$1.2 million federal grant to University of Illinois for botanical dietary supplements research

The University of Illinois at Chicago has received a two-year, $1.2 million federal grant to develop a new method to identify the contents of botanical dietary supplements and how they work.

The research, under the leadership of Guido Pauli, associate professor of pharmacognosy, will use nuclear magnetic resonance and mass spectrometry to more quickly and accurately identify the correct plant materials used for production and provide more reliable assays to ensure botanical quality and safety.

The new methodology will initially test 10 of the top 20 most widely used botanicals. Among them are soy, red clover, garlic, ginkgo, Echinacea, St. John's Wort, ginseng, green tea and black cohosh. The approach, Pauli said, will be innovative to botanical reference standards and will transform the current system of identifying natural health products.

"Our new approach to quality control will allow us to measure several parameters of herbal quality simultaneously," Pauli said. "This not only supports the more holistic approach of using botanical supplements, but can also become a protective measure for the consumer looking for products that are safe to use."

Nearly one in 10 people use botanicals, and 40 percent of Americans -- and 12 percent of children under 18 -- use complementary and alternative medicine, according to the 2008 National Health Statistics Report. U.S. adults spent nearly $34 billion out of pocket on complementary and alternative medicine products, classes and materials, and on visits to complementary and alternative medicine practitioners in 2007, the report said.

The grant is funded by the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, one of the National Institutes of Health. Pauli's co-workers at UIC include Shao-Nong Chen, Birgit Jaki and Marc Wang, research assistant professors; David Lankin, research associate professor; and Tanja Gödecke, post-doctoral fellow.

For more information about UIC, visit www.uic.edu.

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