Systematic reviews backing efficacy of botanical ingredients continue to pile up, expert says

By Hank Schultz

- Last updated on GMT


Related tags Adulterant

The good news in the botanicals sector is that increasing numbers of systematic reviews and meta-analyses show that there is strong support for the health benefits of these ingredients, said Mark Blumenthal, founder of the American Botanical Council.

One of the things Ive enjoyed seeing in recent years is more and more systematic reviews of clinical trials that show positive trends when the data is pooled for herbal dietary supplement ingredients, for phytomedicinal products and the like,​Blumenthal told NutraIngredients-USA.

Mounting positive evidence

Blumenthal is often thought of in the industry as the adulteration guy, the one who is sounding cautionary notes on the many ways that botanical ingredients can be and are being adulterated.  But he said ABC’s monthly publication HerbalGram​ covers all aspects of the botanicals sector, including the many studies that support the efficacy of the products.  Among the systematic reviews that support the efficaciousness of herbal ingredients, Blumenthal mentioned these:

  • St John’s Wort for mild-to-moderate cases of depression
  • Bacopa for cognition
  • Butterbur root extract for  migraine relief
  • Cinnamon  for blood glucose levels
  • Flavanol-rich cocoa products  for moderating blood pressure
  • Cranberry for treating urinary tract infections
  • Echinacea purpurea​ extract for lowering the risk of recurrent respiratory infections  and the complications thereof
  • Garlic  for lowering blood pressure
  • Green Tea (beverage) for an overall significant reduction in incidence of liver diseases.

There is a growing body of this kind of evidence.  But lot of that information is not getting out to health professionals or consumers,​ Blumenthal said.

The  mainstream media seems almost tone deaf to this information. Its a curious thing how the media will jump on a study done on rodents that might have a null result, but will overlook human data that is much more compelling,​he said.

Problems in the industry

But all is not roses in the field of botanicals.  Blumenthal’s reputation as a hawk on the subject of adulteration is well deserved.  He helped found the Botanical Adulterants Program​ in cooperation with the American Herbal Pharmacopoeia and the National Center for Natural Products Research at the University of Mississippi.  The program publishes papers, bulletins and lab guidance documents that both identify what kind of adulteration is taking place and how best to look for it.

Its public knowledge that Im concerned about adulterated and fraudulent raw materials that materials that are offered in the international marketplace. For the past six years Ive been working on that and no one would be surprised if I said thats one of the things keeping me up at night,​he said.

Im also concerned about some of the contract manufacturers that are responsible for producing some of the products we see written up in FDA warning letters.  Im not trying to take a shot at contract manufacturers per se.  There are a number of ethical contract manufacturers producing excellent products. But some of them produce products with claims on the labels that are so over the top, it makes you wonder how a contract manufacturer would ever affix a label like that,​ he said.

Online botanicals event

Blumenthal will be among the speakers for NutraIngredients-USA’s upcoming Online Conference on Botanicals which is scheduled for Thursday, July 13. In addition to Dentali, speakers include Roy Upton, founder of the American Herbal Pharmacopeia, Michael McGuffin, president of the American Herbal Products Association, Rick Kingston, PharmD, of SafetyCall International, and consultants Steven Dentali, PhD and Marc Brush.  The conference will also feature presentations from experts at Sabinsa Corporation and Valensa International.  For more information and to register for this FREE event, click here​.

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