Quality Control of Herbal Medicines: From Traditional Techniques to State-of-the-art Approaches

Luiz C Klein-Junior, Maira R de Souza, Johan Viaene, Tania M B Bresolin, André L de Gasper, Amélia T Henriques, Yvan Vander Heyden

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21 Citations (Scopus)
129 Downloads (Pure)


Herbal medicines are important options for the treatment of several illnesses. Although their therapeutic applicability has been demonstrated throughout history, several concerns about their safety and efficacy are raised regularly. Quality control of articles of botanical origin, including plant materials, plant extracts, and herbal medicines, remains a challenge. Traditionally, qualitative (e.g., identification and chromatographic profile) and quantitative (e.g., content analyses) markers are applied for this purpose. The compound-oriented approach may stand alone in some cases (e.g., atropine in Atropa belladonna). However, for most plant materials, plant extracts, and herbal medicines, it is not possible to assure quality based only on the content or presence/absence of one (sometimes randomly selected) compound. In this sense, pattern-oriented approaches have been extensively studied, introducing the use of multivariate data analysis on chromatographic/spectroscopic fingerprints. The use of genetic methods for plant material/plant extract authentication has also been proposed. In this study, traditional approaches are reviewed, although the focus is on the applicability of fingerprints for quality control, highlighting the most used approaches, as well as demonstrating their usefulness. The literature review shows that a pattern-oriented approach may be successfully applied to the quality assessment of articles of botanical origin, while also providing directions for a compound-oriented approach and a rational marker selection. These observations indicate that it may be worth considering to include fingerprints and their data analysis in the regulatory framework for herbal medicines concerning quality control since this is the foundation of the holistic view that these complex products demand.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)964-988
Number of pages25
JournalPlanta medica
Issue number12-13
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2021

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