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Suite of NIST Reference Materials Reflects Supply Chain and Production Stages of Ginseng Supplements

SRM 3384 Ground Asian Ginseng (Panax ginseng C.A. Meyer) Rhizome, SRM 3385 Asian Ginseng (Panax ginseng) Extract, and RM 8664 Ginseng-Containing Solid Oral Dosage Form

Credit: Adobe Stock

Three NIST reference materials of ginseng in different forms support ginseng supplement manufacturers’ analysis of the authenticity and purity of their products as they progress from raw material (the rhizome), to an extract of the rhizome, to the powder that becomes the finished product.

This suite of reference materials provides values for measurements of the active ingredients, ginsenosides, in ginseng supplements, and some toxic elements that can be absorbed by the ginseng plant as it grows. Manufacturers of ginseng supplements can use these reference materials to check their in-house measurements, helping to ensure that their label claims are accurate and that their products are safe and free of contaminants.

Ginseng has been used in traditional eastern medicine for millennia; It is popular around the world as an over-the-counter herbal supplement purported to reduce depression and improve stamina, concentration, and improve immunity. These reference materials are a result of a collaboration with the National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements, as are many other NIST dietary supplement reference materials. Product manufacturers and commercial test labs had requested a suite of reference materials to reflect these three different stages of ginseng preparation, because each presents different analytical challenges. In the U.S., ginseng supplements are regulated by the Food and Drug Administration under the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act; Manufacturers and distributors are responsible for the efficacy and safety of their products and for determining if their product labels are accurate.

Ginseng Root

A unit of SRM 3384 Asian Ginseng Rhizome contains five packets of approximately 3 grams of ground rhizome.  A trained botanist identified the Asian ginseng;. The material has also been authenticated using DNA sequence analysis. NIST determined that botanical authentication would provide additional credibility to measurements of the ginsenosides in SRM 3384, as there is more than one species of ginseng, and they are sometimes passed off as one another.

Because there is chemical variation within a species of ginseng depending on growing conditions, SRM 3384 alone cannot help supplement producers determine if their own raw materials are authentic, but the SRM can be used as one among many samples for determining authenticity.

SRM 3384 provides certified values for arsenic and lead and non-certified values for cadmium and seven ginsenosides.

Ginseng Extract

A unit of SRM 3385 Asian Ginseng Extract consists of five packets, each containing approximately 1 gram of ground Asian ginseng extract. NIST provides certified values for six ginsenoside compounds and non-certified values for an additional ginsenoside along with arsenic, cadmium, and lead.

Ginseng Oral Dosage Form

RM 8664 Ginseng-Containing Solid Oral Dosage Form consists of five packets, each containing approximately 2.6 grams of ground ginseng and inert ingredients, which represents how ginseng supplements are formulated. Ginseng supplement manufacturers asked for a reference material in this form because the addition of inert ingredients makes the material harder to analyze. Non-certified values for seven ginsenosides are provided, which will help supplement manufacturers perform quality control checks on the measurements they use to back their label claims.

Released January 25, 2022, Updated July 19, 2022