Rapid differentiation of Panax ginseng and Panax quinquefolius by matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionization mass spectrometry

Ying Han Lai, Pui Kin So, Chun Lap Samuel Lo, Eddy Wing Yin Ng, Terence Chuen Wai Poon, Zhongping Yao

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

22 Citations (Scopus)


A matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionization mass spectrometry (MALDI-MS)-based method has been developed for rapid differentiation between Panax ginseng and Panax quinquefolius, two herbal medicines with similar chemical and physical properties but different therapeutic effects. This method required only a small quantity of samples, and the herbal medicines were analyzed by MALDI-MS either after a brief extraction step, or directly on the powder form or small pieces of raw samples. The acquired MALDI-MS spectra showed different patterns of ginsenosides and small chemical molecules between P. ginseng and P. quinquefolius, thus allowing unambiguous differentiation between the two Panax species based on the specific ions, intensity ratios of characteristic ions or principal component analysis. The approach could also be used to differentiate red ginseng or P. quinquefolius adulterated with P. ginseng from pure P. ginseng and pure Panax quinquefolium. The intensity ratios of characteristic ions in the MALDI-MS spectra showed high reproducibility and enabled quantitative determination of ginsenosides in the herbal samples and percentage of P. quinquefolius in the adulterated binary mixture. The method is simple, rapid, robust, and can be extended for analysis of other herbal medicines.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)73-81
Number of pages9
JournalAnalytica Chimica Acta
Publication statusPublished - 13 Nov 2012


  • Differentiation
  • Herbal medicine
  • Panax ginseng
  • Panax quinquefolius

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Analytical Chemistry
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Biochemistry
  • Spectroscopy

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