Evaluation of a DNA-based method for spice/herb authentication, so you do not have to worry about what is in your curry, buon appetito!

PLoS One. 2017 Oct 11;12(10):e0186283. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0186283. eCollection 2017.


It is long believed that some spices may help protect against certain chronic conditions. Spices are usually parts of plants that have been powdered into small pieces. Have you ever wondered what the curry powder in your dish is made of? The aim of this work was to develop an appropriate DNA-based method for assessment of spice identity. Selecting the best marker for species recognition in the Zingiberaceae family. Six DNA regions were investigated in silico, including ITS, matK, rbcL, rpoC, trnH-psbA and trnL. Then, only four regions (ITS, matK, rbcL and trnH-psbA) were included in the simulated HRM (High-resolution Melting) analysis as the results from previous analysis showed that rpoC and trnL may not be suitable to be used to identify Zingiberaceae species in HRM analysis based on both the percentage of nucleotide variation and GC content. Simulated HRM analysis was performed to test the feasibility of Bar-HRM. We found that ITS2 is the most effective region to be used for identification of the studied species and thus was used in laboratory HRM analysis. All seven tested Zingiberaceae plants were then able to be distinguished using the ITS2 primers in laboratory HRM. Most importantly the melting curves gained from fresh and dried tissue overlapped, which is a crucial outcome for the applicability of the analysis. The method could be used in an authentication test for dried products. In the authentication test, only one of seven store-sold Zingiberaceae products that were tested contained the species listed on their labels, while we found substitution/contamination of the tested purchased products in the rest.

MeSH terms

  • Base Sequence
  • Computer Simulation
  • DNA, Plant / analysis*
  • DNA, Ribosomal Spacer / genetics
  • Genetic Markers
  • Nucleic Acid Denaturation / genetics
  • Plants, Medicinal / genetics*
  • Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Spices / analysis*
  • Zingiberaceae / genetics


  • DNA, Plant
  • DNA, Ribosomal Spacer
  • Genetic Markers

Grant support

This work was supported by the National Research Council of Thailand.