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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service


item Techen, Natasha
item Crockett, Sarah
item Khan, Ikhlas
item Scheffler, Brian

Submitted to: Current Medicinal Chemistry
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 4/15/2004
Publication Date: 5/28/2004
Citation: Techen, N., Crockett, S.L., Khan, I.A., Scheffler, B.E. Authentication of medicinal plants using molecular biology techniques to compliment conventional methods. Current Medicinal Chemistry. 2004. V. 11. P. 1391-1401.

Interpretive Summary: This paper is a review of methods to authenticate medicinal plants using conventional and molecular biology techniques. The paper illustrates the standard methodologies and then goes into details of some molecular biology techniques including when their use would be appropriate and indicates their limitations. Authentication of medicinal plants is an important issue to US consumers because a number of medicinal plants are used in botanical supplements, such as those containing ginseng, St. John's Wort and ephedra, and it is important to have methods to identify the contents of these supplements.

Technical Abstract: Medicinal plants have become extremely popular in the United States as botanical supplements, herbal medicines and sources of lead compounds for pharmaceutical development. It is estimated that in 1997 Americans used or consumed an estimated $5.1 billon dollars worth of herbal medicines. For the protection of consumers, authentication of medicinal plants is a critical issue. Ideally authentication should occur from the harvesting of the plant material to the final product. Unfortunately there is no single or superior method to assure 100 percent authentication during the whole process, but the goal can be achieved through the application of a variety of different methodologies. The whole process starts with good voucher specimens to act as reference material and for proving chain of custody. Macroscopic and microscopic examinations can be used as rapid and inexpensive identification techniques. Chemical analysis is by far the best method for the detection of contaminants and can be an excellent method for plant identification. Each of these methodologies has limitations and more analysis methods are needed to assist in the authentication process. Molecular biology offers an assortment of techniques that can be very useful for authentication of medicinal plants. This review covers various aspects of authentication methods, with special emphasis on molecular biology techniques.

Last Modified: 10/20/2017
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