Maintaining quality standards of herbs used in the blending of teas is made easier by the publication this week of a guide to quality specifications by The American Botanical Council (ABC).
In a detailed and thorough review of the myriad standards for botanical ingredients, Josef Brinckmann, Vice-President of Research and Development at Traditional Medicinals Inc., provides examples of quality and labeling standards for various botanicals.
In an article appearing in the Fall 2011 issue of HerbalGram (#91) Brinckmann quantifies differences in the “composition, purity, quality, and strength” of commercially-traded ingredients, while providing links to specific monographs and compendia that contain various specifications for botanical quality. With an increasingly complex system of criteria and qualifications, this article serves as a resource for manufacturers and any others concerned with botanical quality.
“Botanicals often have multiple end uses and purposes, and each could necessitate a different quality standard in order to deliver the intended effect of the product and/or to comply with regulatory requirements,” writes Brinckmann.
The safety and efficacy of certain botanical ingredients depend on consistent replication of the product. “Reproducible results, whether they affect sensory satisfaction or relief of symptoms, are intrinsically linked to consistent and reproducible quality,” according to the article.
“As a prerequisite of reproducible efficacy, an herbal product manufacturer can define the effective quality of an ingredient as accurately and as narrowly as possible in the form of a written specification that the company’s quality unit can implement,” writes Brinckmann.
Brinckmann's article begins with an introduction of the large number of groups that act as standards-setting organizations for botanical ingredients around the world. The United States Pharmacopeial Convention is considered the standards-setting authority for prescription and over-the-counter (OTC) active ingredients and medications in the United States, as well as for certain food ingredients and dietary supplements. The organization has specific monographs for each category of ingredients. Further, the US Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Marketing Service has produced optional quality standards for many agricultural products, including some botanicals. Pharmacopeial quality is required if the ingredient is part of a US Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved OTC drug product.
The article includes 10 tables that outline various quality standards related to quality specifications, authoritative standards-setting organizations, websites, and more.
“Manufacturers and marketers of herb-based products are seeking reliable information on how to ensure the safety, benefits, and quality of their products,” said ABC Founder and Executive Director Mark Blumenthal. “That’s why we thought it was so important to devote 16 pages in HerbalGram to this subject, and there is no one who is more knowledgeable on this subject than the author of this paper, Josef Brinckmann.”
The information will be most useful for purchasing agents, quality control directors, laboratory personnel, research and product development personnel, and others who are involved in setting specifications for botanical ingredients used in blended teas.
“My hope is that this article will stimulate increased awareness. There are distinctly different grades or qualities of herbs in commerce and suitable quality standards exist which can help companies to develop appropriate quality specifications that correspond to the intended use of the product, whether a dietary supplement, food, or drug component,” said Brinckmann.