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What to look for in botanical related research studies - a checklist.
Christina
Posted: Wednesday, August 29, 2012 10:25 AM
Joined: 5/24/2012
Posts: 19


Not all botanicals are created equal although it may appear that way on the surface. Botanicals are completely different from essential micro and macronutrients, which are defined chemical entities and are well characterized. For example, Vitamin C is vitamin C, regardless of its source. Not so for Echinacea or other botanicals. The following checklist provides some information to help the consumer of botanical related research be more educated about the research process and what should be included in any scientific publication that investigates botanicals.

  1. What is the genus and species of the plant (as you know, different species of the same genus can have very different effects)?
  2. What plant part was used (even within the same plant genus and species, the root can have different effects from the aerial parts)?
  3. How was the specific plant part and genus and species identified (did the researcher just accept the material to be tested at face value? What assurance did they obtain or seek to confirm that they tested what they set out to test)?
  4. How was the material prepared? Was a dried plant powder? An extract? If so, how was the material extracted? With what solvent(s) in what amounts (how a plant is processed impacts the presence and amount of constituents; some are removed while others are concentrated; this in turn affects the potency of the extract)?
  5. Did the material that was tested correspond to an established Compendial monograph, such as the USP, AHP, etc…? These monographs include a host of important standards, including identification and acceptable ranges of constituents, including contaminants
  6. If the material did not correspond to an established monograph, what were the specifications of the material (i.e. ranges of specific constituents or marker compounds and limits on contaminants, such as heavy metals, pesticides, residual solvents)?
  7. Related to above, what were the ACTUAL levels of the ACTUAL material that was tested? This information would be found on a Certificate of Analysis from the ingredient manufacturer, and the ACTUAL batch number of the material that was tested in the study should be provided.The agricultural practices (i.e. where the plants were grown, under what conditions, how they were harvested, etc…) can also be useful, but it is well known these can contribute significant variability in the constituent profile of plants. As long as the ingredient manufacturer has established reasonable ranges for specifications, AND has shown that these have been met, the concern over this kind of variation is not that great.

Remember, a high-quality research study that is published will discuss each of the aforementioned points in relation to the botanical under investigation. If you have any questions or comments about this topic, please post!

Posted on behalf of the NMBC Executive Council