BAPP Publishes Lab Guidance Doc on Saw Palmetto Extract

Austin, TX—The ABC-AHP-NCNPR Botanical Adulterants Prevention Program (BAPP) has published a new laboratory guidance document (LGD) on saw palmetto extract, according to a press release.

Saw palmetto extracts have been shown to improve symptoms related to benign prostatic hyperplasia in human clinical trials, the release notes, and products containing saw palmetto berries and/or extracts are the 11th best-selling products in the mainstream market and 14th in the natural foods channel. Poor harvests from 2016 to 2018, along with the introduction of new permitting requirements in Florida where most saw palmetto grows, have led to a situation where supply cannot keep up with demand, driving prices upwards.

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Adulteration in saw palmetto products seems to be mostly along the lines of substitution or dilution of extracts with vegetable oils or designer fatty acid blends to attempt to mimic saw palmetto’s fatty acid composition. Admixture or substitution with berries from related species appears to be infrequent. Thus, routine analytical methods that measure only the total fatty acid content are unsuitable.

The LGD was written by Stefan Gafner, Ph.D., chief science officer of the American Botanical Council and technical director of BAPP. It evaluates the usefulness of 34 published analytical methods to detect saw palmetto berry and berry extract adulteration, and summarizes the main advantages and disadvantages of each method regarding suitability for use in a quality control laboratory. It was peer-reviewed by 25 experts. This LGD follows the publication of version 3 of the Saw Palmetto Botanical Adulterants Prevention Bulletin by BAPP in October 2018.

Dr. Gafner said in the release: “Complete substitution of saw palmetto with vegetable oils is readily detected by organoleptic and chemical assays. However, fraudulent suppliers have become increasingly sophisticated in producing low-cost materials that are chemically similar to authentic saw palmetto. Therefore, a set of methods is now needed to determine if an extract labeled to be saw palmetto is actually authentic.”

Mark Blumenthal, ABC founder and executive director and BAPP founder and director, said: “There appears to be no depth to how low some fraudsters in the global botanical extract market are willing to go to make an illicit profit. For years we’ve known that some unethical ingredient suppliers have been selling fraudulent ‘saw palmetto’ extracts containing lower-cost oils from other plants. And recently, reports have been published in reputable medicinal plant journals that fraudsters have begun to add fatty acids produced from animal fats to so-called ‘saw palmetto’ extracts. This is not only unfair to consumers but also to the reputable companies that produce and market authentic, reliable saw palmetto ingredients and products made from them.”

All publications in the program, including this one, are freely accessible to all members of the public.