High-performance thin layer chromatography for quality control of multicomponent herbal drugs: example of cangzhu xianglian san

J AOAC Int. 2010 Sep-Oct;93(5):1390-8.


Due to their complexity, multicomponent herbal drugs pose enormous analytical challenges for quality control (QC). Although they may have traditionally been used for hundreds of years, the information about their chemical composition is often still limited. Selecting suitable markers to monitor the identity and potency of the mixture is, therefore, difficult. There is also the possibility of natural variability for each plant. This paper illustrates a pragmatic and practical approach to QC of a multicomponent herbal drug by HPTLC. Cangzhu xianglian xan (CXS), composed of the herbal drugs Coptis rhizome, Aucklandia root, and Atractylodes rhizome (30 + 20 + 60, w/w/w), is used as an example. A characteristic fingerprint can be generated for CXS with toluene-ethyl acetate-methanol-isopropanol-water (60 + 30 + 20 + 15 + 3, v/v/v/v/v) mobile phase on HPTLC silica gel 60 conditioned with ammonia. While the corresponding monograph of the Chinese Veterinary Pharmacopoeia focuses only on the detection of berberine, one of the principal components of Coptis rhizome, the proposed method of identification determines the presence of all three components in the drug after derivatization with anisaldehyde reagent. The same method can also be used to quantitatively determine the content of berberine by scanning densitometry. This paper provides details about the validation of the qualitative and quantitative determinations.

MeSH terms

  • Atractylodes / chemistry
  • Berberine / analysis
  • Chromatography, Thin Layer / methods*
  • Coptis / chemistry
  • Drugs, Chinese Herbal / analysis*
  • Drugs, Chinese Herbal / standards
  • Lactones / analysis
  • Medicine, Chinese Traditional / standards*
  • Quality Control
  • Sesquiterpenes / analysis


  • Drugs, Chinese Herbal
  • Lactones
  • Sesquiterpenes
  • Berberine
  • dehydrocostus lactone