Similarity analyses of chromatographic herbal fingerprints: A review

Mohammad Goodarzi, Paul J. Russell, Yvan Vander Heyden

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

137 Scopus citations


Herbal medicines are becoming again more popular in the developed countries because being "natural" and people thus often assume that they are inherently safe. Herbs have also been used worldwide for many centuries in the traditional medicines. The concern of their safety and efficacy has grown since increasing western interest. Herbal materials and their extracts are very complex, often including hundreds of compounds. A thorough understanding of their chemical composition is essential for conducting a safety risk assessment. However, herbal material can show considerable variability. The chemical constituents and their amounts in a herb can be different, due to growing conditions, such as climate and soil, the drying process, the harvest season, etc. Among the analytical methods, chromatographic fingerprinting has been recommended as a potential and reliable methodology for the identification and quality control of herbal medicines. Identification is needed to avoid fraud and adulteration. Currently, analyzing chromatographic herbal fingerprint data sets has become one of the most applied tools in quality assessment of herbal materials. Mostly, the entire chromatographic profiles are used to identify or to evaluate the quality of the herbs investigated. Occasionally only a limited number of compounds are considered. One approach to the safety risk assessment is to determine whether the herbal material is substantially equivalent to that which is either readily consumed in the diet, has a history of application or has earlier been commercialized i.e. to what is considered as reference material. In order to help determining substantial equivalence using fingerprint approaches, a quantitative measurement of similarity is required. In this paper, different (dis)similarity approaches, such as (dis)similarity metrics or exploratory analysis approaches applied on herbal medicinal fingerprints, are discussed and illustrated with several case studies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)16-28
Number of pages13
JournalAnalytica Chimica Acta
StatePublished - Dec 4 2013


  • (Dis)similarity approaches
  • Chromatographic herbal fingerprints
  • Exploratory analysis
  • Herbal medicines

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Analytical Chemistry
  • Biochemistry
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Spectroscopy


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