Types of Adulterations Botanical Substitution

One of the most common types of adulterations occurs when one botanical is mistaken or substituted for another. In natural habitats, at point of harvest this can result from

FIGURE 3.1 John Uri Lloyd (1849-1936), pharmacist, scientist, inventor, manufacturer, and novelist. His most important contributions were in the field of pharmacy, pharmaceutical extraction, plant chemistry, and pharmacognosy, with pioneering work in colloidal chemistry. Because of his allegiance to the Eclectic medical practices, Lloyd is seldom included in modern histories of pharmacy despite the incredible innovations that he made in pharmacy. Lloyd's legacy is fully preserved in the Lloyd Library, Cincinnati, Ohio, which he endowed, along with many articles in American materia medica. Not the least of these was Echinacea, which entered into medical practice from Native American use through Eclectic medical practice. (From Special Collections no. 106/photograph Box 1. Image courtesy of the Lloyd Library, Cincinnati, OH. Photograph ca. 1925.)

FIGURE 3.1 John Uri Lloyd (1849-1936), pharmacist, scientist, inventor, manufacturer, and novelist. His most important contributions were in the field of pharmacy, pharmaceutical extraction, plant chemistry, and pharmacognosy, with pioneering work in colloidal chemistry. Because of his allegiance to the Eclectic medical practices, Lloyd is seldom included in modern histories of pharmacy despite the incredible innovations that he made in pharmacy. Lloyd's legacy is fully preserved in the Lloyd Library, Cincinnati, Ohio, which he endowed, along with many articles in American materia medica. Not the least of these was Echinacea, which entered into medical practice from Native American use through Eclectic medical practice. (From Special Collections no. 106/photograph Box 1. Image courtesy of the Lloyd Library, Cincinnati, OH. Photograph ca. 1925.)

poor identification or insufficient handling controls that allow one botanical to get mixed with another. Under cultivation, similar mistakes in identification can occur if the identification of the seeds or cuttings that were planted was not confirmed. This largely occurs due to the lack of appropriate training in botanical identification of those conducting wild harvesting or cultivating plant materials. Ironically, proper identification is most easily assured at this first stage of either wild crafting or cultivation. When plants and plant material are removed from their habitats and separated from their identifying characteristics, efforts to identify them become increasingly difficult. The primary skill set required for identification is botany, which needs to be integrated more fully into the botanical products industry at point of harvest.

Substitutions can be unintentional or intentional (Table 3.2). As in any industry, some do not hesitate to use inappropriate materials knowingly. Such substitutions can be complete or partial. The more expensive a material is, the greater is the likelihood that someone will try to use less expensive substitutions. For example, goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis; Figures 3.2 and 3.3) is a very expensive botanical due to decades of diminishing supplies and increasing demand. Thus, at least four relatively common adulterants can completely substitute for or partially adulterate goldenseal powder: barberry (Berberis spp.), goldthread (Coptis spp.), Oregon grape (Mahonia spp.), and yellow dock (Rumex spp.).

Like goldenseal, the first three of these contain the iso-quinolone antimicrobial alkaloid berberine. When in their

Table 3.1 Defining Adulterants—Title 21: Code of Federal Regulations

Definitions

Adulterant: A substance used as an addition to another substance for sophistication or adulteration...Addition of an impure, cheap, or unnecessary ingredient to cheat, cheapen, or falsify an ingredient or preparation.

The purity of food products including dietary supplements is regulated according to the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR). The CFR defines an Adulterated Food as follows:

Section 402

(a)(1): poisonous or deleterious substance.

(a)(2): added poisonous or deleterious substance. Pesticides, food additives.

(a)(3): filthy putrid, decomposed, unfit for food.prepared, packed or held under unsanitary conditions...irradiated...

(b)(1): if any valuable constituent has been in whole or in part omitted or abstracted therefrom; or (b)(2): if any substance has been substituted wholly or in part thereof; or

(b)(3): if damage or inferiority has been concealed in any manner; or

(b)(4): if any substance has been added thereto or mixed or packed therewith so as to increase its bulk or weight, or reduce its quality or strength, or make it appear better or of greater value than it is.

whole or even powdered forms, these can be distinguished from each other using standard organoleptic skills by assessing color, texture, smell, and taste. However, admixtures of these to a level as high as 20% may not be detected even by those skilled in organoleptic assessment. Asian ginseng (Panax ginseng), another expensive material, has been routinely extracted for purposes of making extracts and then the leftover material (marc) sold as ginseng.

The situation of intentional adulteration aside, anyone involved in the harvest of raw botanical materials should maintain a dried pressing of the plant (Figure 3.3), ideally in its flowering stage, so that a proper identification can be made. Accompanying the pressing should be the name of the botanical (using common and botanical names), information on the date and location of harvest, the name of the person who identified the plant, and the flora used for identification. These should be maintained in an appropriate storage cabinet and protected from damage for future verification.

Similarly, retention samples of the economically relevant portion of the plant (e.g., dried root, bark, leaf, etc.) should also be maintained so that there is a direct correlation between the plant part and the identified plant from which it came. It is the lack of integration of botanical skills in the botanical trade that makes the tools of classical botanical pharmacognosy critical. Botanical microscopy is especially valuable for determining the presence of adulterants.

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