Journal of The American Society for Mass Spectrometry

, Volume 30, Issue 9, pp 1713–1719 | Cite as

Exploring the Application of the DSA-TOF, a Direct, High-resolution Time-of-Flight Mass Spectrometry Technique for the Screening of Potential Adulterated and Contaminated Herbal Medicines

  • Elly Crighton
  • Jason Weisenseel
  • Michael Bunce
  • Ian F. Musgrave
  • Robert Trengove
  • Garth MakerEmail author
Original Article


Global consumption of complementary and alternative medicines, including herbal medicines, has increased substantially, and recent reports of adulteration demonstrate the need for high throughput and extensive pharmacovigilance to ensure product safety and quality. Three different standard reference materials and five previously analyzed herbal medicines have been used as a proof of concept for the application of adulteration/contamination screening using a Direct Sample Analysis (DSA) ion source with TOF MS on the Perkin Elmer AxION 2 TOF. This technique offers the advantages of minimum sample preparation, rapid analysis, and mass accuracies of 5 ppm. The DSA TOF analysis correlates well with the previous analysis on the initial sample set (which found undeclared herbal ingredients), with the added advantage of detecting previously untargeted compounds, including species-specific flavonoids and alkaloids. The rapid analysis using the DSA-TOF facilitates screening for hundreds of compounds in minutes with minimal sample preparation, generating a comprehensive profile for each sample.

Graphical Abstract


Herbal medicines Pharmacovigilance Adulteration Contamination Direct mass spectrometry 



The authors work is supported by a National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) grant 1061329, and an Australian Government Research Training Program Scholarship awarded to Elly Crighton.

Thanks to Perkin Elmer for their assistance in method development, instrumental access, and training.

Thanks to Rachael Farrington, Christine Nash, Forensic Science SA, and Megan Coghlan for generating the original pharmaceutical adulteration and DNA data in the previous study (manuscript in review).

Author Contributions

E.C., G.M., J.W., and R.T. contributed to the design of experiments in this study. E.C. and J.W. conducted the experiments. E.C. analyzed the experimental data. E.C., G.M., R.T., J.W., I.F.M., and M.B. contributed to the preparation and writing of the manuscript. M.B., I.F.M., E.C., G.M., and R.T. contributed to the previous study (manuscript in review).

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Competing Interests

The authors declare that they have no competing interests.

Supplementary material

13361_2019_2256_MOESM1_ESM.docx (27 kb)
Supplementary Table 1 (DOCX 26.9 KB)


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Copyright information

© American Society for Mass Spectrometry 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Separation Science and Metabolomics LaboratoryMurdoch UniversityMurdochAustralia
  2. 2.Medical, Molecular and Forensic SciencesMurdoch UniversityMurdochAustralia
  3. 3.PerkinElmer Environmental HealthSheltonUSA
  4. 4.Trace and Environmental DNA (TrEnD) Laboratory, School of Molecular and Life SciencesCurtin UniversityBentleyAustralia
  5. 5.Adelaide Medical SchoolThe University of AdelaideAdelaideAustralia

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