Goldenseal Authentication
Answered by: Conrad Richter
Question from: Rita Moraes
Posted on: April 18, 2002

My name is Rita M. Moraes and I work at the National Center for Natural Products Center, University of Mississippi. Last year, I purchased some goldenseal potted plants from your company. These plants have hydrastine and berberine but they do not look like Hydrastis. Attached are some pictures of the plants your company sent to me. I really need to know if this is a different type, where it was collected.

Image 1

Image 2

Image 3

Images 1 and 2 are goldenseal – for sure. Image 3 is hard to make out as it was out of focus; but I am tempted to think that it is not goldenseal. But I would want to see a better photo before commiting myself to that.

Hope that helps.

I will submit a paper for publication on goldenseal and I need to know if you have a voucher of your plants deposit in any herbarium which I could cite.

No, we have not deposited a voucher of our plants in a herbarium. Sorry.

[If not] I can purchase a plant with flower to make a voucher which I would deposit in our herbarium. This way you could have an authenticated production. What do you think?

I understand the need to cite herbarium specimens taken from the actual material used in scientific research. This is very prudent and, indeed, necessary when dealing with plants. If it is not done, the true identity of the actual plant material used in natural products research could be called into question. There are examples of research studies that were compromised because the botanical identity of the material used could not checked.

For the herbarium voucher system to make any sense the specimens deposited in the herbaria must come from the same population as was used in the study. The best approach is to prepare a herbarium specimen for each batch of plants that is used in studies. Researchers, therefore, need to include this step in their research protocol.

Commercial horticulture works on a batch system. The only meaningful way to document identity would be to prepare voucher specimens from each batch. This is almost never done, for practical reasons, such as cost.

In some cases the propagules always come from the same stock plants so it would only be necessary to document the identity of the stock plants. But in most cases propagules (such as seeds or cuttings) are brought in from outside sources which may differ from batch ot batch or may themselves have an undocumented origin; so industry mostly relies on the experience of its growers to ensure that the material they are working on is the right material.

In the case of goldenseal, Richters relies on trusted sources for root propagules because we cannot produce enough ourselves to meet demand. We are confident that our material is correctly identified, but we do not normally undertake to document the material. This is different from how we handle our seeds, however, because we save samples from each lot of seeds we sell precisely for the purpose of checking identity should an issue arise. As far as we know, Richters is the only herb seed company that takes this extra precautionary step. This system is practical for seeds, so we added it to our standard protocol (along with many other precautions); for plants, we do not have a similar system in place because we feel our experienced growers are already adequately monitoring botanical identity at every stage of our production process.

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