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Microsc Res Tech. 2008 Jun;71(6):448-58. doi: 10.1002/jemt.20570.

Application of microscopy in authentication of traditional Tibetan medicinal plants of five Rhodiola (Crassulaceae) alpine species by comparative anatomy and micromorphology.

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  • 1West China School of Pharmacy, Sichuan University, No. 17 Section 3 Ren-Min-Nan-Lu Road, Chengdu, Sichuan, People's Republic of China.


A comparative analysis was undertaken to conduct an anatomical and micromorphological study of five species of Rhodiola-R. kirilowii, R. yunnanensis, R. crenulata, R. fastigata, and R. quadrifida-collected from the western Sichuan province plateau of China. Rhodiola plants are a popularly used ethnodrug from the Qinghai-Tibetan plateau of China. Modern studies have shown that the plants of Rhodiola possess different pharmacological activities, chemical constituents, and efficiencies in clinical application. To distinguish five main species of Rhodiola and ensure their safety and efficacy, microscopic characteristics of roots, rhizomes, and stems, including transverse sections, stem and foliar epidermis, as well as the crude drug powder, were observed. The fixed, sectioned, and stained plant materials, as well as the crude powder, were studied using a light microscope according to the usual microscopic techniques. The results of the microscopic features were systematically and comparatively described and illustrated. The five species have distinct microscopic characteristic differences, thus allowing us to distinguish between the species. Also, semi-quantitative and quantitative micrographic parameter tables were simultaneously presented. Further, a key to the five species and a comparative chart of the key authentication parameters based on these anatomic characteristics analyzed was drawn up and is presented for the Rhodiola species studied. The study indicated that light microscopy and related techniques provide a method that is convenient, feasible, and can be unambiguously applied to the authentication of species of Rhodiola.

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