Thymus quinquecostatus Celak is a species of thyme in China and it used as condiment and herbal medicine for a long time. To set up the quality evaluation of T. quinquecostatus, the response surface methodology (RSM) based on its 2,2-Diphenyl-1-picrylhydrazyl (DPPH) radical scavenging activity was introduced to optimize the extraction condition, and the main indicator components were found through an UPLC-LTQ-Orbitrap MSn method. The ethanol concentration, solid-liquid ratio, and extraction time on optimum conditions were 42.32%, 1:17.51, and 1.8 h, respectively. 35 components having 12 phenolic acids and 23 flavonoids were unambiguously or tentatively identified both positive and negative modes to employ for the comprehensive analysis in the optimum anti-oxidative part. A simple, reliable, and sensitive HPLC method was performed for the multi-component quantitative analysis of T. quinquecostatus using six characteristic and principal phenolic acids and flavonoids as reference compounds. Furthermore, the chemometrics methods (principal components analysis (PCA) and hierarchical clustering analysis (HCA)) appraised the growing areas and harvest time of this herb closely relative to the quality-controlled. This study provided full-scale qualitative and quantitative information for the quality evaluation of T. quinquecostatus, which would be a valuable reference for further study and development of this herb and related laid the foundation of further study on its pharmacological efficacy.
Keywords: HPLC; Thymus quinquecostatus Celak; UPLC-LTQ-Orbitrap MSn; antioxidative activity; quantitative analysis; response surface analysis; thyme.