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Herbal supplements: do we really know what is in them?
Herbal medicine is popular. Consumers seem to be attracted by the notion that they are natural - and if it's natural, it must be safe!!! But do we really know what is in the product that we might be buying? A recently published analytical study aimed to investigate herbal product integrity and authenticity with the goal of protecting consumers from health risks associated with product substitution and contamination. The researchers used DNA barcoding to conduct a blind test of the authenticity for (i) 44 herbal products representing 12 companies and 30 different species of herbs, and (ii) 50 leaf samples collected from 42 herbal species. They also assembled the first standard reference material (SRM) herbal barcode library from 100 herbal species of known provenance that were used to identify the unknown herbal products and leaf samples. DNA barcodes from 91% of the herbal products and all leaf samples could be recovered. 59% of the products tested contained DNA barcodes from