3 Biotech

, 8:135 | Cite as

Assessment of adulteration in raw herbal trade of important medicinal plants of India using DNA barcoding

  • J. U. Santhosh Kumar
  • V. Krishna
  • G. S. Seethapathy
  • R. Ganesan
  • G. Ravikanth
  • R. Uma Shaanker
Original Article


A number of studies have shown that there could be widespread substitution and/or adulteration (hereafter referred to as substitution) in raw herbal trade of medicinal plants. Substitution could potentially endanger the health and safety of the consumers. In this study, the extent of adulteration in raw herbal trade of 30 important medicinal plants in South India was analyzed. Biological reference material (BRM) consisting of taxonomically authenticated samples of each of the 30 species along with 14 other co-occurring and congeneric allied species that are likely to be used in adulteration was established. DNA barcode signatures of 124 BRM using two candidate regions, nr-ITS and psbA-trnH were identified. A total of 203 herbal trade samples representing the 30 medicinal plant species were collected from 34 locations in South India. Using the DNA barcode sequences of the BRM as reference, the analysis indicated that the substitution ranged from 20 to 100%. Overall, approximately 12% of the market samples were adulterated. Considering the potential health hazard that such adulteration can cause, the need for a national regulatory framework that can authenticate and regulate raw herbal trade in the country is discussed.


DNA barcoding Biological reference material Raw herbal drugs Substitution 



This work was supported by Department of Biotechnology, Government of India (Grant number: No.BT/IN/ISTP-EOI/2011). We thank Dr. Senthilkumar and Dr. Srikanth Gunaga for the taxonomic identification of the plant samples.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interests.

Supplementary material

13205_2018_1169_MOESM1_ESM.doc (220 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOC 220 kb) Table 1S List of plant species occurring in South India along with their voucher number, place of collection, and GenBank accession numbers
13205_2018_1169_MOESM2_ESM.xlsx (27 kb)
Supplementary material 2 (XLSX 26 kb) Table 2S. Query match of nr-ITS and psbA-trnH gene sequences of BRM and trade samples in NCBI database.Table 3S. Details of raw drug samples obtained from different locations of South India


