Project on Rhodiola verification provides example for industry, expert says
Trish Flaster, principal of the consultancy Botanical Liaisons, teamed with Blake Ebersole of NaturPro Scientific to conduct an ingredient verification program on PLT’s Rhodiola rosea ingredient branded as RhodioLife. Flaster said having a comprehensive ID program is really more a matter of will than it is having to clear some insuperable hurdle. The key is knowing what kind of information you need, she said.
“It doesn’t have to be complicated. It can be very simple if you ask the right questions,” Flaster told NutraIngredients-USA.
Making things systematic makes them easier
Flaster and Ebersole have developed a systematic way to look at a company’s verification protocol to spot gaps in the process. This could include having missing data or the wrong kind of data from suppliers.
“Blake and I have developed a lot of check lists. Then you can say, yes, we have the data, or no, there’s a piece missing. It’s a process of requesting documentation further and further back toward the source,” she said.
Flaster, who was trained as an ethnobotanist, has been in the botanical ID game for decades, and is one of the industry’s sources for validated botanical ID specimens. This figures into the program she developed with Ebersole, in that it shows companies how to instruct their suppliers on how to collect validated samples of material before the lot is processed. Many types of botanical material may undergo initial processing in the country of origin, such as pulverizing, which makes initial identification more difficult it the lot is not accompaniedidentification by a verified sample.
“The easier client is one like PLT that has realized the value of a chain of custody when looking at the supply chain,” she said.
The issues with potential adulteration of Rhodiola ingredients was highlighted recently by the release of a Botanical Adulterants Program publication on the ingredient. PLT had coincidentally been working on verifying its identification of its own ingredient at the same time as the American Botanical Council (the lead organization in the Adulterants Program) was finalizing the publication. That document outlined how Rhodiola can be economically adulterated or unintentionally tainted with similar, but less expensive species.
“The global demand for Rhodiola rosea has rapidly increased, which has led to shortages of authentic material. Most harvesting comes from alpine regions and forests, where supplies can be depleted quickly without replanting and sustainability efforts,” Flaster said.
The source — and the ‘fingerprint’ — matter
Rhodiola rosea has been marketed to support sustained energy, mood, physical performance and an increased capacity to handle stress. Traditionally grown and consumed in North Asia and Russia, the R. rosea species may be often confused with other Rhodiola species in global dietary and herbal supplement markets. True R.rosea is believed to be differentiated from other Rhodiola species by its yellow flowers, and presence of significant levels of unique compounds called rosavins in authentic root extracts. PLT says that RhodioLife’s “natural fingerprint” composition consistently provides the spectrum of rosavins from the root that are considered responsible for its biological activity, such as rosavin, rosarin, rosin and salidroside. The company claims that RhodioLife preserves R. rosea’s natural phytochemical fingerprint, based on both the percentage and relative ratios of rosavins.
Relationship with wildcrafters
Ebersole said that PLT has developed a comprehensive relationship with the harvesters of its wildcrafted material (there is some cultivated R. rosea ingredients starting to show up in the market). This gives weight to both the chain of custody claims and the argument in favor of the ingredient’s sustainability bona fides.
“For RhodioLife, responsible wildcrafting and sustainable sourcing is managed by a single entity and collection point, in the Altai Mountains, on the border of Russia, Mongolia, Kazakhstan and China. A Collection Management Plan (CMP), in accordance with WHO Good Agricultural and Collection Practices (GACP), is used to ensure responsible harvesting of material. This plan includes requirements for replanting, harvesting of mature plants, and ensures fair prices, safety and training for workers.,” he said.
According to Seth Flowerman, executive vice president of PLT Health Solutions, the independent verification conducted by Botanical Liaisons and NaturPro Scientific on RhodioLife is in line with the company’s PLT360 transparency and trust building initiative that was introduced in 2015, and that Flaster said she helped develop.
“PLT360 is a business-wide commitment by PLT Health Solutions to developing transparent ingredient solutions that our customers can confidently supply to their own customers — knowing that these ingredients are safe, of high quality, efficacious and harvested and manufactured in a sustainable way,” he said. “Going beyond traditional quality control programs, PLT360 examines every aspect of an ingredient that we supply to deliver a best-in-class solution in a program that tracks Ingredient Integrity, Quality, Sustainability and Efficacy,” he added.
Hope for the future
Flaster said she hopes that initiatives like those conducted by PLT will become more and more the standard in the industry. The message of the importance of supply chain verification is not new, but she said for many years it seemed to be falling on deaf ears.
“Joe Betz (of the Office of Dietary Supplements at the National Institutes of Health) and I have been giving this talk about the supply chain for 20 years. I am now finally getting more and more requests for validated samples, and for some unusual species, so researchers, universities and companies are becoming aware that we are going to have to pay attention to this if we don’t want to keep having adulteration problems,” she said.