Assessment of genotoxicity of herbal medicinal products: application of the "bracketing and matrixing" concept using the example of Valerianae radix (valerian root)

Phytomedicine. Jul-Aug 2014;21(8-9):1124-9. doi: 10.1016/j.phymed.2014.04.003. Epub 2014 May 16.


An assessment of genotoxicity is a precondition for marketing authorization respectively registration of herbal medicinal products (HMPs), as well as for inclusion into the 'Community list of herbal substances, preparations and combinations thereof for use in traditional herbal medicinal products' established by the European Commission in accordance with Directive 2001/83/EC as amended, and based on proposals from the Committee on Herbal Medicinal Products (HMPC). In the 'Guideline on the assessment of genotoxicity of herbal substances/preparations' (EMEA/HMPC/107079/2007) HMPC has described a stepwise approach for genotoxicity testing, according to which the Ames test is a sufficient base for the assessment of genotoxicity in case of an unequivocally negative result. For reducing efforts for testing of individual herbal substances/preparations, HMPC has also developed the 'guideline on selection of test materials for genotoxicity testing for traditional herbal medicinal products/herbal medicinal products' (EMEA/HMPC/67644/2009) with the aim to allow testing of a standard range of test materials which could be considered representative of the commonly used preparations from a specific herbal drug according to a 'bracketing/matrixing' approach. The purpose of this paper is to provide data on the practical application of this bracketing and matrixing concept using the example of Valerianae radix, with the intention of facilitating its inclusion in the "Community list". Five extraction solvents, representing the extremes of the polarity range and including also mid-range extraction solvents, were used, covering the entire spectrum of phytochemical constituents of Valerianae radix, thereby including polar and non-polar constituents. Extracts were tested in the Ames test according to all relevant guidelines. Results were unequivocally negative for all extracts. A review of the literature showed that this result is in accordance with the available data, thus demonstrating the lack of a genotoxic potential. In conclusion the two guidelines on genotoxicity provide a practically applicable concept. Valerianae radix has no genotoxic potential, supporting its use in HMPs and its inclusion in the Community list.

Keywords: Ames-test; Bracketing and matrixing; Genotoxicity; HMPC; Herbal medicinal products; Valerian root.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Consumer Product Safety / standards*
  • DNA Damage
  • Herbal Medicine / methods
  • Humans
  • Medicine, Traditional
  • Mutagenicity Tests
  • Phytotherapy / standards*
  • Plant Preparations / standards*
  • Plant Roots / chemistry
  • Plants, Medicinal
  • Quality Control
  • Valerian / chemistry*


  • Plant Preparations