Send to

Choose Destination
Phytochem Anal. 2018 Mar;29(2):123-128. doi: 10.1002/pca.2732. Epub 2017 Sep 14.

Benefits and Limitations of DNA Barcoding and Metabarcoding in Herbal Product Authentication.

Author information

Natural History Museum, University of Oslo, P.O. Box 1172, Blindern, 0318, Oslo, Norway.
Stejarul Research Centre for Biological Sciences, National Institute of Research and Development for Biological Sciences, Alexandru cel Bun Street, 6, 610004, Piatra Neamt, Romania.
Research Group of Pharmacognosy and Phytotherapy, Research Cluster 'Biodiversity and Medicines', UCL School of Pharmacy, University of London, 29-39 Brunswick Sq, London, WC1N 1AX, UK.



Herbal medicines play an important role globally in the health care sector and in industrialised countries they are often considered as an alternative to mono-substance medicines. Current quality and authentication assessment methods rely mainly on morphology and analytical phytochemistry-based methods detailed in pharmacopoeias. Herbal products however are often highly processed with numerous ingredients, and even if these analytical methods are accurate for quality control of specific lead or marker compounds, they are of limited suitability for the authentication of biological ingredients.


To review the benefits and limitations of DNA barcoding and metabarcoding in complementing current herbal product authentication.


Recent literature relating to DNA based authentication of medicinal plants, herbal medicines and products are summarised to provide a basic understanding of how DNA barcoding and metabarcoding can be applied to this field.


Different methods of quality control and authentication have varying resolution and usefulness along the value chain of these products. DNA barcoding can be used for authenticating products based on single herbal ingredients and DNA metabarcoding for assessment of species diversity in processed products, and both methods should be used in combination with appropriate hyphenated chemical methods for quality control.


DNA barcoding and metabarcoding have potential in the context of quality control of both well and poorly regulated supply systems. Standardisation of protocols for DNA barcoding and DNA sequence-based identification are necessary before DNA-based biological methods can be implemented as routine analytical approaches and approved by the competent authorities for use in regulated procedures. © 2017 The Authors. Phytochemical Analysis Published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd.


DNA barcoding; DNA metabarcoding; NMR metabolomics; authentication; herbal pharmacovigilance; herbal products; quality; safety

[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for Wiley Icon for PubMed Central
Loading ...
Support Center