Species Adulteration in the Herbal Trade: Causes, Consequences and Mitigation
The global economy of the international trade of herbal products has been increasing by 15% annually, with the raw material for most herbal products being sourced from South and Southeast Asian countries. In India, of the 8000 species of medicinal plants harvested from the wild, approximately 960 are in the active trade. With increasing international trade in herbal medicinal products, there is also increasing concern about the widespread adulteration and species admixtures in the raw herbal trade. The adverse consequences of such species adulteration on the health and safety of consumers have only recently begun to be recognised and documented. We provide a comprehensive review of the nature and magnitude of species adulteration in the raw herbal trade, and identify the underlying drivers that might lead to such adulteration. We also discuss the possible biological and chemical equivalence of species that are used as adulterants and substitutes, and the consequences thereof to consumer health and safety, and propose a framework for the development of a herbal trade authentication service that can help regulate the herbal trade market.