Authenticity of herbal products: the public response

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BMC Medicine recently published results of a study indicating that many herbal products include substitutions, contaminants or fillers that are not listed on the product label, some of which could be harmful to consumers.

The study by Steven Newmaster and colleagues from the University of Guelph, tested the authenticity of 44 commercially available herbal products from 12 different companies using DNA barcoding. The study found that the product label did not always correlate with the herbal species contained within the product – in fact, only 2 of the 44 products tested contained authentic products with no substitutions, contaminants or fillers.

The authors explain that the lack of authenticity in herbal products is a public health risk as several species identified within the study have known toxicity and can cause adverse effects particularly if consumed by people with allergies. At present, there are no standards to ensure authenticity of herbal products. The authors suggest that DNA barcoding should be used across the industry to test authenticity of products to help protect consumers.

Given the wide spread use of herbal products, these results have caused a considerable public response, both in international press, and in social media. To date, the article has received over 12,000 accesses, and has an Altmetric score of 347 making it our second highest scoring article of all time.

We have used Storify to collate a selection of the main news stories, as well as a selection of comments from social media.

The Storify article can be accessed here:


The research article can be freely accessed in BMC Medicine here:

http://www.biomedcentral.com/1741-7015/11/222