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Review ARTICLE Provisionally accepted The full-text will be published soon. Notify me

Front. Pharmacol. | doi: 10.3389/fphar.2019.01227

The DNA-based Authentication of Commercial Herbal Products Reveals their Globally Widespread Adulteration

  • 1National Institute of Research and Development for Biological Sciences (NIRDBS), Romania

The herbal products, sold worldwide as medicines or foods, are perceived as low risk because they are considered natural and thus safe. The quality of these products is ineffectively regulated and controlled. The growing evidence for their lack of authenticity is causing deep concern, but the scale of this phenomenon at global, continental or national scale remains unknown. We analyzed data reporting the authenticity, as detected with DNA-based methods, of 5,957 commercial herbal products sold in 37 countries, distributed on all inhabited continents. Our global survey shows that a substantial proportion (27%) of the herbal products commercialized in the global marketplace is adulterated when their content was tested against their labeled, claimed ingredient species. The adulterated herbal products are distributed across all continents and regions. Our results confirm the large-scale presence of adulterated herbal products throughout the market. The adulterated herbal products contain undeclared contaminant, substitute, and filler species, or none of the labeled species, which all may be accidental or intentional, economically-motivated and fraudulent. The globally widespread adulteration is a serious threat to consumers’ well-being and safety, in spite of herbal products’ claimed or expected health benefits.

Keywords: herbal products, food supplements, traditional medicines, authentication, Adulteration, contamination, DNA

Received: 18 Jun 2019; Accepted: 23 Sep 2019.

Copyright: © 2019 Ichim. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

* Correspondence: Mx. Mihael C. Ichim, National Institute of Research and Development for Biological Sciences (NIRDBS), Bucharest, Romania, cichim@hotmail.com