  1. Chen S, Yao H, Han J, Liu C, Song J, Shi L, Zhu Y, Ma X, Gao T, Pang X, Luo K (2010) Validation of the ITS2 region as a novel DNA barcode for identifying medicinal plant species. PLoS One 5:e8613CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Doyle JJ, Doyle JL (1987) A rapid DNA isolation procedure for small quantities of fresh leaf tissue. Phytochem Bull 19:11–15Google Scholar
  3. Han J, Pang X, Liao B, Yao H, Song J, Chen S (2016) An authenticity survey of herbal medicines from markets in China using DNA barcoding. Sci Rep 6:18723CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Jian C, Deyi Q, Qiaoyun Y, Jia H, Dexing L, Xiaoya W, Leiqing Z (2014) A successful case of DNA barcoding used in an international trade dispute. DNA Barcodes 2:21–28CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Kaplan DR (2001) The science of plant morphology: definition, history, and role in modern biology. Am J Bot 88(10):1711–1741CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Kareem AM (1997) Plants in ayurveda (A compendium of botanical and Sanskrit names). Foundation for Revitalisation of Local Health Tradition, BangaloreGoogle Scholar
  7. Kool A, de Boer HJ, Krüger Å, Rydberg A, Abbad A, Björk L, Martin G (2012) Molecular identification of commercialized medicinal plants in Southern Morocco. PLoS One 7:e39459CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Kress WJ, Wurdack KJ, Zimmer EA, Weigt LA, Janzen DH (2005) Use of DNA barcodes to identify flowering plants. PNAS USA 102:8369–8374CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Newmaster SG, Grguric M, Shanmughanandhan D, Ramalingam S, Ragupathy S (2013) DNA barcoding detects contamination and substitution in North American herbal products. BMC Med 11:222CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Palhares RM, Drummond MG, Brasil BD, Cosenza GP, Brandão MD, Oliveira G (2015) Medicinal plants recommended by the world health organization: DNA barcode identification associated with chemical analyses guarantees their quality. PLoS ONE 10(5):e0127866CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Parvathy VA, Swetha VP, Sheeja TE, Leela NK, Chempakam B, Sasikumar B (2014) DNA barcoding to detect chilli adulteration in traded black pepper powder. Food Biotechnol 28:25–40CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Pennisi E (2007) Wanted: a barcode for plants. Science 318:190–191CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Sang T, Crawford DJ, Stuessy TF (1997) Chloroplast DNA phylogeny, reticulate evolution and biogeography of Paeonia (Paeoniaceae). Am J Bot 84:1120–1136CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Santhosh Kumar JU, Krishna V, Seethapathy GS, Senthilkumar U, Ragupathy S, Ganeshaiah KN, Ravikanth G, Uma Shaanker R (2015) DNA barcoding to assess species adulteration in raw drug trade of “Bala” (genus: Sida L.) herbal products in South India. Biochem Sys Ecol 61:501–509CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Santhosh Kumar JU, Gogna Navdeep, Newmaster Steven G, Krishna V, Ragupathy S, Seethapathy GS, Ravikanth G, Dorai Kavita, Uma Shaanker R (2016) DNA barcoding and NMR spectroscopy based assessment of species adulteration in the raw herbal trade of Saraca asoca (Roxb.) Willd, an important medicinal plant. Int J Legal Med 130:1457–1470CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Seethapathy GS, Ganesh D, Santhosh Kumar JU, Senthilkumar U, Newmaster SG, Ragupathy S, Uma Shaanker R, Ravikanth G (2014) Assessing product adulteration in natural health products for laxative yielding plants, Cassia, Senna, and Chamaecrista, in Southern India using DNA barcoding. Int J Legal Med 129:693–700CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Sharma PV (1987) Dravyaguna-vijnana, vol 2. Chaukhambha Bharati Academy, Varanasi (in Hindi) Google Scholar
  18. Shaw J, Lickey EB, Beck JT, Farmer SB, Liu WS, Miller J, Siripun KC, Winder CT, Schilling EE, Small RL (2005) The tortoise and the hare. II. Relative utility of 21 noncoding chloroplast DNA sequences for phylogenetic analysis. Am J Bot 92:142–166CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Smillie TJ, Khan IA (2009) A comprehensive approach to identifying and authenticating botanical products. Clin Pharmacol Ther 87:175–186CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Srirama R, Senthilkumar U, Sreejayan N, Ravikanth G, Gurumurthy BR, Shivanna MB, Uma Shaanker R (2010) Assessing species admixtures in raw drug trade of Phyllanthus, a hepato-protective plant using molecular tools. J Ethnopharmacol 130:208–215CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Srirama R, Santhosh Kumar JU, Seethapathy GS, Newmaster SG, Ragupathy S, Ganeshaiah KN, Shaanker RU, Ravikanth G (2017) Species adulteration in the herbal trade: causes, consequences and mitigation. Drug Saf 40:1–11CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Sucher NJ, Carles MC (2008) Genome-based approaches to the authentication of medicinal plants. Planta Med 74:603–623CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Swetha VP, Parvathy VA, Sheeja TE, Sasikumar B (2014) DNA barcoding for discriminating the economically important Cinnamomum verum from its adulterants. Food Biotechnol 28:183–194CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Valiathan MS (2006) Ayurveda: putting the house in order. Curr Sci 90:1Google Scholar
  25. Ved DK, Goraya GS (2007) Demand and supply of medicinal plants in India. NMPB, New Delhi, p 18Google Scholar
  26. Wallace LJ, Boilard SM, Eagle SH, Spall JL, Shokralla S, Hajibabaei M (2012) DNA barcodes for everyday life: routine authentication of natural health products. Food Res Int 49:446–452CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. White TJ, Bruns T, Lee SJWT, Taylor JW (1990) Amplification and direct sequencing of fungal ribosomal RNA genes for phylogenetics. PCR Protoc 18:315–322Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Post Graduate Studies and Research in Biotechnology, JnanasahyadriKuvempu UniversityShimogaIndia
  2. 2.School of Ecology and ConservationUniversity of Agricultural Sciences, GKVKBangaloreIndia
  3. 3.Department of Crop PhysiologyUniversity of Agricultural Sciences, GKVKBangaloreIndia
  4. 4.Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and the Environment, Royal EnclaveBangaloreIndia

Personalised recommendations