American Herbal Products Association (AHPA) > AHPA Resources > Technical Guidance > Product Quality

Product Quality

Growers, manufacturers and researchers need to properly identify the herbs that are used in their businesses. Essential to accurate identity is the use of a plant’s correct name. Yet because plants can be known by numerous common names, and since the science of plant taxonomy can be confusing even for experts in the field, sources that can be relied upon are absolutely necessary to ensure that correct names are used. There are numerous well-designed and useful databases designed to provide accurate nomenclature. AHPA considers those described below to be among the best.


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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