American Herbal Products Association (AHPA) > Resources > Herbal e-Library > Botanical Nomenclature

Botanical Nominclature

Growers, manufacturers and researchers need to properly identify the herbs they use and using the correct plant name is Essential to accurate identification. Reliable sources are critical because plants often have varying common names and the science of plant taxonomy can be confusing and unpractical to use. Here are are several sources that AHPA considers to be the most reliable.

AHPA's Herbs of Commerce

AHPA's Herbs of Commerce is the standard for all common and scientific plant names used for products containing herbs. This book lists Latin binomials, Standardized Common Names, Ayurvedic, Chinese (pinyin), and other common names for 2,048 species, including 25 fungi and 23 seaweeds. Federal regulations require that the common or usual name of botanical ingredients in dietary supplements be consistent with the names standardized in Herbs of Commerce.


The Germplasm Resources Information Network (GRIN) at USDA’s Agricultural Research Service (ARS) maintains a database for plant taxonomy. Searchable by either scientific or common names, the site provides up-to-date information on botanical nomenclature that is subject to expert review. Additional notes are included on known uses of each listed species and on endangered or invasive status, if any. Synonyms are also identified and numerous references are provided. This is the preferred site for AHPA staff when researching botanical taxonomy.

VAST Nomenclature

This extensive database is maintained by the Missouri Botanical Garden and lists far more species than any other site with which the AHPA staff is familiar. Offsetting this benefit, however, is an absence of conclusive information as to the accepted status of the listed names. Additional attributes include maps for many listings as well as links to high quality images of live plants and herbarium specimens.


This website is also managed by USDA and is overseen by National Resources Conservation Service and is limited to the plants of the U.S. and its territories. While more narrow in scope than the VAST Nomenclature site, and lacking the expert review function of the GRIN database, this reference combines a number of features that make it uniquely useful as a supporting source of information about North American plants.

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