Purity Testing Processes: Deeper Look

Table of Contents

Nootropics offer an expansive range of dietary supplements and compounds that may improve your health and cognitive abilities. The near-infinite list of nootropics creates countless options and combinations. Still, it can also make it difficult to find quality compounds to add to your stack.

Once you find the dietary supplements or nootropic compounds suited for your individual body chemistry, it is crucial to find quality versions of that dietary supplement or nootropic compound. While the choices for nootropics are near-endless, not all nootropics on the market are created equal. 

That’s where identity and purity testing comes in.

Identity refers to the idea that the tested sample matches the molecular structure in the targeted compound’s chemical profile. Purity refers to how much of the target compound is present in the sample being tested.

While the concept of identity and purity testing seems simple, the process encompasses various technical, analytical techniques.

Naturium Health conducts both in-house and third-party identity and purity testing to ensure the authenticity and efficacy of ingredients found in each packaged dietary supplement or nootropic compound. The several methods of analysis to test the purity of its products include:

  • Fourier Transform Infrared Spectroscopy (FTIR)
  • Near-Infrared Spectroscopy (NIRS)
  • Ultraviolet/Visible Spectrophotometry
  • Proton Nuclear Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy (NMR)
  • Inductively Coupled Plasma Mass Spectrometry (ICP-MS)
  • High-Performance Liquid Chromatography (HPLC)
  • High-Performance thin layer chromatography (HPTLC)
  • Ultra-High Performance Liquid Chromatography (UHPLC)
  • Gas Chromatography (GC)
  • Melting Point
  • Titration
  • Polarimetry

The Importance of Purity Testing

While it’s smart to buy dietary supplements or nootropic compounds that fit your budget, many nootropic sellers offer deals that are often too good to be true.

To make a profit at low prices, companies have been known to cut corners or completely neglect chemical analysis on their products. Impure and mislabeled products have been a rampant problem in the world of dietary supplements and nootropic compounds. Vendors may be knowingly or unknowingly offering contaminated products.

In fact, contaminated dietary supplements or nootropic compounds may contain none of the ingredients listed on the label, which could lower efficacy and/or higher toxicity.

Some of these questionable practices are easy to spot. In contrast, some, like using questionable methods, are harder for a customer to detect. Common red flags that convey uncertain identity and purity testing are vendors that sell their dietary supplements and nootropic compounds without any certifications of analysis (COAs) or falsify their COAs through:

  • Relying solely on the manufacturer’s COAs
  • Using invalid methods to mask impurities
  • Not testing every batch and every container of received raw material
  • Depending exclusively on one form of analysis
  • Relying on superficial calculations for analysis

Analysis in Natarium Health In-House Lab

Identity and purity testing ensures that you’re genuinely getting the nootropic compounds or dietary supplements you want at a fair price.

Naturium Health routinely performs in-house testing on products conducted by a trained, full-time analytical chemist while also partnering with third parties to verify the percentages of active ingredients and species of plants used in all dietary supplements or nootropic compounds offered. To maintain reliable COAs and transparency with customers, Naturium Health uses:

  • Trustworthy, reputable standards for testing
  • Develops and utilizes methods that are repeatable and valid
  • Uses multiple methods of analysis
  • Tests a sample from every container and every batch of raw material received
  • Retains a sample from every box, stored in proper conditions, for retest at any moment that a customer may report a concern
  • Maintains an ISO-3 clean lab for sterility and consistent testing environment
  • Utilizes US-based third-party labs for additional analysis when applicable
  • Documents all pertinent information relating to the raw material testing, manufacturing process, storage conditions, and retesting that corresponds to each packaged lot of product

Matching Nootropics to the Appropriate Analysis Methods

Nootropics can vary wildly through physical appearance, taste, smell, synthesis/extraction methods, and chemical profile. Due to their differences, no single analysis protocol applies to every nootropic compound or dietary supplement. Some factors that need to be considered in choosing the appropriate analysis methods are:

  • Is the product found in nature or synthetically derived?
  • If the product is extracted, what solvents and ratios were used?
  • What plant part was used for the extraction?
  • Is the product prone to heavy metal build-up?
  • How polar is the product?
  • Is the chirality of the compound important to its effect on the body?
  • What contaminants, excess solvents, or particulates may be present in the sample?
  • What process was used to synthesize or derive the compound?

