Issue: 91 Page: 74-75
Quality Assessment of Selected Indian Medicinal Plants, Volume I
by Mark Blumenthal
HerbalGram. 2011; American Botanical Council
Quality Assessment of Selected Indian Medicinal Plants, Volume I by Amit Agarwal and Balasubramanian Murali. Bangalore, India: National Medicinal Plants Board and M/s Natural Remedies Pvt. Ltd., 2010. Hardcover. 252 pages plus appendices. Color photos. $69.00. ISBN 978-81-910093-0-9.
With the increased growth in the global herb market in medicinal and aromatic plants, there exists a heightened demand for more resources to help ensure quality control. These include standards, specifications, and methods to determine accurate identity of plant material, quality of the plant material (presence of various marker compounds related to quality control and/or activity), as well as its purity (lack of contamination with microbes, heavy metals, pesticides, etc.). Demand for such quality control resources have occurred voluntarily due to increased interest by individual companies (ingredient suppliers, manufacturers of herbal medicinal products, et al.) and involuntarily (e.g., due to the issuance of official regulatory requirements, such as the Final Rule for Current Good Manufacturing Practices [cGMPs] in the United States).
Probably no country has a more robust medicinal herb industry and research agenda than India (rivaled perhaps by China). Although there have been warranted concerns about the quality of some medicinal and aromatic plant materials (raw herbs and their extracts) from India (heavy metal contamination has been one persistent problem), the fact is that there are many high-quality herbal materials produced in India for use domestically and for export in the world market.
This book, funded by the National Medicinal Plants Board of India, is the first in a proposed series of quality control data on popular medicinal plants produced and used in India and exported to other countries, including the US. The project will cover analytical and standardization data for 16 traditional Ayurvedic medicinal plants; the authors have volunteered to write up 20 plants. Ten plants are covered in this volume and 10 more will comprise volume 2. The ten in this volume (with taxonomic synonyms included, per the text) are as follows:
Andrographis, aka kalmegh (Andrographis paniculata syn. Justicia paniculata, Acanthaceae);
Bacopa, aka brahmi (Bacopa monnieri, Scrophulariaceae; syn. Herpestis monniera, H. spathulata, Bramia monnieri, Moniera cuneifolia, Bramia monnieri, Gratiola monniera, Lysimachia monniera);
Guggul (Commiphora wightii, Burseraceae; syn. C. mukul; Balsamodendrum mukul);
Licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra, Fabaceae);
Holy basil, aka tulsi (Ocimum tenuiflorum, Lamiaceae; syn. O. sanctum);
Buiamla (Phyllanthus amarus, Euphorbiaceae; syn. P. fraternus, P. niruri);
Amla (Phyllanthus emblica, Euphorbiaceae);
Long pepper, aka pippali (Piper longum, Piperaceae; syn. P. latifolium, P. sarmentosum, Chavica roxburghii);
Plectranthus barbatus, Lamiaceae; syn. Coleus barbatus, C. forskohlii, P. cosmos, P. forskohlii); and
Ashwagandha (Withania somniferum, Solanaceae; syn. Physalis flexuosa, P. somnifera, P. arborescens).
The book discusses the “prevailing variability on analytical specifications” from various pharmacopeias and other authoritative references, and the closest specification to the one observed in the analysis by the authors and the members of their multidisciplinary technical team is recommended in the text. They write in the preface, “In some rare cases, a new limit has been proposed as none of the available standards came close to the observed values for specific parameters. Our intention is not to contradict any prevailing standard, instead only to report the findings which hopefully will trigger further research leading to the development of more realistic quality standards.”
In the project, the authors analyzed plant samples from at least 4 geographical regions using what they refer to as “pre-validated methods.” The project includes more than 1 analytical method in measuring so-called “desirable compounds,” with correlation among various methods where relevant. The project also included validation of HPLC (high-performance liquid chromatography) for “specificity, precision, linearity, accuracy, and ruggedness.” Presumably, oversight by committee members from the NMPB helped to reduce or prevent any commercial bias towards specific proprietary analytical method used for the authors’ company’s own herbal materials.
The organization of the information on each of the 10 herbs—using andrographis as an example—follows: taxonomy and definition, traditional uses, phytochemical information, macroscopic and microscopic descriptions (with photos), analytical specifications for certain compounds (e.g., andrographolide) by TLC (thin-layer chromatography), HPTLC, HPLC, correlation by different analytical methods, different analytical specifications, regulatory status in various countries, and references.
Appendices include: a list of sources of phytochemical reference standards and materials discussion of the use of such, tables showing chemical and microbial analytical methods in different pharmacopeias, tables showing “desirable” compounds found in the 10 herbs, their biological activities, and references.
Both co-authors appear to have extensive quality control experience with herbal materials: Dr. Agarwal is a pharmacologist and director of research and development at a Natural Remedies (a Bangalore-based producer of herbal extracts and branded preparations for food, dietary supplement, pharmaceutical, and cosmetic use) and Mr. Murali is the senior manager of the Department of Analytical Chemistry at the same company.
This otherwise excellent resource is marred by that altogether too typical problem of book publishing in India—the lack of an effective binding. I cannot count all of the books I’ve obtained for my library over the years (traditional Ayurvedic herbal, ethnobotanical, spiritual books, etc.) that have actually fallen apart with even the least amount of handling due to the poor bindings of such books! (Note to Indian publishing industry and/or Indian government department of commerce or other appropriate agency: Get your printing/binding act together—just in time for the possible demise of printed books in lieu of electronic media!). The authors have promised that the second volume will be more adequately bound.
Nevertheless, this book provides an excellent resource for members of the herb industry, particularly R&D teams, purchasing agents, quality control departments, et al., to set specifications for herbal materials used in teas, dietary supplements, cosmetics, and other herbal products.