Planta Med 2017; 83(11): 921-936
DOI: 10.1055/s-0043-107881
Natural Product Chemistry and Analytical Studies
Original Papers
Georg Thieme Verlag KG Stuttgart · New York

Assessment of the Authenticity of Herbal Dietary Supplements: Comparison of Chemical and DNA Barcoding Methods

Rahul S. Pawar
Office of Regulatory Science, Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, U. S. Food and Drug Administration, College Park, MD, USA
Sara M. Handy
Office of Regulatory Science, Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, U. S. Food and Drug Administration, College Park, MD, USA
Raymond Cheng
Office of Regulatory Science, Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, U. S. Food and Drug Administration, College Park, MD, USA
Nicole Shyong
Office of Regulatory Science, Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, U. S. Food and Drug Administration, College Park, MD, USA
Erich Grundel
Office of Regulatory Science, Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, U. S. Food and Drug Administration, College Park, MD, USA
› Author Affiliations
Further Information

Publication History

received 28 December 2016
revised 13 March 2017

accepted 25 March 2017

Publication Date:
28 April 2017 (online)


About 7 % of the U. S. population reports using botanical dietary supplements. Increased use of such supplements has led to discussions related to their authenticity and quality. Reports of adulteration with substandard materials or pharmaceuticals are of concern because such substitutions, whether inadvertent or deliberate, may reduce the efficacy of specific botanicals or lead to adverse events. Methods for verifying the identity of botanicals include macroscopic and microscopic examinations, chemical analysis, and DNA-based methods including DNA barcoding. Macroscopic and microscopic examinations may fail when a supplement consists of botanicals that have been processed beyond the ability to provide morphological characterizations. Chemical analysis of specific marker compounds encounters problems when these compounds are not distinct to a given species or when purified reference standards are not available. Recent investigations describing DNA barcoding analysis of botanical dietary supplements have raised concerns about the authenticity of the supplements themselves as well as the appropriateness of using DNA barcoding techniques with finished botanical products. We collected 112 market samples of frequently consumed botanical dietary supplements of ginkgo, soy, valerian, yohimbe, and St. Johnʼs wort and analyzed each for specific chemical markers (i.e., flavonol glycosides, total isoflavones, total valerenic acids, yohimbine, and hypericins, respectively). We used traditional DNA barcoding techniques targeting the nuclear ITS2 gene and the chloroplast gene psbA-trnH on the same samples to determine the presence of DNA of the labelled ingredient. We compared the results obtained by both methods to assess the contribution of each in determining the identity of the samples.

Supporting Information

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