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Int J Legal Med. 2015 Jul;129(4):693-700. doi: 10.1007/s00414-014-1120-z. Epub 2014 Nov 26.

Assessing product adulteration in natural health products for laxative yielding plants, Cassia, Senna, and Chamaecrista, in Southern India using DNA barcoding.

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Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and the Environment (ATREE), Royal Enclave, Srirampura, Jakkur Post, Bangalore, 560064, India.


Medicinal plants such as Cassia, Senna, and Chamaecrista (belonging to the family Fabaceae) are well known for their laxative properties. They are extensively used within indigenous health care systems in India and several other countries. India exports over 5000 metric tonnes per year of these specific herbal products, and the demand for natural health product market is growing at approximately 10-15% annually. The raw plant material used as active ingredients is almost exclusively sourced from wild populations. Consequently, it is widely suspected that the commercial herbal products claiming to contain these species may be adulterated or contaminated. In this study, we have attempted to assess product authentication and the extent of adulteration in the herbal trade of these species using DNA barcoding. Our method includes four common DNA barcode regions: ITS, matK, rbcL, and psbA-trnH. Analysis of market samples revealed considerable adulteration of herbal products: 50% in the case of Senna auriculata, 37% in Senna tora, and 8% in Senna alexandrina. All herbal products containing Cassia fistula were authentic, while the species under the genus Chamaecrista were not in trade. Our results confirm the suspicion that there is rampant herbal product adulteration in Indian markets. DNA barcodes such as that demonstrated in this study could be effectively used as a regulatory tool to control the adulteration of herbal products and contribute to restoring quality assurance and consumer confidence in natural health products.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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