In a test of 37 commercial St. John's wort supplements, a consortium of laboratories found that 14 — 38 percent — were fake.
“It’s common knowledge that when an herbal product is a strong seller, there will be unscrupulous vendors who try to find ways around established testing methods,” said Sidney Sudberg, Alkemist Labs' founder and chief science officer, who was one of six researchers involved. "Collaboration between industry experts to strengthen analytical methods is the best way to combat this practice, and for people like us, it’s incredibly satisfying.”
Although St. John’s wort has fallen from the superstar status it enjoyed in the late 1990s, it is still a big seller for combating mild to moderate depression.
The goal of the study, published in Journal of AOAC International, was to investigate St. John’s wort ingredients and products suspected to be adulterated using preliminary high performance thinlayer chromatography (HPTLC) tests. Commercial samples were analyzed following the USP monograph methodology, with additional visualization under white light.
The inauthentic products featured an uncharacteristic flavonoid pattern or an uncharacteristic flavonoid pattern combined with admixture of synthetic dyes. Only extracts and finished products — none of the raw herb samples — were adulterated with dyes.
It’s important to note that there is no onesizefitsall botanical authentication test. A combination of methodologies and strong quality and traceability management systems are the only way to guarantee authenticity.