.

“Part of this is that it is a popular ingredient, especially in Europe and many methods have been published for this reason,”he said.

Complex botany gives rise to dozens of analytical methods

Gafner said another problem is that St. John’s Wort is a more complex herb than many.

“It’s a pretty complex ingredient that has a number of different classes of constituents. Among them are the flavonoids and hypericins. This also leads to a good number of methods ”,he said.

The LGD also summarizes the main advantages and disadvantages of each analytical method with regard to its suitability for use in quality control laboratories. In addition, the document provides short summaries and a table with the chemical compositions of St. John’s Wort and 10 potentially confounding elements. Hypericumcash. The LGD has been peer reviewed by 21 international experts from academia and the herbal dietary supplement industry.
The main economic adulterant of St. John’s Wort is the undeclared addition of synthetic food colors (e.g., the concentration value of total hypericins (the red pigments that are present in St. John’s Wort) when measured by spectrophotometric laboratory analytical methods.

Gafner said this type of adulteration, if specifically sought out, is reasonably easy to detect.

“If you put the powder in even a solution of schnapps, you will immediately notice that something is wrong. But by using some of the HPTLC methods, you might not understand this ”,he said.

Distinguish the different HypericumHowever, the species is a different wax ball, Gafner said.

“The distinction of Hypericum species based on chemical markers is really difficult. Therefore, knowing the value chain (ie where, how and by whom the herb St. John’s Wort is grown, harvested / harvested and dried) is crucial to produce a dietary supplement with a reproducible composition ”,he noted.

Research to improve the industry

“The addition of a prohibited red food coloring to materials sold under the name ‘St. John’s Wort Extract ‘in an attempt to cheat some of the analytical methods used in testing labs is blatant practice and is evidence of the real intention of the producer of the fraudulent material to attempt to make a profit by victimizing his clients. . This is why it is so important for BAPP to continue its vital mission of research and education to help ethical and responsible manufacturers of botanical dietary supplements protect themselves against such fraud and, in so doing, ensure that consumers can buy authentic botanical preparations. which are safe and beneficial for the use for which they are intended “,said Mark Blumenthal, founder and executive director of ABC.

BAPP, which was founded by and is managed by ABC, is a cooperative enterprise that includes the American Herbal Pharmacopoeia and the National Center for Natural Products Research at the University of Mississippi.

A complete and free copy of the laboratory guidance document is available here.

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