Identification of four Aconitum species used as "Caowu" in herbal markets by 3D reconstruction and microstructural comparison

Microsc Res Tech. 2015 May;78(5):425-32. doi: 10.1002/jemt.22491. Epub 2015 Mar 13.


Authentication is the first priority when evaluating the quality of Chinese herbal medicines, particularly highly toxic medicines. The most commonly used authentication methods are morphological identification and microscopic identification. Unfortunately, these methods could not effectively evaluate some herbs with complex interior structures, such as root of Aconitum species with a circular conical shape and an interior structure with successive changes. Defining the part that should be selected as the standard plays an essential role in accurate microscopic identification. In this study, we first present a visual 3D model of Aconitum carmichaeli Debx. constructed obtained from microscopic analysis of serial sections. Based on this model, we concluded that the point of largest root diameter should be used as the standard for comparison and identification. The interior structure at this point is reproducible and its shape and appearance can easily be used to distinguish among species. We also report details of the interior structures of parts not shown in the 3D model, such as stone cells and cortical thickness. To demonstrate the usefulness of the results from the 3D model, we have distinguished the microscopic structures, at their largest segments, of the other three Aconitum species used for local habitat species of Caowu. This work provides the basis for resolution of some debate regarding the microstructural differences among these species. Thus, we conclude that the 3D model composed of serial sections has enabled the selection of a standard cross-section that will enable the accurate identification of Aconitum species in Chinese medicine.

Keywords: 3D model; aconitum carmichaeli Debx; identify; serial sections.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aconitum / anatomy & histology*
  • Aconitum / classification*
  • Imaging, Three-Dimensional
  • Microscopy / methods*
  • Reproducibility of Results