tcm analysisPreviously, this blog featured liquid chromatography analysis of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) in a blog post that presented a HPLC applications notebook (link to blog post) on the subject; here, I discuss an HPLC application for the analysis of botanicals and natural products.

As you might know, TCM originated in ancient China thousands of years ago and these medicines have been shown to alleviate illness, improve physical appearances as well as increase overall individual health. Many of my Chinese friends and colleagues still practice this form of medicine and believe in its ability to heal the body. So I was pleasantly surprised to read an article in the Wall Street Journal titled, A Push to Back Traditional Chinese Medicine with More Data, (link to article), by Shirley S. Wang. The article states that TCM teaches that each individual has either a hot or cold constitutions making them prone to either fever and inflammations or chills. These ideas have been around for thousands of years but are not backed up by scientific data.

A movement has been started in some universities in China, Europe and the U.S. where researchers “are wedding Western techniques for analyzing complex biological systems to the Chinese notion of seeing the body as a networked whole.” In order to research this area and come up with concrete findings they need to ensure that the product is pure and good quality. Currently scientists are not expected to provide the authenticity of the herbs that they are studying which makes the research difficult to conclude from. The authenticity of herbal products is becoming a worldwide challenge as more alternative medicines are being manufactured and used by the general public. any herbal products are economically adulterated by cheaper similar looking products. This in turn can lead to problems when a customer purchases an adulterated product. s this ancient science comes into the limelight we at Thermo Fisher Scientific Inc. have developed methods to test for the efficacy, authenticity, and safety of these traditional remedies with our liquid chromatography systems.

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One such resently released application, Application Note 1013, Novel, Universal Approach for the Measurement of Natural Products in a Variety of Botanicals and Supplements, (downloadable PDF), evaluates the application of HPLC with charged aerosol detection to the measurement of phytochemicals from triterpene glycosides from black cohosh (Cimicifuga racemosa); ginkgolides and bilobalides from ginkgo (Ginkgo biloba); ginsenosides from ginseng (Panax ginseng); silibinins in milk thistle (Silybum marianum); ursane and oleanane triterpenes from gotu kola (Centella asiatica); and diterpene glycosides from stevia (Stevia rebaudiana). Analytes showed consistent response independent of chemical structure (typically < 10% variability between compounds corrected for gradient elution). All methods had a wide dynamic range (~four orders of magnitude), good sensitivity (typically low ng levels of detection), and excellent reproducibility (RSDs typically < 2%) even at low detection levels.

I would like to hear of your TCM testing challenges and if you have questions on the systems or looking for specific applications, do let me know using the Comments box below; I look forward to hearing from you.

Deepali Mohindra is a senior market development manager for the Food, Beverage and Nutraceutical markets in the Chromatography and Mass Spectrometry Division at Thermo Fisher Scientific Inc. A former analytical chemist with extensive experience in food science laboratories, Deepali has applied her training and education in understanding the needs and challenges of or her current customers. She prides herself in developing marketing strategies that help customers understand food safety/food testing workflows, presents webinars and seminars on industry related topics, and shares new food applications with customers on a regular basis via our digital media channels and the website. She also works closely with regulatory bodies, method validation associations, such as the AOAC and key opinion leaders to address the needs of the Food, Beverage and Nutraceutical communities. Deepali received her B.S. in Biological Sciences from San Jose State University and her MBA from the University of Phoenix.