Henna leaves are the raw material of commercial body and hair dyes. According to historical and ethnobotanical information, henna was one of the first plants used for such purpose. However, differences can be observed between henna products by the origin of the raw material, the presence of other plants, or the addition of various contaminants that may cause allergies and permanent scarring. Nowadays henna is used everywhere but it lacks the necessary controls. We report a pharmacognostic study focused on quality control of henna's raw materials from different countries or based on other plants. The analytic approach based on High Performance Thin Layer Chromatography (HPTLC) was proposed as a reliable technique to evaluate natural products complex mixtures, as it is also the case of derived botanical marketed products.
In Italy most herbal products are sold as food supplements and are subject only to food law. A list of about 1200 plants authorised for use in food supplements has been compiled by the Italian ministry of Health. In order to review and possibly improve the ministry's list an ad hoc working group of Istituto Superiore di Sanità was requested to provide a technical and scientific opinion on plant safety. The listed plants were evaluated on the basis of their use in food, therapeutic activity, human toxicity and in no-alimentary fields. Toxicity was also assessed and plant limitations to use in food supplements were defined.
In Italia i prodotti a base di piante utilizzati a scopo salutistico sono integratori alimentari e pertanto devono essere commercializzati secondo le normative degli alimenti. Le piante che possono essere impiegate sono raccolte in una "lista di piante ammesse" stabilita dal ministero della Salute. Allo scopo di rivedere ed eventualmente incrementare tale lista, un gruppo di lavoro dell'Istituto Superiore di Sanità è stato chiamato ad esprimere un parere tecnico-scientifico sulla sicurezza d'uso delle piante elencate. Le piante sono state valutate sulla base del loro uso a scopo alimentare o terapeutico o in campi diversi. In funzione delle eventuali sostanze potenzialmente tossiche contenute in tali piante sono state individuate delle limitazioni per il loro uso negli integratori alimentari.