Health Guide

Botanical Research: Benefits for Cognitive Function, Insomnia & Other Conditions

AHPA regularly reviews scientific literature for new research that may be useful to the herbal products and supplement industries. The following are some recent articles published in peer-reviewed journals.

Clinical Evidence for Popular Botanicals in Cognitive Function
This study reviewed and commented on the available evidence on botanicals and phytochemicals with a clinically demonstrable effect on cognitive decline. The authors reviewed studies published in English from 1970 to April 2017 on botanicals and phytochemicals claiming to show an effect on cognitive impairment in humans. The report concluded that some phytochemicals and botanicals seem to be very promising for delaying the onset and progression of neurodegenerative and other age-related diseases and encouraged further clinical research on these promising botanicals.

Pharmacological Research, April 2018
https://doi.org/10.1016/j.phrs.2017.12.029

Violet Oil for Treatment of Insomnia
This three-arm, double-blind, randomized trial administered Violet oil, almond oil, or a placebo intra-nasally to 75 patients with chronic insomnia every night before sleep for 30 days. The study reported significant differences between the three groups after the intervention, with Violet oil having the most effect, especially on sleep quality. The study proposed the use of Violet oil as a natural and herbal drug in a non-oral method without serious side effects for treatment of insomnia.

Journal of Ethnopharmacology, March 2018
https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jep.2017.11.036

Comprehensive HPTLC Fingerprinting for Quality Control of an Herbal Drug
This paper described how the new concept of “comprehensive HPTLC fingerprinting” could be used to simplify quality control by providing information beyond identification. The authors detailed how the technique can be applied to define specifications for an herbal reference material and to control the quality of an herbal drug according to these specifications. This case demonstrated that a single HPTLC analysis can provide information about identity, purity, and minimum content of markers of an herbal drug.

Planta Medica, February 28, 2018
https://doi.org/10.1055/a-0575-4425

HPLC Method for Discrimination of Five Botanical Origins of Uncaria Stem with Hooks
Using Uncaria stem with hooks as an example, a characteristic chromatogram was proposed to discriminate its five botanical origins and to quantify its characteristic components. Using the same chromatogram parameters, the single standard to determine multicomponents method was validated to simultaneously quantify nine indole alkaloids. The results showed that only the Uncaria stem with hooks from Uncaria rhynchophylla, the most widely used in the herbal market, showed the presence of these nine alkaloids. The results also showed that the total content of indole alkaloids tended to decrease with an increase in the hook diameter. This showed that the characteristic chromatogram is practical for controlling the quality of traditional Chinese medicines with multiple botanical origins.

Planta Medica, December 2017 
https://doi.org/10.1055/s-0043-123827

USP Quality Standards & Test Methods for Botanical Dietary Supplements & Herbal Medicines
The multiple tests included in each United States Pharmacopeia (USP) and Herbal Medicines Compendium (HMC) monograph complement each other to provide an appropriate pharmacopeial quality characterization for the botanicals used as herbal medicines and dietary supplements. The monographs provide detailed specifications for identity, content of bioactive constituents or quality markers, and limits of contaminants, adulterants, and potentially toxic substances. Additional requirements such as labeling and packaging further contribute to preserve the quality of these products.

Phytomedicine, April 10, 2018 
https://doi.org/10.1016/j.phymed.2018.04.014

Consuming Green Tea at Least Twice Each Day Associated with Reduced Odds of COPD in Middle-Aged and Older Korean Adults
This study examined the association between green tea intake and chronic obstructive lung disease (COPD) using the nationwide representative database the Korean National Health and Nutritional Examination Survey. The report found incidence of COPD decreased from 14.1% to 5.9% with increased frequency of green tea intake from never to at least two times per day. The study suggested the consumption of at least two cups of green tea per day is associated with a reduced risk of COPD in Korean populations.

The Journal of Nutrition, January 2018 
https://doi.org/10.1093/jn/nxx016

EFSA Assesses Safety of Green Tea Catechins
This safety assessment by the European Food Safety Authority concluded that catechins from green tea infusions are generally safe, but continuous, daily use of green tea catechin extracts at or above 800 mg/day for at least four months was associated with elevated liver enzymes for a small percentage (usually less than 10%) of the population. The average daily intake from consumption of traditional green tea infusions ranged between 90 and 300 mg/day, but catechins in green tea extracts used in food supplements may be more concentrated. There was no indication of liver injury for doses below 800 mg/day from green tea supplements, but experts were unable to identify a safe dose based on available data. EFSA has recommended further studies on the effects of green tea catechins and clearer labeling of green tea products (in particular food supplements) regarding catechin content and possible health risks.

European Food Safety Authority, Jan. 22, 2018 
https://www.efsa.europa.eu/en/press/news/180418

Clinical and Genomic Safety of Ginkgo biloba Leaf Extract for Elderly
This safety study was designed to assess, in a population of elderly residents in nursing homes, clinical and genomic risks associated with Ginkgo biloba leaf extract (GBLE) treatment. This multicenter, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial compared subjects randomized to twice-daily doses of either 120-mg of Ginkgoselect Plus or to placebo for a six-month period. No adverse clinical effects or increase of liver injury markers were reported in the treatment group and none of the markers investigated revealed a higher risk in the treatment group.

The Journal of Nutrition, Jan. 22, 2018 
https://doi.org/10.1186/s12906-018-2080-5

Efficacy and Safety of Ashwagandha Root Extract in Subclinical Hypothyroid Patients
This pilot study was designed to evaluate the efficacy and safety of ashwagandha root extract in subclinical hypothyroid patients. A prospective, randomized, double-blind, single-center placebo-controlled study was performed on 50 subjects with elevated serum thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) levels. Results suggested treatment with ashwagandha may be beneficial for normalizing thyroid indices in subclinical hypothyroid patients. 

Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, March 1, 2018 
https://doi.org/10.1089/acm.2017.0183


Holly Johnson, PhD
American Herbal Products Association (AHPA)

Holly E. Johnson PhD, is the chief science officer at the American Herbal Products Association (AHPA) where she is the primary scientific resource for the organization, providing individualized technical guidance to member organizations and helping the herbal industry use the latest science, technology and research to ensure consumers continue to have informed access to innovative, safe and effective herbal products. Dr. Johnson took her PhD in Pharmacognosy at the College of Pharmacy, University of Illinois – Chicago (UIC), under renowned Pharmacognosist and researcher Dr. Norman Farnsworth. She is currently a Research Associate with the National Tropical Botanical Garden and serves on AOAC Stakeholders Panels and Expert Review Panels for Foods and Dietary Supplements. She is a member of the USP Medical Cannabis Expert Panel, the Editorial Board of the AOAC International Journal, and also serves on the Advisory Boards of the American Botanical Council and the American Herbal Pharmacoepia. She can be reached at hjohnson@ahpa.org; 301-588-1171, ext. 103.