Overview on the Analytical Tools for Quality Control of Natural Product-Based Supplements: A Case Study of Ginseng Academic Article uri icon


  • The quality of pharmaceutical products like ginseng is important for ensuring consumer safety and efficacy. Many ginseng products sold today are in various formulations such as powder, capsules, tablets, soft-gels, liquid extracts, and tea. This renders ginseng less identifiable by smell, taste, or physical appearance. Furthermore, as ginseng is expensive, adulteration with other cheaper products occurs. Hence quality assurance of ginseng is needed. This paper reviews the major techniques for ascertaining the level of ginsenosides, the primary active ingredients for ginseng, and covers high-performance liquid, gas, and thin-layer chromatographies, infrared and nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopies, enzyme immunoassays, and other molecular methods. Supporting techniques such as ultraviolet, fluorescence, diode array and evaporative light scattering detections, and mass spectrometry will also be touched upon. This review also discusses the principles and applications of biosensors-in particular fiber optic-based sensors-and their feasibility in ginseng analysis based on preliminary studies. Despite their potential, there is currently no or limited commercial exploitation of fiber optic-based sensors to perform ginseng quality analysis. The opportunity for biosensors to be used for the rapid quality surveillance of ginseng is appealing, but several key issues still need to be addressed before they find widespread applications in the traditional Chinese medicine industry.


  • Yap, Kevin
  • Yi-Lwern Yap, Kevin
  • Chan, Sui Yung
  • Weng Chan, Yew
  • Sing Lim, Chu

publication date

  • December 2005