Adulteration of Ginkgo biloba products and a simple method to improve its detection

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Wohlmuth, H, Savage, K, Dowell, A & Mouatt, P 2014, 'Adulteration of Ginkgo biloba products and a simple method to improve its detection', Phytomedicine, vol. 21, no. 6, pp. 912-918.

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Extracts of ginkgo (Ginkgo biloba) leaf are widely available worldwide in herbal medicinal products, dietary supplements, botanicals and complementary medicines, and several pharmacopoeias contain monographs for ginkgo leaf, leaf extract and finished products. Being a high-value botanical commodity, ginkgo extracts may be the subject of economically motivated adulteration. We analysed eight ginkgo leaf retail products purchased in Australia and Denmark and found compelling evidence of adulteration with flavonol aglycones in three of these. The same three products also contained genistein, an isoflavone that does not occur in ginkgo leaf.

Although the United States Pharmacopeia – National Formulary (USP-NF) and the British and European Pharmacopoeias stipulate a required range for flavonol glycosides in ginkgo extract, the prescribed assays quantify flavonol aglycones. This means that these pharmacopoeial methods are not capable of detecting adulteration of ginkgo extract with free flavonol aglycones.

We propose a simple modification of the USP-NF method that addresses this problem: by assaying for flavonol aglycones pre and post hydrolysis the content of flavonol glycosides can be accurately estimated via a simple calculation. We also recommend a maximum limit be set for free flavonol aglycones in ginkgo extract.

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