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Compendium of botanicals

EFSA’s Compendium of Botanicals is a database of botanicals that are reported to contain naturally occurring substances of possible concern for human health when present in food.

The compendium is not intended to conclude on the safety or non-safety of the listed botanical species but to help with the safety assessment of botanicals and botanical preparations intended for use in food, including supplements, by facilitating hazard identification.

The presence of a substance of concern in a botanical does not necessarily mean that the substance will also be present in a botanical preparation and, if so, at a dosage that could cause a health concern. This would depend largely on the plant part used, the preparation method and the conditions of use.

The compendium does not list all bioactive substances present in a given botanical and their potential health effects, nor does it flag botanicals or botanical substances of possible concern for animal health when used as feed or feed additives. However, where adverse effects reported on animal health were found in the literature, they are reported in the compendium.

If a specific species shows an adverse health effect, other closely related species in terms of botanical taxonomy and chemical composition profile should also be considered for possible adverse health effects. The possibility of using read-across is further described in the SC opinion on a qualified presumption of safety (QPS) approach for the safety assessment of botanicals and botanical preparations.

The absence of a botanical species from the compendium does not mean the species is devoid of compounds hazardous to human health. Similarly, if a specific part of a plant is not mentioned, this does not mean that substance(s) of concern are absent from this part. If a botanical species does not appear in the compendium this is most probably because it is not on any of the lists considered (see description of the sources of information considered here).

The compendium does not address possible synergies or antagonisms between botanical species, preparations and substances, or possible interactions with other products that would need to be taken into account when assessing safety, as described in the SC guidance on safety assessment of botanicals and botanical preparations intended for use as ingredients in food supplements.

Botanicals are listed whether or not they are novel foods. When a plant genus was present in the lists considered by the working group, but no species was mentioned, the spp. was included in the compendium.

The compendium currently does not include algae, cyanobacteria and fungi; they will be considered for possible inclusion in the future.

Legal disclaimer

The compendium lists in alphabetical order botanicals without any judgment on whether they are suitable or not suitable for food applications in Europe. The compendium is part of preparatory work undertaken by EFSA to harmonise the methodology for assessing the safety of botanicals and botanical preparations used in food. The compendium has no legal or regulatory force and may not be used as support or evidence in any disagreement or dispute pertaining to the legal classification of products or substances.

This version of the compendium is still under construction and will be finalised early 2017. The compendium is open for additional contributions and comments from users, to be sent to sc.secretariat [at] efsa.europa.eu.  

[1] This information is stored and presented in the EFSA Data Warehouse.

Information provided by the Compendium

  • The Botanical Species. The taxonomy database “the Plant List” was taken as a reference. If not found in this database, or where the scientific name of the botanical was not officially accepted (“unresolved”), ARSGRIN was used. If still unsuccessful, the International Plant Name Index was consulted.
  • The Family. In many cases, botanicals from a given family contain similar groups of compounds. Therefore, knowing the family name may provide indications of the possible presence of similar compounds in other species not included in the compendium. The Plant List database was used as the main source of information.
  • The Plant Part in which the compounds of concern were reported to be present, or for which adverse effect(s) was reported without any identification of substances of concern.
  • The Preparation, including essential oils, linked to the presence of a substance of possible concern or an adverse effect.
  • The Substances or chemical groups of concern when they were identified. This compendium is intended for hazard identification, whereas risk assessment would require additional information on the concentration of the substance of possible concern in the product on the market, as well as the level of exposure of the consumer to this substance.
  • The Effect Description found in the scientific literature when they could not be associated to any of the compound(s) of concern. The toxicity of the compound(s) of concern will be characterised in a next phase of development of the compendium.
  • The Reference retrieved from literature searches for the data given, and/or standard reference text books providing monographs or more general scientific information for the botanicals considered.

The information in the Compendium of Botanicals can be accessed using the Botanical Summary Report [1]. When the report opens all records in the database are shown. On the left hand side is the Family box. Clicking on a plant family in the Family box restricts the information in the Botanical Species box, the Adverse Effect table and the Botanical composition table to the selected plant family. More than one plant family can be selected, and the results can be further refined by clicking on one or more species in the Botanical Species box. To come back to the full list of plant families or botanical species, click on “All Family” or “All Botanical Species” respectively.

The Adverse Effect table presents information on toxicology studies or case reports where there has been exposure to a plant part, preparation or substance of concern found in the selected plant family or plant species. Each toxicology study or case report is linked to the original source of the information, which can be viewed in the Citation field.

The Botanical Composition table presents information on substances detected or quantified by analysing plant parts or preparations for the selected plant family or plant species. Each composition record is linked to the original source of the information and can be viewed in the Citation field.

Clicking on the Substance tab allows further analysis of the composition records. By selecting a substance in the Substance Name box, plant species in which the substance has been detected can be viewed with the original source of the information in the Citation field.

An additional function for searching the Compendium by toxicity or adverse effect is under development and will be released early 2017.

[1] This information is stored and presented in the EFSA Data Warehouse.

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