Scientists Investigate Maca Herb Supplement Adulteration

Integrated Health Conference
March 24, 2015
Crila – Ingredients, Research & Benefits
July 6, 2015

Scientists Investigate Maca Herb Supplement Adulteration

Last week found me in Mississippi for my favorite annual forum – the Oxford International Conference on the Science of Botanicals or ICSB. While the Natural Products Expo in Anaheim last month drew a massive attendance of 71,000 people, by comparison ICSB is a mere 220. The conference is a cooperation between the National Center for Natural Products Research at the University of Mississippi, and the Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition (CFSAN) at the FDA.

The Poster Abstract session (pictured here Crila Health Director Sue McKinney and Dr. Jianping Zhao) is a chance to confer with scientists on their current research. Dr. Jianping Zhao and I discussed his research into adulteration of Maca supplements. (more on this below)

This annual event at “Ole Miss” gathers together

  • International botanical medicine research scientists, botanists and herbalists
  • The regulators and scientists from the FDA
  • Other sponsors include, the National Institutes of Health (NIH), Office of Dietary Supplements, a major source of research grant funding
  • Non-profit educational and trade associations, including the American Botanical Council, United National Products Alliance, American Herbal Products Association, Natural Products Association, American Herbal Pharmacopoeia
  • Scientific and laboratory testing services, including Waters, Agilent Technologies, ABSciex, Interchim, Advion and CAMAG
  • Key industry players like Proctor & Gamble, New Chapter, GNC, and Thorne Research. 

Presentations range from cutting edge research likely to deliver the next medical miracles to free exchanges from well-known industry critics like Dr. Pieter Cohen, often quoted in the NYTimes as critical of today’s dietary supplement industry. Sessions are close-in and personal. Breakfast, lunch and dinner are casually held in such a way that you find yourself seated with a potential Nobel Prize laureate at lunch and the FDA at dinner. The conference gives me the chance to inform colleagues about the latest research on Crila® (in our case the Estrogen Free findings on Crila® by the UIC College of Pharmacy, funded under a grant to study menopause herbs from the NIH and published in the Journal of the North American Menopause Society) and hear their news before it’s published.

This year’s conference included presentations from scientists representing every continent except Antarctica. Regular participants from countries with strong traditions of medicinal herbs include China, India, Japan, Korea and Sri Lanka. I was especially gratified to see scientists from the Vietnamese Academy of Science and Technology present for the first time. VAST has been a strong support for Dr. Tram’s research on Crila® for many years. It was especially good to see Dr. Qazi, Vice Chancellor of Jamia Hamdard, India. Dr. Qazi was among the World Bank consultants reviewing Dr. Tram’s developments over the past several years. We hope to have a public announcement on this soon.

The controversy surrounding the New York Attorney General’s allegations against GNC herbal supplement quality was examined in depth. There is much to say on this topic which I will address in coming articles. The bottom line is that the Agreement reached between the AG and GNC is tantamount to an admission by the AG that their testing of GNC’s products was fatally flawed, no contaminants were found in those supplements, and existing laws already regulate the areas of concern raised by the AG.

The Poster Abstract session (pictured here) is a chance to confer with scientists on their current research. Dr. Jianping Zhao and I discussed his research into adulteration of Maca supplements. Dr. Zhao’s research found that “In recent years, maca has been used as an aphrodisiac, energizer, fertility enhancer, and is a so-called natural Viagra or Peruvian ginseng. As maca products have gained increasing popularity throughout the world, both the demand and price have increased dramatically. A global shortage of maca plant material has resulted in the commercial sale of seriously adulterated dietary supplements. In the present study, a nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopic method was developed to assess the quality of maca products sold on the market. The method can be used as a rapid tool for detection of maca adulteration.” Dr. Zhao’s Abstract is published in Thieme’s Planta Medica.

As I’ve noted in previous blogs, when a new herbal product hits the market, and becomes popular, it can become a target for unscrupulous commercial exploitation. The products can be diluted with cheaper herbs and substandard herbs can be substituted. This is “economic adulteration.” A wrong species can be or accidentally (or intentially!) used in place of the more expensive, genuine, effective medicinal herb – this is “accidental adulteration.” One way to guard against this practice is to chose products who follow the Farm-to-Factory chain to insure you are getting what you pay for – like Crila®. Our unique Crinum latifolium L var. crilae Tram & Khanh is the only Crinum product on the market proven by clinical trials. Others we’ve tested do not contain the same clinically tested Crinum and may contain components harmful to male sexual health.

You’ve only got 1 prostate. Willing to risk it?

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