With these considerations in mind, you can determine which methods are appropriate to test your compound.

Understanding Spectroscopy

Developed by Russian botanist Mikhail S. Tswett in the early 1900s, liquid chromatography allowed for the separation of compounds in plants using solvents. In his first liquid chromatography applications, Tswett filled a glass column with particles, mainly powdered chalk and alumina.

He then poured a sample comprising homogenized plant leaves and a pure solvent into the glass column. As the selection passed through the particle matter. It presented different colored bands, essentially separating the sample’s individual compounds based on their chemical attraction to the particles.

Liquid chromatography has since become a significant tool in analytical chemistry with various forms for various applications. HPLC was initially coined by Professor Csaba Horvath in 1970 as high-pressure liquid chromatography, defining high pressure to accommodate the sample’s flow in packed columns.

The growth of technology allowing for even greater pressures (up to 6,000 pounds per square inch) and smaller particles eventually led to the switch to high-performance liquid chromatography.

HPLC allows scientists to separate, identify, and quantify compounds in any sample that can be dissolved in liquid.

The ability to use HPLC is determined by numerous characteristics, like the product’s polarity, solubility, isomers, chirality, ionic charge, and particle size.HPLC allows scientists to separate, identify, and quantify compounds in any sample that can be dissolved in liquid.

The ability to use HPLC is determined by numerous characteristics, like the product’s polarity, solubility, isomers, chirality, ionic charge, and particle size.

When HPLC is not an option, other various forms of chromatography can be utilized. These options include:

  • High-Performance thin layer chromatography (HPTLC)
  • Ultra-High Performance Liquid Chromatography (UHPLC)
  • Gas Chromatography (GC)

Chromatography with valid methods and sample preparation can provide important quantitative (identity) and/or qualitative (purity) information.

Understanding Supplementary Analysis

While spectroscopy and chromatography are crucial steps in the analysis, there may be other necessary analysis methods. Understanding and utilizing supplementary analysis tools like melting point, titration, and polarimetry can further insight into the identity and purity of a product.

The melting point is an easy, fast, and repeatable method of analysis. Pure compounds have a temperature range in which the solid-state of the compound turns into its liquid counterpart. A melting point temperature lower than that range signals an impurity. A melting point temperature higher than the specified range questions the identity of the compound.

Titration uses the volumetric analysis of titrimetry to determine the concentration of a compound in a solution. This quantitative analysis method helps determine ionic concentrations, purity and predict stability (shelf-life) of the compound.

Polarimetry is applicable when the optical activity of a compound is a concern. For example, there are two versions of Theanine. The preferred version of Theanine is L-Theanine rather than D-Theanine. The appropriate method of analysis to determine if the Theanine sample was L-Theanine or D-Theanine would be polarimetry.

Conclusion

Identity and purity testing is a crucial step in navigating the world of nootropic compounds and dietary supplements.

Finding a responsible vendor who invests in well-rounded and valid testing is pertinent to your success and safety.

Naturium Health built up a very sophisticated and capable analytical testing lab and have spent a lot of time, effort, and money ensuring we understand the analytical chemistry necessary to properly test things but have the capabilities and training to properly use the necessary equipment. Which is precisely why we source all our products through them only.

For analytical methods or machinery that we do not currently possess, we contract out to competent partners like Alkemist Labs and Mérieux NutriSciences, to ensure things are being analyzed using the proper methods, with accurate and repeatable results.

We are proud of the efforts put in place by NH to advance the analytical side of the nootropics and supplement market, and we will always be only sourcing through them.

Together, we can advance the entire industry’s standards and ensure that consumers are getting the highest quality products possible.

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