Advanced Technologies for the Quality Control and Standardization of Plant Based MedicinesSubmit Manuscript on this topic
Herbs and herbal products are of paramount importance for human health. To be able to guarantee safety and quality, standards and testing methods are needed. Pharmacopoeias contain quality control protocols setting the standards which are then required by governments. The quality traits are many, including the intrinsic variables of medicinal plant, e.g. the levels of the active compounds, and the absence of possibly natural occurring toxic compounds. On the other hand, many quality traits are related to agricultural conditions and practices, or to the harvesting and post-harvest processing. With so many variables, quality control of the end product becomes extremely complex, time consuming and costly. To ensure the quality of medicinal plants for human consumption quality management -the use of "good practices" at each step, from seed to final product- becomes a crucial aspect.
In general, quality control includes the inspection of the product’s identity, purity, and content, based on its physical, chemical or biological properties. To ensure the quality of herbal medications, criteria such as botanical quality, type of preparation, physical constants, adulteration, contaminants, chemical constituents, pesticides residues et al. should be examined. Meanwhile, authentication of herbs is needed to avoid possible adulteration or contaminating plants, even toxic herbs such as Aristolochia species. Many of the methods are long standing, such as microscopy in combination with color reactions, but some 50 years ago chromatography developed as a major tool for both qualitative and quantitative analysis of herbal preparations. Nowadays, research is working on the improvement of these methods and on the development of novel tools.
For instance, next generation sequencing and mass spectrometry imaging, are emerging as new technologies for the quality control of herbal medicines. With these technologies, quick testing of herbal products and of mixed herbal powder preparations, including the testing for specific plant parts (botanical drugs), can be achieved. Also, novel chemical tools such as metabolomics and Near Infrared Red (NIR) spectroscopy are being developed as powerful tools to identify and to link these with activity by using chemometric tools such as multivariate analysis. Finally, progress of informatic tools such as machine learning helps to deal with the big data generated by sequencing or mass spectrometry. However, these new technologies, like all other new born technologies, should be tested and perfected for a broader range of products.
This Research Topic will focus on the advanced technologies for herbal medicine quality control and standardization, including the aspects of botanical identification and chemical analysis. We encourage studies focusing on the validation of such methods with the ultimate aim of including these in legally binding quality control protocols. Advantages as well as limitations will be dealt with the aim to show what tools could be implemented for setting the standards of herbal preparations. Contributions on new technologies and their applications are welcome in this Research Topic. These include, but are not limited to:
• New chemical methods for herbal identification and analysis like metabolomics NMR, GC, LC, MS, HPTLC, NIR.
• Nucleic-acid based identification, e.g. DNA barcodes; NGS sequencing; transcriptomes.
• New imaging methods.