Submitted to: Herbal Gram
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 2/2/2000
Publication Date: N/A
Interpretive Summary: We have chosen St. John's wort as a model to evaluate the feasibility of a program to certify seeds of medicinal plants. St. John's wort, currently one of the most popular herbal products, consists of the dried flowering tops of Hypericum perforatum. Adulteration of St. John's wort is commonly encountered in commerce and mostly involves the use of other species of Hypericum. An agricultural system that utilizes certified seed to produce herbal crops provides the best opportunity to ensure the authenticity of herbal products. Managed agricultural production of medicinal and aromatic plants is becoming the preferred source of botanical raw materials. Because of the limitations of morphological and chemical methods of identification, especially when applied to plant material that is not fully developed, a seed-certification program for cultivated H. perforatum requires the application of genetic techniques. We are currently studying the molecular genetics of H. perforatum and several closely related Hypericum species. The results presented here indicate that there are easily detectable genetic differences among these species, which may be developed as identity markers.
Technical Abstract: This paper discusses the advantages of genetic analysis over more traditional methods for the authentication of St. John's wort, and reports the identification of genetic markers capable of differentiating between closely related Hypericum species. The proposal to establish a program for the certification of seeds of Hypericum perforatum, the foundation of which is the use of genetic markers, is also discussed. This work on St. John's wort constitutes a model to be extended to other herbal products that are manufactured from cultivated plants.