Verifying Healing Plants with DNA Tests

Jim Crocker
30th April, 2024

Verifying Healing Plants with DNA Tests

Image Source: Natural Science News, 2024

Key Findings

  • Scientists from the University of Karachi improved herb identification using DNA markers
  • The DNA method accurately identified 12 medicinal herbs and detected adulterated samples
  • This technique ensures the safety and authenticity of herbal medicines for consumers
In recent years, the use of medicinal herbs has gained popularity worldwide for their health benefits. However, with this surge in demand, the issue of correctly identifying these herbs has become crucial. Incorrect identification can lead to the use of adulterated or mislabeled products, potentially causing health risks. Traditional methods of identification, which rely on sensory analysis and visual inspection, have proven to be insufficient due to their limitations in distinguishing closely related species or processed materials. To address this problem, scientists from the University of Karachi have conducted a study[1] that enhances the precision of identifying medicinal herbs using DNA-based molecular markers. The study focuses on twelve important medicinal herbal species, which are often used in both monoherbal (single herb) and polyherbal (multiple herbs) forms. The researchers extracted DNA from these herbs and assessed its purity and concentration. The DNA was then subjected to a technique called polymerase chain reaction (PCR), which amplifies specific regions of the DNA sequence to generate enough material for analysis. Using universal primer sets—short DNA sequences that initiate the PCR—the target DNA was successfully amplified, except in the case of cinnamon, which did not yield a clear result. After amplification, the DNA sequences were identified through DNA sequencing, confirming the species with 100% specificity. This means that all the amplified products matched their expected herbal species. Additionally, the study incorporated phylogenetic analysis using MEGAX32 software. This analysis helps to determine the evolutionary relationships between the herbal species, providing further confirmation of their identities. To validate their method, the researchers prepared samples of adulterated herbal species. These are samples that intentionally contain more than one type of herb but are labeled as a single species. After performing PCR on these samples, non-specific DNA bands were observed, indicating the presence of multiple species within the sample. This result demonstrates the method's potential to detect adulteration in herbal products. The findings of this study are significant for several reasons. Firstly, they offer a high level of sensitivity (91.66%) in detecting the target gene in the herbal species. Secondly, the method shows a strong ability to identify the correct species, which is crucial for ensuring the safety and efficacy of herbal medicines. Lastly, the ability to detect adulteration can help maintain the integrity of herbal products in the market. The research draws on previous studies[2][3] that have shown the effectiveness of using DNA-based techniques for the authentication of medicinal herbs and spices. Similar to the approach taken in the study by the University of Karachi, earlier research developed specific primer sets for PCR to identify medicinal herbs[2] and spices[3]. These studies provided a foundation for the current research, demonstrating the broad applicability and reliability of DNA-based identification methods. In conclusion, the study by the University of Karachi represents a significant advancement in the field of herbal medicine authentication. By using DNA sequencing and PCR, the researchers have developed a method that can accurately identify medicinal herbs and detect adulteration. This method could potentially be applied to a wide range of herbal products, ensuring their authenticity and safeguarding consumer health. As the demand for herbal medicines continues to grow, such DNA-based identification techniques will be essential for maintaining the quality and reliability of these natural health products.



Main Study

1) Authentication of important medicinal herbal species through DNA-based molecular characterization.

Published 29th April, 2024

Related Studies

2) Authentication of medicinal herbs using PCR-amplified ITS2 with specific primers.

Journal: Planta medica, Issue: Vol 73, Issue 13, Oct 2007

3) DNA-based identification of spices: DNA isolation, whole genome amplification, and polymerase chain reaction.

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