Key Technology Instrument For Herbal Medicine Quality

Although herbal medicine is thousands of years old, and has gained much interest, a big question often centers around scientific evidence behind it.

Within the past year, scholars have begun to examine that issue, and more and more are looking into highly technical procedures to enhance safety, efficacy and quality.

The technique is known as Raman spectroscopy, which is becoming increasingly valued as an analytical technique in quality control for Chinese herbal medicine, according to a study.

It is a special technique used in chemistry to provide what scientists term a “chemical fingerprint” in which molecules can be identified in unique patterns in Chinese herbal medicine, to improve the impact on healthcare and drug development. The instruments can be used to monitor the health and safety compliance of herbal products in the consumer market. It can provide key information easily and quickly, according to another recent study showing the increased academic interest in Raman spectroscopy in Chinese herbal medicine.

A chemical fingerprint is a unique pattern indicating the presence of a particular molecule, based on specialized analytical techniques, such as a mass or x-ray spectroscopy to identify pollutants, drug contaminants or other chemicals in a test sample.

Essentially, Raman spectroscopic techniques are a group of chemical fingerprint detection methods based on molecular vibrational spectroscopy.  They are time saving, nondestructive and highly informative. Why is that important? As Chinese Herbal Medicine becomes more modern or global, advanced analytical techniques are important to determine quality.

With Chinese impacts and numerous opportunities for new drug development, success in the modernization and globalization of CHM is heavily dependent on the achievements in advanced analytical techniques for inline checks of CHM quality. That’s exceedingly important as Chinese Herbal Medicine works to shift from experience-based processes to base.

To improve and overcome challenges in standardization and quality control, rigorous quality control is exceedingly important. Herbs should be correctly authenticated to confirm their botanical origin. That’s where Raman spectroscopy can come in for its analyses and procedures.

There are methods include its high chemical specificity, low sensitivity to water, and its fiber optics and microscopes, to be an effective tool.  It can be “ideal” to authenticate herbs, detect counterfeits, and help with new drug development.  It can also be used for continuous quality control in manufacturing.

Herbs should be correctly authenticated to confirm their botanical origin prior to any designed biological and clinical research.  Active pharmaceutical ingredients should be well identified their changes during manufacturing process should well monitored.

Spectroscopy relates to the analysis of objects and its colors and physical properties, such as temperature, mass and composition. It involves scattering of light, usually from a laser, and the measure of the energy as the molecules vibrate.

There are various types of Raman spectroscopic techniques used in fingerprinting herbal medicine.

With complementary and alternative medicine becoming increasingly more popular, more people are consuming natural herbal medicines, thus chemical fingerprints of herbal medicines are investigated to determine the content of these products.

Portable Raman spectroscopy instruments could be used to monitor the health and safety compliance of herbal products in the consumer market.


Chen, DD, XieX, AoH et al. Raman spectroscopy in quality control of Chinese herbal medicine. Journal of the Chinese Medical Association. May 2017. 80 (5) 288-296. Doi: 10.10161jcma.2016. 11.009

Huang, C, C. Applications of Raman Spectroscopy in Herbal Medicine. Spectroscopy_in_Herbal_Medicine

Applied Spectroscopy Review, Sept., 2015. DOT: 10.1080/05704928.2015.109154.

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