St John’s wort products (Hypericum perforatum L.) are widely available for sale in many countries including the UK via the internet. In the UK, these products are required to hold either a marketing authorisation or Traditional herbal registration (THR) to be sold legally. The THR and other regulatory schemes help to ensure product safety and quality providing an example of best practice but there is a risk if both regulated and un-regulated products continue to be available to consumers.
Aims: the project is embedded in a larger study aiming to investigate the quality of different herbal medicinal products along diverse value chains. Here we focus on a comparison of the quality of the finished products and assess phytochemical variation between registered products (THRs) and products obtained from the market without any registration.
Methods: 47 commercial products (granulated powders and extracts) were sourced from different suppliers. We analysed these samples using high performance thin layer chromatography (HPTLC) and 1H-NMR spectroscopy coupled with multi-variate analysis software following a method previously developed by our group.
Results: the consistency of the products varies significantly. Adulteration of the products (36%), possibly with other Hypericum species obtained from China or use of chemically distinct H. perforatum cultivars or chemotypes, and adulteration of the products (19%) with food dyes (tartrazine, amaranth, brilliant blue, sunset yellow) were the principle findings of this study.
There is significant compositional variation among commercial finished products and two main causative quality problems were identified as adulteration by incorrect species or adulteration with food dyes. Generally, food supplements and unlicensed products were found to be of poorer quality than the regulated ones like registered THRs.