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J Forensic Sci. 2013 Nov;58(6):1467-71. doi: 10.1111/1556-4029.12184. Epub 2013 Jul 18.

Forensic identification of CITES protected slimming cactus (Hoodia) using DNA barcoding.

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IBED, University of Amsterdam, Science Park 904, 1098 XH, Amsterdam, The Netherlands.


Slimming cactus (Hoodia), found only in southwestern Africa, is a well-known herbal product for losing weight. Consequently, Hoodia extracts are sought-after worldwide despite a CITES Appendix II status. The failure to eradicate illegal trade is due to problems with detecting and identifying Hoodia using morphological and chemical characters. Our aim was to evaluate the potential of molecular identification of Hoodia based on DNA barcoding. Screening of nrITS1 and psbA-trnH DNA sequences from 26 accessions of Ceropegieae resulted in successful identification, while conventional chemical profiling using DLI-MS led to inaccurate detection and identification of Hoodia. The presence of Hoodia in herbal products was also successfully established using DNA sequences. A validation procedure of our DNA barcoding protocol demonstrated its robustness to changes in PCR conditions. We conclude that DNA barcoding is an effective tool for Hoodia detection and identification which can contribute to preventing illegal trade.


Apocynaceae; DNA barcoding; forensic science; herbal products; nrITS1; psbA-trnH

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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