Monday, August 31, 2015

Licorice root contamination with mycotoxin

Licorice has a multitude of medicinal uses and is a mainstay for many herbalists. Of course it does have some contraindications but it is still used in many herbal formulas. The issue of licorice root being contaminated by mold is not something most folks seem to know about. It has been found to be contaminated by ochratoxin A (OTA) which is a mycotoxin made by fungus.

OTA is a known nephrotoxic, immunotoxic, and carcinogenic mycotoxin in animals. Molds associated with the production of OTA include Aspergillus ochraceus, Aspergillus niger and Aspergillus carbonarius, Penicillium verrucosum, and species of Penicillium, Petromyces, and Neopetromyces. Concerns regarding exposure to ochratoxin have primarily centered on exposure to food contaminated with OTA such as wine, beer, coffee, dried vine fruit, grape juices, pork, poultry, dairy, spices, and chocolate. Toxicity from ochratoxin is considered serious enough that it is among approximately 20 mycotoxins monitored in food.  OTA is mostly produced largely in temperate and colder climates.  

General research in 2013 research found ochratoxin to be in licorice as well as a handful of other foods.

A 2010 article also found OTA in licorice.

Research in 2007 found OTA in 30 of the 30 samples of licorice root and products made from licorice root. The highest levels were found in dry licorice root. They averaged 63.6 ng/gram of OTA. Fresh licorice root was found to average 9.2 ng/gram. Solid licorice block used to make candies was 39.5 ng/gram. These levels found in licorice are higher than found in other food products.

When they made tea out of the dry licorice root 5% of the OTA in the root was transferred to the decoction, but only 1% of OTA remained in the infused tea.

Research examining the effect of humidity and temperature on fresh licorice root found that temperature had more effect than humidity. Temperatures above 22 degrees celsius (71.6 F) will cause OTA growth if an OTA producing fungus is present.

The interesting aspect of this is that licorice along with melatonin has been shown to be protective against ochratoxin A induced damage to the testes of rats. The licorice was slightly more effective than the melatonin. Research here. Licorice has also been shown to reduce ochratoxin A kidney toxicity in rats. Research here.  It makes  you wonder if the medicinal effect of the licorice counteracts the OTA activity. Licorice extract is being considered as a method to prevent and treat ochratoxicosis. Indeed, it is one of the herbs I have found to be helpful for folks with CIRS due to water-damaged buildings. More data on licorice and CIRS can be found here.

No answers here, just some interesting data to ponder on.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Glyphosate (RoundUp) effects honeybee navigation

The herbicide glyphosate (active ingredient in RoundUp) is shown in this research to effect honeybee navigation. For the full article click here.

Effects of sub-lethal doses of glyphosate on honeybee navigation

  1. Walter M. Farina1,*,#
+Author Affiliations
  1. 1Grupo de Estudio de Insectos Sociales. Departamento de Biodiversidad y Biología Experimental, IFIBYNE-CONICET, Facultad de Ciencias Exactas y Naturales, Universidad de Buenos AiresPabellón II, Ciudad Universitaria (C1428EHA), Buenos Aires, Argentina
  2. 2Institut für Biologie, Freie Universität BerlinBerlin, Germany
  1. *Author for correspondence:
  • Received November 24, 2014.
  • Accepted July 2, 2015.


Glyphosate (GLY) is a herbicide that is widely used in agriculture for weed control. Although reports about the impact of GLY in snails, crustaceans and amphibians exist, few studies have investigated its sub-lethal effects in non-target organisms such as the honeybee Apis mellifera, the main pollen vector in commercial crops. Here, we tested whether exposure to three sub-lethal concentrations of GLY (2.5, 5 and 10 mg/L corresponding to 0.125, 0.250 and 0.500 µg/animal) affects the homeward flight path of honeybees in an open field. We performed an experiment in which forager honeybees were trained to an artificial feeder, and then captured, fed with sugar solution containing GLY traces and released from a novel site (the release site, RS) either once or twice. Their homeward trajectories were tracked using harmonic radar technology. We found that honeybees that had been fed with solution containing 10 mg/L GLY spent more time performing homeward flights than control bees or bees treated with lower GLY concentrations. They also performed more indirect homing flights. Moreover, the proportion of direct homeward flights performed after a second release at the RS increased in control bees but not in treated bees. These results suggest that, in honeybees, exposure to GLY doses commonly found in agricultural settings impairs the cognitive capacities needed to retrieve and integrate spatial information for a successful return to the hive. Therefore, honeybee navigation is affected by ingesting traces of the most widely used herbicide worldwide, with potential long-term negative consequences for colony foraging success.